The Kings of Summer (2013), directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts
This is the End (2013), directed by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg
Full disclosure: this is a cheater Double-shot Review. I saw this movies on separate nights, I’ve just not had the chance to write about either yet, so I’m combining them into one. I know, I’m a sham. No integrity whatsoever. Oh, the shame. But, Hollywood!
Summer Movie Season means superhereos and explosions, but it also means comedies. And I mean real comedies. Funny ones. So I’m not counting The Hangover Part III in this statement.
Just in time for a distraction from the building summer heat (hopefully) is a couple of great ones, I have to say.
The Kings of Summer was a critical darling at Sundance, which is now suffering from the post-Sundance reassessment. See, what tends to happen (so I hear, I’ve never actually BEEN to Sundance, come on) is that every year in the midst of all the indie doldrums of the film festival, one film stands out which critics, apparently drunk on the high altitude and hot chocolate, heap praises on, probably because it’s the only film which has actually been legitimately entertaining.
And then when said film gets released into the real market, a market saturated with entertaining fluff pieces and snark, the film gets reassessed as manipulative and naive.
Well, in this case the Sundance critics and audiences were right, because The Kings of Summer is one of the most straight-up enjoyable films I’ve seen this year.
The movie is essentially a youthful fable that asks you to step outside your adult perception of responsibility and plausibility and enjoy a tale of three boys sick of their parents, who decide to build a house in the woods and set up shop for themselves.
It’s delightful in the same way Stand by Me is, in that it really evokes the feeling of being a teenager during the summer and from that builds a fantasy we’ve all probably had some version of in our lives. Your bored, you have a huge crush on that one girl from school, its hot outside and your parents are driving you insane. Surely this is universal.
Through appropriately-quirky characters and a charming mix of irreverent humour and Swiss Family Robinson nature love, the film feels like Wes Anderson and Terrence Malick went to summer camp together.
People seem to hate the main character and the portrayal of the parents as unconscionably horrible. Well, to that I say, maybe we all have our big boy pants on a little too tight. The parents in the film are caricatures, and its story is a fantasy, made clear by the film’s wistful tone and humour. And yes, Joe is an ass. He comes from a long line of incorrigible asses, such as Huckleberry Fin and Chris Chambers.
If Joe wasn’t an ass, the story would never have happened, because it takes an ass to run away from home. And the whole point is that he learns a thing or two about the complicated nature of life and as a result better understands his dad. That’s the whole crux, and one I rather enjoyed seeing come together.
A film about a young man who respects his parents and enjoys his nurturing home life wouldn’t be quite as interesting.
Really it’s one of those movies where if the humour works for you, you’ll love it, and if it doesn’t, well that’ll be the end of it. If a small Italian boy saying “I met a dog the other day that taught me how to die” sounds appealing to you, give it a chance.
For a more broad type of humour, head out to This is the End, which is the genuinely hilarious, over-the-top telling of the apocalypse as seen through the eyes of characters Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill, Craig Robinson, Danny McBride and others.
This who’s who cast of modern comedic actors are playing themselves in this movie, which comes from a short film Rogen and co-director Evan Goldberg wrote called “Jay and Seth Versus the Apocalypse.”
Listen, if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what you’re in store for: profanity, bromance, silliness, homoeroticism, ’90s hip-hop, drugs and crude humour.
And it all works really well.
Is it self-indulgent? Sure is. But whatever, these guys are where they are for a reason: they’re funny. They do good work. Sure this movie is a back-patting celebration of that, but why not, they’ve earned it, and we all get the enjoyment of watching it.
It’s also massively fun watching these guys make fun of themselves, their public images and the shortcomings of celebrities. I loved Hill as the prissy “actor”, Franco as the arty bore and McBride as the full-out party boy, as if their on-screen and media personalities have merged.
The film meanders and strays at times but I honestly didn’t mind, this being more of a lark than a proper movie in my mind. The joy in the film is watching the big names play versions of themselves and their interactions with each other. That the framing story isn’t half bad and the way the plot plays out is actually highly enjoyable is just icing on the cake.
So there we have it, two very different summer comedies, each excellent in their own ways. Combined, they provided more laughs at the cinema than I’ve had in a long time.
The Kings of Summer and This is the End are in cinemas now.