One of the funniest movies screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival is Toy's House -- a hilarious, over-the-top coming-of-age comedy about three high schoolers who, fed up with their overbearing neurotic parents, decide to run away from home and build a house for themselves in the middle of the woods. It's not as dark as Stand By Me or as dirty as Superbad, but Toy's House still feels very much like a mixture of both. From the film's McLovin-type "weird third wheel" to what happens to childhood friendships when the line between being a kid and an adult begins to blur, Toy's House completely wins you over with its nostalgic '80s sensibilities and a supporting cast of familiar comedic faces (Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Megan Mullally) that never stop making you laugh out loud.
Let's get this out of the way first: Nick Offerman should play a part in every movie that's made. Yup, even the dark and twisted ones, and even the big-budget superhero movies. This man is one of the greatest talents working today, and his wicked sense of comedic timing is what truly pulls Toy's House toward greatness. Offerman plays Frank Toy, father to Joe Toy (Nick Robinson), a strong, jaded man who's impossible to please. It's his dysfunctional parenting that inspires Joe to run away and build a house to call his own, with assistance coming from Joe's best friend, Patrick (Gabriel Basso), who's so fed up with his crackpot parents that he's now breaking out in hives.
Joining them is the film's McLovin, or in this case Biaggio (Moises Arias), an oddball kid who's like a cross between a ferret and a drug-fueled fever dream. Together the three manage to build their house and begin life as the adults they're not yet ready to become. Of course there's a girl who gets in the way of everything, all while the boys' families attempt to not only track them down, but also come to terms with why they all left in the first place.
First-time feature director Jordan Vogt-Roberts does a great job crafting a film that relishes in the beauty of nature just as much as it does in the art of making you laugh. Inspired in some ways by Terrence Malick, Vogt-Roberts colors his movie with bold, majestic shots of trees, lakes and critters, selling you hard on the freedom that both nature and childhood provide.
Sure, you may leave the movie finding it difficult to believe that three boys can live in the nearby woods for a month without anyone finding them, but Toy's House quickly establishes its absurdity to the point that you forgive the plot holes because you're just having too much fun watching it all play out. It's similar in the way you'd suspend your disbelief while watching an old-school National Lampoon comedy (like Vacation or Caddyshack), or John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off, all of which knocked around in my brain during Toy's House. It's a movie very much influenced by the great comedies that were born in the 1980s, but it never feels like a rip-off or a fraud.
Toy's House is very much its own thing, a comedy ripe for wide release and full of enough memorable moments to make you immediately want to revisit it for more laughs.
Bookmark our Sundance coverage here.
Follow our Sundance coverage on Twitter: