Nothing impresses a girl like a huge broom.

Theatrical Release Date: 07/12/2013
Directors: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Cast: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Zoe Levin, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, River Alexander
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.
Runtime: 1 hour, 43 minutes


Hey! The movie’s sort of about us!

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to combine Adventureland, Little Miss Sunshine, and A Good Old Fashioned Orgy? No? Hmm. Neither did I. But wonder no more, because The Way, Way Back is here.

From writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants), this movie takes place during a family’s summer vacation to a not so glamorous beach resort town, where the largest attraction is the Water Whizz water park. Duncan (Liam James) doesn’t think much of himself and it doesn’t help that Mom’s boyfriend (Steve Carell) is an absolute jerk. But Duncan ends up making friends with the girl next door, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), and from that relationship and a job at the water park where the boss (Sam Rockwell) proves to be a far better father figure, the coming of age story is well underway.

If the movie had simply been about Duncan and Susanna confiding in one another to make the world seem less harsh, and Duncan’s rise in self-confidence from working at Water Whizz, this would have been a super charming and endearing film. However, Faxon and Rash (who also provide excellent comedic acting within their film) apparently had other ideas about what the movie was about.

From the opening sequence, where Duncan and family drive to the beach town, we immediately understand the issues that will arise between Mom and her boyfriend. That half of the movie is devoted to the issues of the adults merely sidetracks the far more interesting elements involving the kids. And while Allison Janney’s character was the most likable adult by far, being stuck with a jerky Carrell, a mopey Toni Collette, an almost wasted Rob Corddry, and a completely useless Amanda Peet, there simply isn’t much to enjoy as far as their antics.

It’s perfectly evident Faxon and Rash were hoping to pit the themes of teenagers wanting to find themselves versus adults wanting to relive their youth against one another. That makes sense in concept, but the execution merely made all of the scenes involving the adults unwanted intermissions between the heartfelt and sincere moments centered on the kids.

Now don’t take everything I say to mean I couldn’t stand the film – far from it. There are some very funny bits, some very touching scenes, and some good performances (from the kids and Rockwell). This would be a lovely way to enjoy a rainy day curled up on the couch with some popcorn and licorice. However, nothing in the movie needs to be seen on the big screen and it’s just unfortunate that the duel narratives were so far apart in the quality of their execution.

This is worth seeing but you don’t need to go to any great efforts to make that happen anytime soon. In fact, you could put it Way, Way Back on your movie to-do list … if you are as snarky as I am. If not, place gently in the middle of your desired 2013 cinema and get to it when you can. That it’s one of the more pleasant movies of the year is more a sign of how lackluster it’s been so far than anything else.

3.5 out of 5