Verdict: 3 / 5
‘The Way Way Back’ is a coming of age comedy drama. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, screenwriters on the George Clooney film, ‘The Descendants’. Like ‘The Descendants’ ‘The Way Way Back’ unfolds in the context of family relations. Duncan (Liam James) is an odd fourteen year old who is on a summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), her boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) and his moody daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Duncan’s parents are recently divorced leaving Duncan saddled with Pam’s overbearing boyfriend Trent and his obtuse friends. Duncan’s insecurity is slowly whittled away when he becomes friends with Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of the local Water Wizz water park.
Trent: Duncan! On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?
Duncan: A 6!
Trent: I think you’re a 3! Since I’ve been dating your mom, I don’t see you putting yourself out there bud! You could try getting that score up at my beach house this summer!
Susanna: So. You’re a big fan of REO Speedwagon?
Susanna: Can’t Fight This Feeling?
Duncan: Oh, no. My mom must have put that on there.
Susanna: Oh. And you just got to it and thought “what the hell?” I’m going to sing the shit out of it anyway.
‘The Way Way Back’ has plenty of charm even if the characters and story are somewhat contrived and unbelievable. Sam Rockwell’s character is the most entertaining and captivating despite the shortcomings of the script and the film’s characters. This light hearted film will invoke your emotions as you track Duncan’s progress and ever growing maturity amidst the backdrop of a quaint 80s looking beach town, where the adults are apathetic and disconnected from their children and the needs of others.