The cockeyed coming-of-age comedy “Funeral Kings” is not only based on the well-founded premise that 14-year-old boys are inherently laughable, it features one who’s genuinely hilarious (newcomer Alex Maizus). A raggedy but refreshing yarn about the near-terminal condition known as male adolescence, this effort from sibling helmers Kevin and Matthew McManus boasts a freewheeling vulgarity that would surely earn it an R rating, thus keeping its prime audience in the parking lot. At the same time, it could become one of those films by which an age group defines itself, sort of like a John Hughes comedy with nicotine stains.
The boys in the film are all the same age as the characters they play, which is rare enough, but so is the aplomb with which they tackle their roles. As Charlie Waters, a 14-year-old growing up in Rhode Island suburbia, Maizus is a curly-haired enfant terrible, with a mouth like a drainage ditch and the imagination of Hugh Hefner. As Charlie’s best pal, Andy, Dylan Hartigan shows his own precocious comedic timing; together, they amble through the thorny garden of the pubescent male mind, the misery of ill-timed erections and the disdain of high-school goddesses. They do have one advantage over their classmates: As the head altar boys at their local church, they not only get to skip school to serve mass at funerals, but they’re given a prime vantage point from which to stare down the dresses of beautiful female mourners.
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The helmers don’t have a particularly substantial story to hook these guys to; the plot, which involves a local videostore that fronts for a drug ring run by the shady Iggy Vannucci (indie stalwart Kevin Corrigan), and a party where the boys will inevitably act like idiots, has at its center a purloined footlocker that a friend drops off at Andy’s house and makes him promise not to open. Naturally, Andy, Charlie and their other chums spend a good chunk of the movie trying to crack it, and when they do, they find the 14-year-old-boy version of El Dorado: booze, porn, fireworks, cigarettes and a pistol. The box, like Pandora’s, unleashes most of the movie’s ills and sets its various shaggy storylines in motion.
The heart of the film is Charlie, who’s hormonal, sardonic and furious about being 14; he’s also a naturally funny character, and Maizus has a way with a laugh line. The group ethos uniting Andy, Charlie, Felix (Charles Odei) and the new kid in town, David (Jordan Puzzo), feels straight out of “South Park,” albeit with a Rhode Island Catholic accent.
Production values are top-shelf. The hip-hop selections on the soundtrack put just the right attitudinal gloss on the movie’s sawed-off bravos, while the use of slo-mo and montage adds to the mirth.