The Way Way Back (2013) Poster

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8/10
Don't miss this one
djp200017 June 2013
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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8/10
Earnest, Relateable and Endearing - We've All Been Here Before
drqshadow-reviews5 November 2013
A sweet, funny, earnest coming-of-age dramedy that plays out like a period piece, even though it's set in the present day. Tempering a plucky spirit and subtle, pointed sense of humor with an introverted lead character and a familiar, bittersweet atmosphere, it's a spiritual successor to the John Hughes golden age of the mid-80s. Liam James is beautifully awkward as the quiet, brooding young teenager at the story's epicenter, aided by a thoroughly deep, entertaining supporting cast. No matter how minor, every character enjoys a purpose and a motivation, enriching the scenery and tickling the viewer's curiosity with a tangle of warm, colorful subplots. Steve Carell will get plenty of attention in his unexpected turn as the boy's self-centered douchebag stand-in father, but Sam Rockwell's deeper-than-he-seems burnout splash park manager is the real show stealer. A strong, heartfelt and meaningful return visit to adolescence for anyone who's ever felt out-of-place in their own skin.
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8/10
Absolutely charming
shlevine14 July 2013
There's nothing to dislike about this movie. The actors do a terrific job all around--from the scene-stealing eyepatch kid to Allison Janey's lush to Steve Carrell's first role as a d-bag. Kudos to the kid playing Duncan and the guy playing his...boss? mentor? friend? saviour?--or all of the above. The scenery is lovely and convincingly real--no beach McMansions with $6,500 Wolf ranges. It shows what a real beach community looks like. The '70 Buick Estate Wagon is sublime and had me kvelling.

But it's the story that really makes the viewer smile. Duncan is a lost, lonely, mess...14, stuck with his mom whom he loves (but doesn't really respect), her douchebag boyfriend, boyfriend's daughter, and not much else. He finds his way in a way that defines a coming-of-age story. The Water Wizz guy--channeling Bill Murray in Meatballs in an obvious homage--does a great job, never losing sight of his own challenges in life while helping young Duncan emerge from his painful shell.
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9/10
Laughter & tears at a water park in Summer...
UncleShiz7 June 2013
Saw this at the Sydney Film Festival last night and I absolutely loved it. It's heartfelt and very, very funny while remaining subtle and not overdoing either.

It's a story about a teenage boy trying to find a place where he belongs and how no-one's family is perfect. It's about the awkwardness and embarrassment of adolescence and finding friendship.

Sam Rockwell is hilarious in this and the young actor was really, really good too. It was also great to see Steve Carrell play against type. I hated him in this movie so he did a great job.

Go see this movie please! You will laugh and you may cry. I wish there were more movies like this with heart and humour instead of Transformers 47 & Fast & The Furious 95

This movie is not a 3 or a 6!
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9/10
Really hit home for me
howard.schumann4 August 2013
"Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing"- Naomi Shihab Nye

Directed and co-written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who won an Oscar for the Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants, The Way Way Back is a warmhearted and beautifully realized teen comedy that is as poignant as it is funny. Though there are more coming-of-age films than references to God in the Bible, very few have really hit home for me as much as this one. Of course, there are the usual complaints from critics about how it "doesn't break any new ground" as if it was a construction site, but to me it felt fresh and alive with real and relatable characters far removed from the stereotypes of most films in this genre.

In the film, 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is a sullen, withdrawn adolescent whose shaky self-image is not helped by his divorced mother Pam's (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), or his snippy daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). On the drive to spend the summer at Trent's beach house called "The Riptide," Trent asks him how he would rate himself on a scale of one to ten. Not normally being asked to rate oneself, Duncan might have said "two thumbs up," if he thought about it, but all he can think of to say is a six.

When Trent tells him (calling him Buddy as he does throughout the film as if he has no name) that he thinks he is a three because he doesn't put himself out to people, he might think he is showing some tough love, but the result is that Duncan is pushed deeper into his shell. As Albert Einstein said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former." At the New England beach house as his mother tries to make everyone happy, Duncan has to deal with adults whose maturity level on a scale of one to ten might be so low as to be off the charts. There is the boozy and off-the-wall neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) as well as Trent's friends Kip and Joan (Robb Corddry and Amanda Peet), all engaging in what Betty calls "Spring break for adults."

To make matters more uncomfortable, Betty's daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), who is slightly older than Duncan, tries to engage him in conversation but the stoop-shouldered boy is too withdrawn to respond. He is more at ease with Betty's younger son Peter (River Alexander) who is constantly being teased about his unfocused left eye. On one of his frequent bike rides on the pink bike he discovers in the garage, however, Duncan finds a kindred spirit at the Wizz World Water Park in the person of Owen (Sam Rockwell), the park's manager. As are-free and ungrounded as some of the other adults in the film, Owen has one attribute the others lack. He has a terrific sense of humor and takes an interest in the people around him.

These include long-time employee Maya Rudolph (Caitlyn) who had only planned to stay one summer but is drawn back by Owen's charm and wit. Owen also takes an interest in Duncan but it is not the "brother you need help" attitude. He gives him a job at the park's pools and water slides to help boost his self-esteem, a job which neither Trent nor his mother know anything about. Sam Rockwell's performance as Owen is pitch-perfect. Even though his communication with Duncan is mostly full of wisecracks, there is an underlying connection between the two that is not based on need alone. Pure and simple, they like each other and it shows, as does the remarkable chemistry displayed by the entire ensemble cast.

