Directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Running time: 103 minutes
14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) goes on summer vacation to his mom Pam’s (Toni Collette) new boyfriend Trent’s (Steve Carell) beach house in Cape Cod. Duncan looks set to have a dreadful vacation as Trent treats him horribly but things start looking up when he meets pretty neighbor Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and local water park employee Owen (Sam Rockwell).
You know how some indie movies (Is this indie? Maybe not. The lines are so blurred these days) are annoyingly pretentious and no fun to watch? Well, even though it looked like it had the potential to be, The Way Way Back luckily isn’t one of those. It was great fun and is definitely close to the top of my list of 2013 movies I’ve seen.
The Way Way Back reminded me a bit of Adventureland (Wait! Don’t run away if you hated that one!). I enjoyed that film despite not being a fan of any of the stars as I loved the setting of a theme park in the 1980s. I think most people hate at least one star in Adventureland, which hurt the movie. The Way Way Back doesn’t have that problem (for me) and is a better film with a much better script.
It was originally going to be set in the 80s as well but, due to not having the budget, they had to set it in the present. But the film still has a great 1980’s feel to it, which is a big plus to me as I love that cheesy decade. They even left in things like Duncan singing REO Speedwagon (Can you get more “80’s cheese” than that?! Maybe with some Journey…) and Owen quoting Bonnie Tyler & using Pac-Man to explain his whole philosophy on life. Oh I loved all that! And I loved the water park setting as there were a lot of these in my neck of the woods and I miss those lovely, sunny 80’s summers (especially the sunny part now that I live in England!).
Yes, it’s a “coming of age” story but I love a good coming of age story when done well. Liam James is great as Duncan, a very likeable shy and awkward boy who is almost non-existent to his father and his new wife while his mother’s new boyfriend constantly belittles him and bosses him around. Now, Steve Carell isn’t for everyone (me included) but he’s truly excellent in this role, which is FAR different from his comedic roles. He’s a total prick to Duncan and you’ll seriously want to punch him in the face, especially during the “three” talk. But his character doesn’t go overboard – he feels very much like a real person as, unfortunately, there are many people just like him. And Toni Collette is very good as Duncan’s mom, who is just trying to keep things together after her divorce and doesn’t like seeing Duncan so unhappy.
But! Things aren’t all sad & depressing in the film. Duncan finds a girl’s bike in the garage one day and cycles to a water park called Water Wizz where he befriends Sam Rockwell’s Owen, who offers Duncan a job at the park. The water park scenes are by far the highlight of the film. Owen is an easygoing, laidback (probably too laidback) guy who, predictably but hilariously, helps turn Duncan’s life around and makes him finally feel like he belongs somewhere. I’ve never been quite sure how I feel about Sam Rockwell but I LOVED him in this. He’s hilarious but also so sweet as the seemingly bad role model for Duncan who in reality turns out to be the most positive male influence in Duncan’s life.
There are other good characters in the film, such as Maya Rudolph as the Water Wizz employee always trying to get Owen to behave more responsibly, AnnaSophia Robb’s Susanna as the cute girl-next-door who befriends Duncan, and Allison Janney as Susanna’s irresponsible mother (Typical annoying, mouthy, and nosy neighbor but she’s SO damn funny in this!). However, the best thing about the movie is definitely the friendship between Duncan & Owen.
The Way Way Back is a great coming of age film that gets just the right balance between comedy and drama without being overly sentimental. The characters feel real as do their relationships. I really can’t think of one negative thing to say about The Way Way Back – it’s a thoroughly enjoyable film and one of my favorites of the year.
My Rating: 8.5/10
Outstanding review, it really makes me want to see this movie.
Wow – thanks! If you do see it, I’d love to know what you think. I really did enjoy it. 🙂
Loved this film and your review :). Rockwell is perfect as always!
Thanks. 🙂 I may decide to finally be a Rockwell fan now! Loved him in this.
Great review. I agree whole heartedly on many of your points (AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Rockwell and James)!
Thanks. 🙂 Yes – it was an excellent cast!
Nice review. One of the better ensembles of the year, especially with Rockwell stealing the show EVERY. SINGLE. SCENE.
Thanks. 🙂 Yes – he was great in this! I may decide to be a fan of his now.
You definitely should. There’s so much more where this came from. Trust me.
Smashing review. I didn’t think this movie was at all my thing but I’m looking forward to watching it now.
Thanks! 🙂 I love it when I convince people to watch a movie that I really enjoyed. But then I worry that they’ll hate it… Lol. I hope you do like it.
Great review! Now I really want to see this one. I didn’t like Adventureland even I don’t have nothing against the stars in it but this sounds better.
Btw, have you seen Crazy Stupid Love, if so, didn’t you like Steve Carrell in it?
I really do recommend this. 🙂 I have seen Crazy Stupid Love and Carrell was pretty good in that, actually, but I did prefer him in this one.
I always like Toni Colette so if she’s in it, I’m sure to like it!
I’ve nominated you as Versatile Blogger. You don’t have to play it forward if you don’t want.
She’s very good in this – you should check it out! And thanks for the nomination! 🙂 I’m terrible at getting around to replying to them – I’ll probably do one thank you post one day. But I do appreciate it! 🙂
Love Jim Rash on Community, glad to hear his writing/directing efforts are also working out nicely!
Never seen Community! But certainly enjoyed this movie. 🙂
I really want to watch this now!
Yay! If you do, I hope you like it. Otherwise you might come back here and yell at me. 🙂
Yeah, I fucking better like it!
Great review. It really was a lovely film.
Yep. Glad I managed to catch it in the cinema. 🙂
Great review!! So excited you got to see this. And that you enjoyed it thoroughly, too. It was certainly one of my favorites of the year. 😀
Thanks. 🙂 I’m so glad I managed to see it in the theater. My second favorite this year, just after Rush. Great film.
Hurrah! Really glad you liked this 🙂 I thought it was great, really genuine and the performances were fantastic!
Yay! We agree again. 🙂 Loved this one. This is my type of movie – wish there were more like it.
Excellent review! I keep hearing really good things about it, and I want to watch it, but I really can’t stand Steve Carell… damn.
It’s a great movie. 🙂 Trust me – this is NOT the Steve Carell you’re used to. He’s very very different. No comedy from him at all. He’s very good in this.
Oh maybe I can bear it then, I despise his humour. Will get my hands on this soon!
Would I like this?
No. Don’t be silly! 😉
I haven’t seen this yet (just ordered for the library) but I thought it WAS a period piece – interesting to know that they had that intention.
Yep. I’d have loved for it to be set in the 80s but so many 80s things were left in that it felt that way anyway. Plus the movie is great so the time period didn’t matter. 🙂
I loved this film. One of the very best of 2013.
Agree. 🙂 Top of my list of 2013 films so far, only beat by Rush.
Couldn’t agree more – this is def a top pick for 2013. I enjoyed it immensely. Spot on review.
Thanks! 🙂 It really was a great film. I wish there were more like it. I like films that are fun to watch (but still have depth). Far too many mediocre movies out there these days!
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