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12 Coming-Of-Age Movies That Inspired Jordan Vogt-Roberts' 'Kings Of Summer' Including 'Goonies,' 'Badlands' & More

Photo of Oliver Lyttelton By Oliver Lyttelton | The Playlist June 20, 2013 at 11:25AM

One of the best movies in theaters right now, and one of our favorites of 2013 so far, is "The Kings Of Summer." Premiering at Sundance under its original title of "Toy's House," the comedy became one of the popular hits of the festival, and rightly so; it's a hilarious, smart and touching film helmed with considerable flair by debut feature director Jordan Vogt-Roberts, someone who's been on Playlist radars for a while thanks to his Sundance short "Successful Alcoholics," and his Comedy Central series "Mash Up."
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Annie Hall Up
"Annie Hall"/"Up"
I talk about both of these a lot, because... "Up" is a perfect movie. The way that it slaloms between loss, aging, loneliness and family-friendly, broad, colorful moments, and weaves the two together to make the two more poignant is so incredible. And that was my constant battle on this movie, was telling people that we could do that with a live-action movie, and they were like 'no, you can't do that, that's for animated movie. And I was like 'Why?' So many people are so afraid of tone.

"Annie Hall" is a great example of that, because rom-com is a dirty word these days, and yet "Annie Hall"'s a rom-com. And it's so inventive; it has animated sequences, it has sequences that breaks the fourth wall, it's so funny, and so touching, and it most importantly, it's so fresh and inventive. It's so rare I walk out of a movie these days... I mean, "Argo" is a great movie, but I didn't go, when I walked out, "That was fresh." I'm just getting to the point where I'd rather watch something that's flawed, and maybe greatly flawed, but does something new, than something that's perfectly executed, but that it feels like I've seen before. "Annie Hall" feels like a film, that is a film. The way that Woody Allen eventually comes of age in that movie is so hilarious, and so heartbreaking, and they're both movies that simultaneously crush you and lift you up at the same time.

Leon
"Leon: The Professional"
The final film is less of a reference point on the movie, although slightly, but it's more just a movie that I love, which is "Leon: The Professional." I just re-watched it the other day, after all of this craziness of distribution and everything, and it just rejuvenated me. I think it was the first movie that cracked the code in terms of feeling like an anime, in the amount of style it had, yet it's just grounded by these incredibly touching performances, and a relationship you can completely invest yourself in. I think it's just such an incredible peak of filmmaking. Talk about a stylish movie that has inventive, great action, incredible villains, Gary Oldman is literally out of control, and most importantly, you care about those two character. And it commits to its genre elements, it doesn't use them as a joke, or a gag, you're just watching these two people, of two different ages, come of age, under the guise of this great action film. It's just a wonderful relationship drama. People don't make movies like that at all, it's practically perfect.

"Explorers"/"Bad Boys II"/"Son Of Rambow"

Explorers

I have two quick honorable mentions too. One is "Explorers," because that almost has a clunky quality to it, which was similar to how I conceived "The Kings of Summer," and that was a real reference point. Just being like, "how long can they get away with saying it'll take to build this spaceship." But the thing with that movie is that goes completely off the rails as soon as they go off into space. It just never recovers, and becomes a totally different movie, but it's worthy of a honorable mention, because I have an intense nostalgia for it, and it's one of the reference points that no one brings up when talking about "Kings of Summer."

And the other is one that I've joked about before, but I like including it in interviews, partially just cos it pisses my writer off: "Bad Boys II." I always reference it because it's like twelve different movies, twelve at once. And I buy it, I appreciate it for that. It's not a coming of age story at all, though I guess you could argue that Will Smith and Martin Lawrence... [laughs] I just love the fetishism that is Michael Bay, and the purity of it; of like guns, cars, girls, sex, explosions, guns, cars, girls, sex. It's just so pure and raw. But beyond that, the tone of that movie is just insane. There's straight up improv comedy, there's necrophilia jokes, they're destroying shanty towns in Cuba, people's heads are blowing up in bullet time, there's KKK jokes, it's so out of control tonally, and I just really appreciate that, so I always like to bring that up.

Son OF Rambow
One other I wanted to ask about, because it was in the pitch reel, and I love it, is "Son Of Rambow." Like your movie, it seems to exist in a world that's heightened, but still grounded in a kind of reality.
"Son of Rambow" is a really interesting movie in the context of "Kings of Summer," because it was a dangerous reference point for me to ever use, because it had so much buzz coming out of Sundance, and was bought for so much money, and just did not perform. So it always made people really uncomfortable discussing that movie in relation to ours. It's a fantastic movie, the kids are so great, the direction's really good. There's a purity and an earnestness to it, but also a tangible sense of freedom, and you get why these kids are getting away. But it was always a tricky movie to bring up in relation to this, because of the way it performed, and if anything, it probably made our lives a little more difficult, because we were trying to say, "no, there's an audience for movies about kids for adults," they would always point to "Son Of Rambow," and it was frustrating, because a) it's a great movie, b) it has found an audience. Yeah, someone overpaid for it at Sundance, but it doesn't change the fact that it's a good movie. I always said it needed to be R, because it needs to be authentic, and if you rip away the way kids speak to each other, it's not gonna feel real. But yeah, adults generally don't go see movies about kids, and if it's PG-13, that's just going to communicate even more to them that it's a movie for kids. Whereas we were trying to say that it's a movie about looking back, and about nostalgia.

And any plans for the next movie starting to crystalize?
 I'm gonna jump back into the commercials world, just because making an indie movie for a year and a half is not the most lucrative thing in the world, so I need to get my finances in order. But, look, this movie took two and a half years of my life, and that's fine, because I love it, and I loved what it was, and what I thought it could be. So when things were crazy and insane, it was always fine, because I loved it. I'm about to take out a pitch in the next couple of weeks with two writers, who are great, and it's kind of a Detroit story. I'm from Michigan, and I want to take something back there that's not only about those characters, but about the broader context of Detroit in some capacity.

My mandate is that I don't think I'm going to do a studio comedy next. I'm more interested in keeping pushing the things people responded to here, that comedy can be beautiful, and movies can be cinematic, and you can play with tone, and have these stylized elements in there. So I'd rather go and keep pushing that, rather than make the same thing over and over again. I'm looking to make a leap to much bigger things, but it needs to be something that I love, and something that can feel fresh and inventive. It's an interesting time, it's interesting and super exciting.  I just can't imagine going and taking a $20 million studio comedy. I'd rather go and try and make an action movie that has heart like "Leon" and fail, that go and make a studio comedy that doesn't mean anything, but performs well at the box office.

"The Kings Of Summer" is in theaters now.


This article is related to: Interviews, Features, The Kings Of Summer, Jordan Vogt-Roberts, Interviews, Features, Feature


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