The year 2013 has been an incredible one for cinema, so as a fun alternative to your typical end-of-the-year lists, we've decided to celebrate our favorite movies by pairing them together. So from now until the end of December, we'll be periodically spotlighting movies as part of our new Best Double Features of 2013 series.
The Double Feature: I Declare War and The Kings of Summer
Why to Watch: First and foremost, these are both quality films. The Kings of Summer, which made waves at Sundance 2013 under the title Toy’s House, stars Nick Robinson as Joe Toy, a teenager who’s having a tough time getting along with his father (Nick Offerman). In attempt to break away and live by his own rules, Joe recruits his best friend Patrick (Gabriel Basso) and the school oddball Biaggio (Moises Arias) and the three take off into the woods, build their own home and vow to be their own men.
First-time feature filmmaker Jordan Vogt-Roberts does a masterful job creating a fun film loaded with honest humor, but one that’s also supported by an impressive amount of poignancy. The Kings of Summer lets you enjoy the innocence of the scenario, but still makes a lasting impression by respecting the fact that these are Joe’s formative years and even though the situation is fun and games to a degree, the decisions he makes now will have weight down the line.
I Declare War runs with a similar tone, but does have a darker side. The film focuses on a group of kids playing an imaginary game of war in the woods. Even though they’re just running around with sticks and water balloons, at times, we see them brandishing the real deal – heavy artillery and grenades. It sounds extreme and it is, but Jason Lapeyre and Robert Wilson convince you that PK (Gage Munroe) and Quinn (Aidan Gouveia) are tactical geniuses and that the outcome of this mock battle will affect social statuses and friendships, so to them, this battle is as real as any.
Most of the kids featured in I Declare War are preteens so it is disturbing watching the lengths they’ll go to to win, but Lapeyre and Wilson walk that line between real and make-believe so delicately that one minute, you’re reveling in the exhilaration of the fake war, but the next, you’re consumed by the very tangible stakes, making the film an effective combination of juvenile games and valuable life lessons, just like Kings of Summer.
What Order to Watch: Considering I Declare War does tread into darker territory, I’d recommend watching it before Kings of Summer so you can wrap up the viewing experience with a little extra buoyancy.
That screening order also makes for a very natural transition considering the leads of Kings of Summer are older than those in I Declare War. Both groups are fighting for something very real within their fantasies, but both goals are age appropriate. PK wants to win the game for the sake of his “wartime” ranking, but he’s got to figure out how to do that while being a good friend. Joe finds himself in a similar position in terms of weighing personal goals against the effect pursuing them has on those around him, but it comes in a much more adult form. For example, rather than winning friends/allies, he wants to win romance and his father’s respect and understanding.
When to Watch: One of the best things about these movies is that they’re both highly rewatchable. They leave a lasting impression because the heart of their plots is genuine and relatable, but none of the filmmakers bog down the experience by trying to put lessons learned ahead of the entertainment value of the films and that makes them both worthy watches any day, anytime, anywhere.
But if you’re looking for the optimal time to indulge in this double feature, it’s recommended that you give the pairing a go prior to the New Year. Whether you’re in the coming-of-age phase yourself or well beyond it, both movies say something about how to conduct yourself amongst family and friends, but never at the expense of the appeal or thrill of the film. Rather than emerge from the double viewing in a somber, deeply reflective state, they’ll inspire you to put your best foot forward with a jubilant, youthful pep in your step.
How to Watch: I Declare War and The Kings of Summer are both available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD.
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