Almost Kings has a premise that's like American Pie, a bunch of teenage guys wage a competition about sex. In the 1999 comedy, the guys were all trying to lose their virginity. In this 2012 drama, the guys have already lost their virginity. They're now all just trying to have sex with as many girls as possible. There's a journal that apparently keeps track of all the guys' conquests, but that's not really what this movie is.
This movie is about Ted Wheeler, a freshman in high school whose brother nicknamed Truck is the leader of this group of guys called the "Kings." Yes, they live in Los Angeles but, no, they have no interest in hockey. Instead of hitting the ice, Truck organizes parties where they can hit on girls, get them drunk and have sex with them.
Truck knows that his little brother Ted looks up to and hero worships him. Ted doesn't necessarily want to be Truck. Ted just wants to hang out with Truck, spending time together. This includes Ted wanting to be a member of the Kings, but Ted doesn't realize that among other initiations the sex competition is a step to becoming a King.
Truck and his friends pressure Ted into the competition, but Ted is only slightly opposed. The conflict is that Ted is 14 and has a bright future in math and science, but he starts down the road of becoming a King, which entails mostly getting wasted, becoming a thug and turning girls into numbers or notches on his belt.
There isn't anyone to guide Ted down the right path. His mother isn't in the picture at all, and no reason is given for that. His father is in the picture but just barely. Billy Campbell plays Ron Wheeler, Truck and Ted's dad who at first appears to be a burnt-out alcoholic but other things arise that makes it clear that Ron just isn't capable of being a parent, so he turns to booze, cigarettes, anger and annoyance.
For the first hour, the movie seems concerned mostly with Ted's development, if he'll go the way of his brother or if Ted will resist the allure of being a King and break away to something more positive. Yes, there is an allure, the camaraderie, the brotherhood and the debauchery, but being a King does have darker sides that aren't healthy, safe or even logical.
Writer-director Philip G. Flores, adapting Max Doty's novel with Doty's help, is able to resolve the conflict, but it's one of the few times where the 90 minute run time isn't enough. There are gaps here that Flores needed to fill, which might not have been the case in Doty's novel, but having not read the book, I'm left wondering about one or two issues.
First off, the whole sex competition is introduced but, aside from a brief sequence where numbers appear over the head of every girl in school, it's never addressed again, not until the very end when it's a plot device, an almost meaningless plot device to incite an over-the-top moment that wasn't all that earned.
The movie's point-of-view isn't limited to Ted, but it feels as though Flores wanted it to be. The goal is eventually to disillusion us to Truck by denying information about him and then surprising us with a revelation in the last 20 minutes. The surprise does work. The problem is that the revelation isn't believable, at least not with the limited information we're given.
We need more information about Truck whose full name is James Wheeler. Alex Frost who plays Truck is smooth in his portrayal. He's slick and sexy, the obviously devilish alpha male with some slight daddy issues that are bubbling underneath. All of this is prime for a great character, which I'm sure Frost could have performed well and Frost does perform well with what's in front of him.
However, in order to buy the revelation about Truck, there required a bit more groundwork. He's the guy who all the girls want to have in their panties. Yet, this is only told to us. We don't see or get any sense or indication of the guy that Truck is supposed to be. In other words, there is no evidence as to how or why he's such a ladies-man. Frost's performance is solid, but he needed more scenes, which support his promiscuity. The film-making fear is that the end surprise might have been ruined, but I think it still could have worked.
The young cast here is great. Alex Frost and Lorenzo James Henrie are the standouts. The best of which is their relationship with one another, but Portia Doubleday who plays Truck's girlfriend, Lizzie, is a wonderful presence herself. Alex Russell who plays one of the "Kings" named Hass is interesting. He was more interesting in Chronicle, released earlier in the year, but Russell certainly showed great potential with this role, which he did first.
Three Stars out of Five.
Not Rated but Contains sexual content and language.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 31 mins.