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“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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Keep It Weird

10 Hilarious “Weird Al” Cameos

Weird Al comes to Comedy Bang! Bang! starting June 3rd at 11P.

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Photo Credit: ABC

“Weird Al” has had one of the most unique careers in entertainment history. Sure, he made his name with parody songs, but he’s long since transcended simply poking fun at pop, becoming an American comedy staple in the process. With his new gig behind the keyboard on IFC’s Comedy Bang! Bang!, we thought we’d take a look back at just a few of his classic pop culture cameos, in which he showed he was more than just the man with the accordion and rhyming dictionary.

10. The Goldbergs

“Weird Al” came full circle with this recent cameo on this ’80s-set sitcom, once again donning the frizzy hair, mustache and Hawaiian shirt to return to his glorious retro roots.


9. Galavant

Galavant, the historical musical comedy series, was recently canceled by ABC, but not before we got to see Al as a doo-wop crooning monk who’d taken a “vow of singing.”


8. Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp

Wet Hot Weird Al
Netflix

With Wet Hot American Summer making a triumphant return last summer, we all should have known they would work in a bit in which “Weird Al” played a summer camp hypnotist who turned into assassin Jon Hamm.


7. Batman: The Brave and the Bold

Wet Hot Batman
Cartoon Network

“Weird Al” creates music for all ages, so it shouldn’t be a surprise that he occasionally pops up on Saturday Morning cartoons, like this turn on Batman: The Brave and the Bold, in which he got to battle the Joker and the Penguin alongside Batman, Robin and Scooby-Doo.


6. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!

Al has popped up on Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim’s bizarre ode to anti-comedy series a few times, but this wedding fever dream, straight out of the mind of a serial killer, really sort of sums it all up, whatever “all” is.


5. 30 Rock

Al is a man of many talents, but at the end of the day, he knows how to rip out a parody song with some bite. Here he puts his gifts to good use, writing lyrics to the 30 Rock theme song, and highlighting their lack of ratings in the process.


4. Halloween II

“Weird Al” shows up in just about the last place you would expect here, in Rob Zombie’s hard R horror remake. Playing a guest on what looks like an early version of Talking Dead, Al does some typical talk show shtick alongside Michael Meyers’ ethically compromised doctor, Samuel Loomis.


3. Transformers: Animated

Al has quite a history with the Transformers. His song “Dare to be Stupid” was used in 1986’s The Transformers: The Movie, and he also popped up as Wreck-Gar, a simple-minded robot brought to life by the All Spark, on Transformers: Animated.


2. The Naked Gun

Al’s stardom was ascendant in 1988, if this classic gag from Naked Gun was any indication. (He also did the theme song for the 1996 Leslie Nielsen comedy Spy Hard.)


1. Amazing Stories, “Miss Stardust”

Weird Al
NBC

Al’s first TV cameo might just be his, ahem, weirdest. As an alien affectionately known as “Cabbage Man,” “Weird Al” made quite the impression without even needing his trusty accordion.

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Sally Kellerman- Maron – Season 4, Episode 5

Hello Sally

5 Roles That Prove Sally Kellerman Is a Comedic Genius

Sally Kellerman returns to Maron this Wednesday at 9P on IFC.

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With her statuesque beauty and sarcastic verve, Sally Kellerman has put her stamp on several iconic TV and film roles. She always gave as good as she got, keeping her leading men on their toes. With Toni Maron returning to help Marc through a tough time on Wednesday’s brand new Maron, we thought it was time to revisit a few of Sally’s classic roles that prove she’s more woman than most of us can handle.

5. Judge Henderson, Moving Violations

Playing a saucy judge with a taste for bondage, Kellerman got to go full-on villain in this absurd comedy starring lesser Murray brother Joel. Who needs Bill when you’ve got Sally in a full leather getup?


4. Louise, Brewster McCloud

It takes some real talent to make a conversation about remaining celibate this sexy. Kellerman turns up the heat here, mixing sensuality with a mythic quality (she may be a fallen angel of some sort in this movie), that makes us want to forget Brewster’s dream of flying, and just spend a little more time with her on the ground.


3. Maron

Whether she’s dropping passive aggressive comments or searching for his love handles, Toni is the perfect representation of all of Marc Maron’s neuroses.


2. Back to School

Holey moley, when literature professor Dr. Diane Turner starts reading some sexy prose to her class, Rodney Dangerfield isn’t the only one whose eyes nearly pop out of his head. Kellerman proves yet again that she can mix class and crass with the best of them, playing the type of woman you can discuss erotic literature with — or just live it out with.


1. M*A*S*H

In perhaps her most iconic part, the one that scored her an Oscar nom, Kellerman plays the apple of a whole army base’s eye. It’s far from easy getting that kind of attention in the middle of a war zone, which Kellerman shows with one truly epic meltdown. Major “Hot Lips” Houlihan would make anyone’s grandpa’s war stories a littler bit easier to listen to.

Watch how Toni comes back into Marc’s life on this week’s Maron. 

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Southern Fried SNL

Watch Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein in SNL’s Southern Rock Supergroup

Fred and Carrie kept it mellow on the SNL season finale.

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Photo Credit: Saturday Night Live / NBC Universal

It was a veritable “band from comedy heaven” this weekend as a myriad of comedians assembled for a feel-good musical sketch in the Saturday Night Live season finale. Guest host Fred Armisen was joined by Portlandia cohort Carrie Brownstein as well as Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, Jason Sudeikis, Larry David, and members of the SNL cast to form faux-southern-rock supergroup The Harkin Brothers — a band whose members managed to outnumber its audience.

If The Harkin Brothers’ smooth vocal stylings remind you of The Blue Jean Committee from Documentary Now!, that’s probably not a coincidence. The BJC first appeared in a different, more regionally-specific form in a SNL sketch with Sudeikis on drums.

Watch an all-star SNL cast perform a mellow tribute to Arkansas called “Summertime in Fayetteville” in the video below.

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