Plenty to Like, Plenty to Dislike
Great Film overall
I wanted to like it more than I actually did... But much of the humor totally escaped me and I walked out only mildly impressed.
The story, direction, characters, and writing/dialogue is akin to taking a tranquilizer shot to the neck, but everything else was so well done.
"The Way Way Back" isn't a horrible movie. It isn't nearly a classic, either. What puts it firmly in the middle ground is how the film teases with what looks to be an interesting premise, but then can't decide what it wants to be.For a basic plot summary, this movie tells the story of Duncan (Liam James), who is spending the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend (Steve Carell). While his mother can't see that her new beau may not be right for her, Duncan picks up on it right away, and as a result wants to spend as little time as possible "hanging around". As such, his summer is spent working under the mentorship of Owen (Sam Rockwell) at the local waterpark, as well as puzzling over the mysterious and beautiful neighbor girl Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb).As I said in the opening, I think that the main problem with "The Way Way Back" is that directors Nat Faxon & Jim Rash just can't decide what they want this movie to feel like. On one hand, it tries to be a "teen screwball coming-of-age" movie (especially with all the waterpark stuff), but that is the weakest material. On the other hand, it could have been more of a serious drama, but that tone isn't present whatsoever (until perhaps the very end, when it clearly becomes obvious that it was not earned by any meaningful character development). Instead, "Way Way Back" just sort of lands in the middle.For this movie to have really shined, I think a couple of things would have had to happen (besides the obvious settling on a tone):-We would need more development within Duncan's new family, which the "screwball" sections of the film really crowd out. Largely, the movie relies on stereotypes or well-worn character paths (overbearing stepfather, Mother too swept away to notice, etc.) to build drama, so it is no wonder that it falls a bit flat in the end.-Robb's character is severely underutilized. She spends nearly the entire movie in various bikinis (so it is pretty obvious what her purpose was), but once again her character's presence doesn't add up to much in the end. When she gives Duncan a kiss, it doesn't feel "earned" at all based on what we've seen previously (all awkward conversations and scenarios). Susanna could have been a "sexual awakening" character for Duncan, or she could of been a confident of sorts (her family is going through divorce issues as well). I never really felt the character lived up to either billing.So, while "The Way Way Back" is a perfectly acceptable fun summer movie, I can't give it any higher than middle-of-the-road marks because of the odd tone and waffling genres. To me, it needed to "pick a lane" (coming-of-age drama or screwball teen goof-off) and stay within it, as the melding of the two yielded rather odd results.
Coming of age films follow similar storytelling patterns. Patterns like "growing up sucks", "fathers be good to your sons/daughters", "accountability". "The Way, Way Back" follows those patterns, and yet still somehow manages to stand out as one of the best. The importance of the motherhood/fatherhood duo echo throughout this comedic drama, and are likely to shed a tear or two. Films like these transport you to moments, destinations, and memorable interactions of the past. I genuinely enjoyed watching and remembering all throughout. #thewaywayback
This was a likable enough coming of age dramedy. I didn't know anything about it going in but based on the cast attached I figured it was worth a watch. The story follows an introverted teen named Duncan who is forced to go to his mothers boyfriends beach house for the summer. Toni Collette plays the Mom here, a weak sort of character and Steve Carell is the (surprisingly) a$$hole boyfriend -just a horrible person. Anyways, while the parents party the summer away with (Allison Janney, Amanda Peet & Rob Corddry) awkward Duncan makes friends with (Sam Rockwell) and stumbles into a job at a local water park where he sort of comes into his own.There wasn't anything really new here in terms of a ground-breaking story and it felt uneven as a whole because while parts of the story were very much on the drama end of things other story lines went into the corny side of funny. I definitely felt Duncan's pain though, as he's stuck in this place with these horrible people.One aspect that I found a bit weird was that the kids in this beach resort town are basically allowed to run amuck while the parents behave like its spring break for adults, getting drunk and partying all day and night, doing drugs on a daily basis. Duncan actually works his full time job at the water park without his mom noticing.All in an average sort of movie, likable enough and filled with great performances. 1/3/16
Great movie, funny, charming, etc. You can read the other reviews for adjectives I couldn't come up with. I just wanted to focus on the performances (in particular that of Sam Rockwell) to give you a taste of what's in store.As my title suggests, in the Behind the Scenes feature, Sam Rockwell confesses that he watched Bill Murray in Meatballs eleven times to help develop the fast-yammering, charmingly-sarcastic, lovable slob "Owen" whom he plays in this film. Rockwell also mentions other iconic 80s influences like Michael Keaton (I'm assuming "Beetlejuice"), and although he didn't say it, I would throw in the late, great Robin Williams ("Good Morning Vietnam"). What I'm trying to say is that Rockwell's performance in "The Way, Way Back" is a HILARIOUS homage to those characteristic comedy leads you may have grown up with if you're between the ages of 30 and 50. Heck, even if not, it's never too late to get acquainted."Owen" is the sort of kind-hearted yet darkly witty character who walks around mumbling hilarious zingers to himself almost as if he's alone in a psych ward. That is, until he snaps out of it and says (to his unappreciative, deadpan co star) something like, "WOW, do you even get comedy?" or "Come on, that was some of my best material!" The result is a true Rockwell original: a character who's a weird blend of Bill Murray and maybe Rain Man ("Kmart sucks"). This movie is well worth watching for its story alone, but Rockwell is what gives it that extra little push over the cliff.Playing lesser roles but just as fun to watch are Owen's band of misfit coworkers at "Water Wizz" (ya gotta love that hilarious name which, oddly enough, is the REAL name of the water park where this was filmed). There's Maya Rudolph who plays Owen's keeper, or the only real "adult" at the water park. There's writer/director Nat Faxon playing "Roddy", a harmless pervert who operates the water slide. And there's the other writer/director Jim Rash playing "Lewis" in his funniest role since he played "Andrew" on Reno 911 (yes that was him, the weird pervert who used to call the sheriff's department for such outrageous crimes as a prostitute getting peach Schnapps on his man parts).Thus, without even getting into the story, the stage is set with some of the weirdest personalities you can imagine. The story, as you've probably figured out by the IMDb summary, is about "Duncan", a 14-year-old boy who is subjected to an excruciating summer at the home of his mother's new boyfriend (played by The Office's Steve Carell, but in a role that makes you want to call child services on him). Duncan, suffering from a severe case of introversion, if not a terminal case of uncool, wanders into Water Wizz one afternoon, and the fun begins. What's great about Liam James' portrayal of Duncan is that, unlike a lot of introverted coming-of-age characters who are actually somewhat in control, Liam conveys a sense of absolute psychological spaghetti. What I mean is that this kid seems to be just 1 trauma away from growing up to be a serial killer. That gives the story much more meaning when you realize that this poor kid, thanks to the absolute failure of all adults in his life, is desperately in need of rescuing.I also have to add major comedy points to Allison Janney who plays the mai-tai swilling next door neighbor in tight pants (think Peg Bundy). In addition to putting on the best Boston accent (she's actually from Ohio), her rapid fire, largely improvised wit is an absolute treat to watch. It should be noted that in an interview Allison admits that her character's mannerisms as well as a lot of priceless lines came from some of her real life friends. So yes, I guess people like that really exist.Whether you're looking for a coming of age story, a story about dysfunctional families, or just a great comedy, this movie is well worth the price of admission. It may even inspire you to take a trip to Water Wizz to hurl yourself down the Devil's Peak slide (which was given its name for this film and it stuck). Just don't try to pass anyone on the slide, or it may lead to intense depression, self-loathing and a meaningless future as a male prostitute. Watch the movie and you'll get the joke.