The Way Way Back – 2013
Written and Directed by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Liam James, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet
There are some laughs nestled in this summer home coming of age in the age of divorced parents melodrama. There’s a fair amount of depressing stuff in here too. The Way Way Back comes across as labored and not all that fun.
From the opening scene, when Steve Carell’s boyfriend Trent rates young Duncan (James) as a “3 out of 10,” the asshole buzzer goes off. If this weren’t enough, much of the first 1/4 of the film sees Trent going out of his way to do the thing that every nightmare boyfriend of a single mother would do to her son. That his mother (Colette) tolerates it is a sign of her desperation. Fun stuff to watch.
Along the way, we get Owen (Rockwell), who treats Duncan like a pal, gives him a job and generally takes everything with a smart mouth and a kind heart. It doesn’t take long at this point for one to expect to hear Owen call Duncan “Rudy the Rabbit” and train him for the big race. The rest of the characters at the Water Park where they both work are not as overtly goofy as the cast of Meatballs, but it’s been almost 40 years since that film came out. Some things have changed in film. Not that much though.
Rockwell channels Bill Murray early on. So much so that his character begins to get tedious. Thankfully, he takes a right turn just about the time he pisses off Maya Rudolph’s Caitlyn. Collette is the same character we see much of the time from her, somewhat broken, but not without her resolve. Allison Janney is believable as the boozed up neighbor with two kids and a divorce of her own. Carell does his job by hanging out with Corddry and hanging too much onto his wife (Peet).
The kids, outside of James, are indistinguishable. That includes the kid with the weird eye. There’s a few things said at the beach, like “I want to do drugs with my kid.” Before one can be too shocked, we realize that they must have some way to push the rating to PG-13, even if it’s the furthest thing from a thought that any teen would ever have.
There’s a lot of positive buzz about this movie. If anything, it’s because of James and Rockwell. James is adorable in a confused way and Rockwell finds his groove at the point where the film requires it. The heart to heart towards the end is simple and admirable. It’s not much to recall later, though. Not funny enough or dramatic enough to remember, but pleasant enough to sit through.
(*** out of *****)