Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Community News Network

June 6, 2013

Predicting the summer movie sleeper hit

Since its release in July 2006, "Little Miss Sunshine" has been the sleeper hit that other summer art-house films aspire to be. Opening in just seven theaters during its first weekend, the nutty family road trip comedy went on to rake in nearly $60 million domestically and win two Oscars. Not bad for a film with a reported $8 million budget, written and directed by first-timers.

              

Every year since, filmgoers and critics try to predict what the next "Little Miss Sunshine" will be.

              

"The Kings of Summer" could be this season's sleeper hit. The movie follows a trio of high-schoolers who grow so fed up with their overbearing parents they decide to run away from home and live in the woods.

              

In a movie season better known for superhero blockbusters backed by unfathomable dollars, will this small film make a big splash?

              

"It's sort of up to the fates," says Megan Mullally, the veteran comic actress who plays the blathering mother of one of the boys. "If I was asked, I'd say, 'Oh my God, "Kings of Summer" is going to do great; it's going to shatter box-office records, everyone is going to see it, everyone is going to love it,' because I think it's great. But then you never know at the end of the day."

              

Looking at the surprise cinematic winners of summers past - such films as "Napoleon Dynamite," "The Kids Are All Right" and "Stand By Me" - certain shared elements emerge. Critical praise is less important than a few other factors, including a summertime essence and a lot of laughs. (See Ann Hornaday's review of "The Kings of Summer.")

              

Here are the key ingredients for a summer sleeper and why "Kings" looks to be this year's indie darling. But it isn't the only movie that could surprise; we've identified several other candidates opening in the next few months.

              

Element 1: Capture that ethereal summertime feel

              

Recent examples: "Moonrise Kingdom" (2012), which takes place at a scouts' camp on a remote island; "The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel" (2012), in which British senior citizens travel to India.

                          

Sleeper hits can land any time of year, but the ones that strike it big between May and September generally are marked by a nostalgic ambience. There's a carefree sense of escape, though it's impossible to shake the inevitability of autumn.

              

"The Kings of Summer" captures what it's like being a teen after the school year ends, with both the feeling of freedom and imprisonment. Sure, there are afternoons of video games and late-night parties, but there's also yardwork to be done and family Monopoly nights to endure. The movie's idyllic setting, once the teens go AWOL, is full of trees for climbing and quarries for cliff-jumping.

              

"The parts of Ohio around Cleveland that we shot were so beautiful, that they sort of reminded me of my fantasies of youth," said Nick Offerman, who plays the no-nonsense father of Joe, one of the teenagers. "This is what I wished it had looked like."

              

The film's woodsy montages, featuring the boys splashing in the water, racing through fields and making music by banging on pipes, were captured when director Jordan Vogt-Roberts took the three teenage actors, Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso and Moises Arias, into the forest and let them do what boys do.

              

"This film is kind of like an ode to my childhood," Robinson, 18, said. "It was just nice to go back and be a kid and mess around in the woods. It brought me back."

                            

Another 2013 sleeper: "The Way, Way Back" follows a disgruntled teenager (Liam James) on summer break. His escape comes when he befriends a water park employee (Sam Rockwell) who offers him a job. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who co-wrote "The Descendants" with Alexander Payne, penned the script, and "Little Miss Sunshine" alums Steve Carell and Toni Collette are among the film's stars. (Opens July 5)

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • The Simpsons still going strong

    The groundbreaking animation first hit the air Dec. 17, 1989, but the family first appeared on television in "The Tracey Ullman Show" short "Good Night" on April 19, 1987.

    August 21, 2014

  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
US: We Do Not Pay Ransom to Terrorists Ferguson Teachers Training to Deal With Trauma Jon Hamm on the Unrest in Ferguson Tit for Tat? McDonald's Shuttered in Moscow Life on the Professional Video Game Circuit TX Gov Perry in Washington: 'Confident' in Case Hospital Releases Two Missionaries Who Had Ebola Ramen Health Risks: The Dark Side of the Noodle NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Raw: Shots Fired in Liberian Shantytown DOJ, Bank of America Reach Record Settlement Raw: Cubavision Airs Images of Fidel Castro Raw: Grief After Deadly Airstrikes in Gaza Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Kathy Griffin Challenges Minaj to 'a Booty Off' Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller