Premiering at Sundance earlier this year titled Toy’s House and now titled The Kings of Summer, this feature film has enjoyed tremendous success in other festivals along the way leading up to the limited theatrical release in late May, where it won the 2013 Audience Award in the Narrative Feature category at the Dallas International Film Festival in April. This weekend it celebrates a wide release, including Austin theaters.
The Kings of Summer coming-of-age comedy features three teenage friends – Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), Patrick Keenan (Gabriel Basso) and Biaggio (Moises Arias) who make a plan to break away from their parent’s rule and homestead, building a makeshift home out in the beautiful woods not too far from civilization.
There is no indication they have been Boy Scouts to learn the skills needed to construct a home out in nature, but they are determined. Judging from the parents Joe and Patrick are escaping from, they do not appear as if they have taught them construction and survival skills either. The teens do in fact learn plenty about life and the most entertaining moments are when Biaggio (Arias) is on the scene and interjecting his thoughts and mannerisms, most of the time when not called upon.
Biaggio is definitely my favorite character in the script written by Chris Galletta, who makes his debut along with first feature film director Jordan Vogt-Roberts. While all the actor’s performances are good, they do their best work together, and Arias is one that I definitely want to follow more. He has acted in several films, including Nacho Libre and Hannah Montana, and in July will be in theaters again as the voice of Antonio in Despicable Me 2. Additional cast members include Alison Brie and Nick Offerman, as Joe’s sister Heather and his father, Frank. Marc Evan Jackson and Megan Mullally star as Patrick’s parents.
Filmed in Ohio and North Carolina, Cinematographer Ross Riege does an amazing job of capturing the beauty of the setting for the teen’s idea of an ideal life away from the parents. The great music is by Ryan Miller.
Writer-director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is from Detroit and created stop-motion movies with Legos as a youth. He has directed web content for FOX, Sony and Warner Brothers, as well as several episodes of Funny or Die Presents on HBO. In 2005 he won the Grand Jury Prize at the Cingular Sundance Short Film Festival. The director was in Austin recently for an advance screening of his debut feature film and I was able to talk to him briefly.
ELinksToday: How was your experience at the Austin screening of your feature film?
Vogt-Roberts: “Great! I honestly love the Alamo Drafthouse and Austin. The first time I was at the Drafthouse was when I attended Fantastic Fest a few years ago. I had a short film at Sundance (Successful Alcoholics premiered at the Sundance Film Festival 2010), as this one aldo premiered there too, so now I feel it has come full circle.”
ELinksToday: How did you decide this script was to be your first feature film?
Vogt-Roberts: “I fell in love with the script. I read others, but none of them inspired me. I reacted to it; it has a very deep reach to it. I felt I needed to tell the story. This is important, as I spent two years of my life in this process. It can be very difficult, trying, consuming and draining, but if I did not love it, I would not have done it.”
ELinksToday: What would you say is the most challenging part of this production?
Vogt-Roberts: “Just this part right now before the release. Personally, I have not gone through (the process) of a release before. I have never been on press tours before. The last year of my life has been no life, and that has been the most difficult. The work is an extension of what I had done; there were hurdles, but it was gratifying. It is incredible to see the audience react to it.”
ELinksToday: So can you talk about what is next for you?
Vogt-Roberts: “Sleep for a month and regain a semblance of reality! Then, I will find something I love and care about. Something that has emotional weight, scope and that the people respond to. I want to help keep pushing these elements in new stories. ”
Liz Lopez Rating B+
Source: CBS Films, Dallas International Film Festival