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.
As an asteroid nears Earth, a man finds himself alone after his wife leaves in a panic. He decides to take a road trip to reunite with his high school sweetheart. Accompanying him is a neighbor who inadvertently puts a wrench in his plan.
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 script was written in 2007 as "The Way Back", but the title was later changed to avoid confusion with the film The Way Back (2010). The title refers to the "way back seat," the 1970s colloquial expression for the third, often-hidden seat located in the cargo section of a station wagon. See more »
Microphone visible inside Owen's shirt when he and Duncan are on top of slide. 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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Greetings again from the darkness. OK, before you accuse me of being the world's worst speller, you should know that my title "Water Wizzdom" is a play on words ... the waterpark in the film is known as Water Wizz and Sam Rockwell plays Owen, the man-child mentor to Liam James' Duncan. Duncan is a miserable 14 year old stuck in a beach house with his mom, her obnoxious boyfriend, and his snobby daughter.
Steve Carell plays Trent, the condescending and bullying boyfriend who has no redeeming qualities that we can see (other than the beach house and a nice tan). Duncan's mom is played by Toni Collette, and her character Pam is a divorced, insecure single mom trying to balance her own happiness with that of her teen-angst-filled son. Pam and Duncan are the outsiders in this beach community as we quickly learn when next door neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) shows up with drink in hand and gossip for all.
The well worn movie signs are all here ... we recognize the characters and their struggles, in fact, we all know someone like each of the people that co-writers and co-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash present to us. We understand quickly that this is yet another coming-of-age tale with mostly clueless adults. Despite that, this one still mostly works. The writing and acting are such high quality that even though we are living in movie cliché-land, we still find ourselves caring about Duncan and Pam, laughing at Owen, and tossing tomatoes at Trent (Carell).
Special recognition to Sam Rockwell. Even though Duncan is the key character, it's Rockwell's Owen who recognizes that a little faith and encouragement goes a long way. Behind the facade of rapid-fire banter and laugh-inducing one-liners, Owen is coming to grips with a life of reality and shattered dreams. While never stooping to the typical Hollywood "win one for the Gipper" speech, Owen manages to instill a bit of confidence in Duncan ... to the point where he refuses to let his mother pretend everything is OK with Trent.
AnnaSophia Robb plays the cute girl-next-door who recognizes potential in Duncan, but the filmmakers never allow this to turn into some ridiculous fairy tale. Instead we get characters who are each flawed, but real and recognizable. While all the typical pieces are present, there is enough crackle to the dialogue and quality acting to help this one rise above the usual muck. It's a nice "little" alternative to the giant summer blockbusters. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won an Oscar for co-writing The Descendants with Alexander Payne. In their directorial debut, they prove that they also have skills as filmmakers. The next one could be even better!
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