Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
A day-dreamer escapes his anonymous life by disappearing into a world of fantasies filled with heroism, romance and action. When his job along with that of his co-worker are threatened, he takes action in the real world embarking on a global journey that turns into an adventure more extraordinary than anything he could have ever imagined.
Duncan (Liam James) is not a popular kid and it doesn't look like the summer is going to offer anything better for him. His mother's boyfriend has invited them to his beach house where Duncan is expected to improve his personality and physical appearance, and meet girls. But his would-be step-sister doesn't want anything to do with him and his shy demeanor makes it difficult for him to meet anybody new. When Duncan wanders into the Water Wizz, the local water park, he meets adult employees who are just having fun. Owen (Sam Rockwell) lets Duncan work with him and their new-found bond will help each other mature and find their place in life. Which for Duncan means standing up to his would-be step-father, having a conversation with the girl next door and being more comfortable with who he is. Written by
The film was originally supposed to take place in 1984, but was moved into the present due to budgetary constraints. Owen's comment about how the water park "hasn't been upgraded since 1983" and Duncan's REO Speedwagon sing-along are both references to this fact. See more »
In the first scene at the water park, Owen is eating a pop-tart. Throughout the scene, the amount of pop-tart eaten and the direction it is facing in his hand changes several times. See more »
Duncan! On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?
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!
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There are some movies which sound so simple that it's hard to convey to people just how good they are. The Way, Way Back is one of those movies. It's simply a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy over the course of his summer break. There are no big action scenes or special effects here, just really good writing with actors who can bring such a realistic story to life.
The movie begins with the boy, Duncan, riding in a car with his family to his mother's boyfriend's beach house. As the mother sleeps in the passenger seat, the boyfriend asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10. After replying with a 6, the boyfriend insists that he's just a 3. What's surprising is that this seemingly heartless guy that the mother is dating is played by Steve Carell. Carell is known for playing lovable and funny characters. But he switches it up with this role. That scene sets the tone for how little Duncan is looking forward to this summer trip. And it doesn't help that his mother doesn't really set her boyfriend straight even when she is awake.
To escape the annoyances at his new temporary home, Duncan takes a bike to ride around town with. When he finds a way into the local water park, he meets one of the middle-aged operators there named Owen. Duncan seems fascinated by Owen (played by Sam Rockwell) and how he uses humor in almost everything he says. It seems like he's never met anyone like him who's so worry-free and exudes such confidence all the time. (Sam Rockwell is perfect at playing this care-free kind of man-child.) Owen manages to get Duncan a job at the park where he tries to instill some of that same confidence in him as well. It becomes clear that as they bond with each other, Duncan wishes this would be the kind of guy his mother would date instead. The job at the water park also opens up a whole new fun side that this 14-year-old kid didn't even know he had in him.
If not for the occasional Google or iPad reference, this movie could easily have taken place in the 1980's. The setting as well as the way people dress and talk to each other is right out of an 80's film - is it a coincidence that all of the music played in the movie is from that era? There's a very natural and wholesome vibe to it, especially in the water park scenes - nothing looks too modern or high-tech; it's just a place where people go to have an old-fashioned good time. While Steve Carell may be the most popular name on the poster, the movie has a great cast altogether. Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine), in particular, does an amazing job as the mother torn between defending her son and trying to make things work with the arrogant boyfriend who doesn't always treat them right. But it's the scenes between Duncan and his new older friend Owen that are the heart of the movie. Sometimes it just takes the right person to bring out someone else's true colors and help them be comfortable in their own skin. And sometimes it takes the right movie to make you feel like a kid again. This one will have you yearning for the days when things were a little simpler.
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