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"The Kings of Summer": Spielberg Meets Wes Anderson 

Wednesday, Jun 5 2013
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The exact origins of this feature debut from writer Chris Galletta and director Jordan Vogt-Roberts are unclear, but it sure captures the vibe of a promising short film awkwardly stretched to feature length through too many Sundance workshops and zealously music-supervised slo-mo scenes of teen boys at play in nature. At stake, at least theoretically, is the coming-of-age that occurs when three sweet young dudes — attractive protagonist Joe (Nick Robinson), best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso), and weirdo hanger-on Biaggio (Moises Arias) — run away from their glibly oppressive suburban Midwestern homes to build a makeshift house in the woods. A peculiar synthesis of Spielbergian sincerity and Andersonian indie quirk ensues, not wrongly presuming the common ground of adolescent-male wistfulness. The central trio is easy to like, but they could use a shapelier story or a more original narrative vision. As Kelly, the girl who inevitably comes between Patrick and Joe, Erin Moriarty has too little to do and only marginally more than Alison Brie in a placeholder part as Joe's sister. Presided over from its periphery by Megan Mullally as Patrick's overprotective-oddball mom and Nick Offerman as Joe's melancholy-widow dad, Galletta and Vogt-Roberts' bid for arthouse approval sometimes feels suffocatingly calculated — just so familiar that it might make you want to flee and take your chances in the unspoiled forest instead.

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Jonathan Kiefer

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SF Weekly movie critic Jonathan Kiefer is on Twitter: @kieferama and of course @sfweeklyfilm.

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