DID YOU READ

“The Kings of Summer” review: a sweet but forgettable teen comedy

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You have to wonder what a filmmaker like Wes Anderson would have done with “The Kings of Summer.” A likeable but disposable coming-of-age comedy that was one of the buzzed-about hits of this year’s Sundance Film Festival, the indie movie follows three outcast Ohio teens as they decide to escape society and live out in the woods in a ramshackle house they built themselves. Directed by first-time feature filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts, “The Kings of Summer” boasts some of the deadpan melancholy one associates with Anderson’s best work, but it doesn’t have quite the same bite or insight. It’s quirky, but not in any way that’s really memorable.

Nick Robinson plays Joe, the leader of this geeky trio. Raging with hormones and uncomfortable around his newly-widowed father (Nick Offerman, slightly less ornery than on “Parks & Recreation”), Joe has decided that he needs a break, figuring that some time in the wilderness will clear his head. Joining him on this adventure is his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and a deeply odd guy named Biaggio (Moises Arias) whose short stature and quietly strange disposition make him almost more of a mascot than a companion.

Working from a script by first-timer Chris Galletta, Vogt-Roberts has set out to craft a comedy about the seemingly endless freedom of summer during your youth, spiking the jokes with a determinedly off-kilter tone that values improvisational bits and throwaway gags. (The cast also includes Alison Brie, Tony Hale and Megan Mullally.) “The Kings of Summer” is a salute to the warm-weather months, but Vogt-Roberts wants to undercut the nostalgia a bit, allowing for an emotional undercurrent to run underneath the laughs without permitting the proceedings to get too goopy.

Unfortunately, despite some distinctive camerawork that makes the boys’ adventure feel almost like a dream, “The Kings of Summer” remains frustratingly conventional. Predictably, their imagined Eden is ruined by the presence of a potential romantic interest. Erin Moriarty plays Kelly, Joe’s true love who starts to take a shine to Patrick, causing the sort of complications one would expect. But the problem comes from the utter ordinariness of these three. With the exception of the increasingly bizarre Biaggio, the movie’s central characters are mostly sweet, dull sorts: They’re all nice enough, but the filmmakers haven’t dug deeply enough to make any of them particularly compelling. It’s a soft, safe movie in which even the kids’ parents aren’t really that bad, just mildly annoying, which makes Joe and Patrick’s desire for independence not all that urgent.

There’s an argument to be made that a lackadaisical teen comedy like “The Kings of Summer” is a modest rebuke to the over-amped shenanigans of button-pushing peers like “Project X” and “21 & Over.” (And to be fair, it’s also probably a more “realistic” portrait of young love than Anderson’s finely tuned eccentricity in “Moonrise Kingdom” or “Rushmore.”) But as the film pleasantly ambles along, you may wish it had more shock value or wit. It’s an underdog tale that never really asserts itself.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.