Duncan's transformation happens gradually, however. As he finds himself being accepted by the park's employees, his shoulders begin to straighten out, there is a hint of a smile on his face as well as a new look of confidence. Lian James, a Vancouver actor, not only disappears into the role of Duncan, he is Duncan and his struggle to reconnect with the world he has been estranged from is so honest and painful that we identify with him and want to help him, in Langston Hughes words, "to break his shadow into a thousand lights of sun." As in many great films, The Way Way Back has laughter and tears in equal measure.
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7/10
Very enjoyable
agmoldham29 September 2013
Having seen a run of fairly forgettable blockbusters it was nice to go along and watch a low budget movie.

The way way back is a coming of age movie and follows shy Duncan on his summer vacation with mother and step dad. I'm sure the relationship between Duncan and parents will be familiar to many people. The good thing about this type of movie is that it focuses more on characters and you get a real sense, feel and empathy for several characters. The cast is strong and in addition to the lead played by Liam James you have the likes of Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell.

The movie does occasionally get a little too "feel good", but that's a small drawback in what is otherwise a very enjoyable watch. Well worth a watch if you like off beat indie dramas.
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A Heartwarming Coming-Of-Age Tale
CalRhys2 April 2016
In all honesty, I completely loved this film, it is one of the most heartwarming coming-of-age stories of recent years and blends comedy, drama and emotion perfectly. With top notch performances, most notably from Sam Rockwell as the overzealous-yet-lovable waterpark manager Owen and Steve Carrel as the somewhat unexpectedly despicable Trent, both James and Robb also do wonders as the young duo. The film itself has a nice indie feel to it with a fantastic acoustic score, supported by some fine music choices and a generally satisfying story as a whole. A definite must-watch if you enjoy coming-of-age dramas with that hint of heartwarming humour.
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A thoughtful, very funny teen flick that adults enjoy even more.
TheSquiss29 August 2013
The Way Way Back is marketed as a thoughtful, funny teen flick but, though it is thoughtful, funny and co-stars a couple of teens, the younger audience members shuffled and whispered as if bored, while the belly laughs and satisfied smiles came almost entirely from the 'more mature' audience members. It's not that this is an adult film but so many references require a certain level of life experience or simply that the audience was 'there' at a particular time. Like the blank-faced children queuing for the water chute during the superb Holding out For a Hero scene, it makes little sense for those who never sang along to Bonnie Tyler but tickles the funny bones of almost everyone over the age of 35.

The Way Way Back is a gentle coming of age comedy about the world Duncan (Liam James) has been thrust into. His divorced mum, Pam (Toni Collette), has shacked up with Trent (Steve Carell), forcing Duncan to deal with the absence of his father, the domineering, judgmental disdain of Trent and the withering stares of Trent's bitchy daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Dragged off to Trent's summer vacation home, Duncan endures humiliation and misery until he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manger of the Water Wizz water park, who approaches life in his own manner and sees in Duncan what he cannot find in himself. And then there's the girl next door, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), and her mum, Betty (Allison Janney)…

It takes a while for The Way Way Back to really kick in. I knew I wanted to enjoy it, and nothing really prevented that from happening, but it felt half a beat off the pace. Then, about twenty minutes in, something sparked and the investment for the first quarter became worthwhile. Just as Duncan evolves into someone a little less awkward, a little more confident than the alien he feels himself to be in his world, so The Way Way Back develops into a heartwarming tale of angst, the reality of life and second chances. And it steps beyond 'quietly amusing' into 'very funny'.

The principal reasons The Way Way Back works are Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the partnership that won an Oscar for writing The Descendants and have earned themselves loyal fan bases individually as actors, Rash particularly as Dean Pelton in Community. While The Way Way Back doesn't quite have the edge of The Descendants, it is still a tender, thoughtful visitor that carries a hidden knife to jab into your ribs when required. For anyone who couldn't wait to leave home and adolescence far behind and found exciting possibilities in their summer jobs, this is a film with enough references to make you smile and belly laugh in solidarity and complete understanding.

At the centre of The Way Way Back is James' Duncan. It's not a star-making performance that tugs at us like, say, Paul Dano's Dwayne in the supreme Little Miss Sunshine (which also starred Carell and Collette) but his character development is steady rather than breathtaking and we buy into him. He's odd but we like him because of that. This is no 'ugly duckling turning beautiful' hogwash but a considered performance from an actor who has inhabited his on-screen persona completely.

Collette is on fairly safe territory here as the mixed-up mum who is holding it together and hoping for the best but papering over the cracks with tissue. As her boyfriend, however, Carell is on superb form. There are many expletives and mild obscenities one could use to describe Trent but Carell avoids the pitfalls of making him purely evil. Trent isn't so much cruel as quietly unpleasant. Perhaps he even believes he is genuinely helping when he asks Duncan, "On a scale of one to ten, what do you think you are?" before crushing the teenager with his own damning, contrary assessment of him. This is a Carell we are rarely allowed to see but I sincerely hope he extends his range and gives us the dark side more often.

Rockwell is at his best here. Forget the overcooked oddball of Seven Psychopaths, he is on sincere form as the man who has never quite left his own youth and understands what really matters more than any of the other adults around Duncan. Rockwell has proved to be a versatile actor (compare his turns in Welcome to Collinwood, The Green Mile and Matchstick Men for a start) who adds a quirky tangent to most films. His Owen is not simply played for laughs but with honesty and sincerity.

On the periphery are some solid and amusing supporting performances from the likes of Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet as the neighbours, Kip and Joan, and Janney as the lush next door, but scenes are stolen frequently by Rash as the camp, dour Lewis, an kiosk attendant with no customers and no escape. Brilliant! The Way Way Back is far from perfect but, after the initial lacklustre, I enjoyed it immensely and laughed aloud. If you heeded my advice and enjoyed last year's Safety Not Guaranteed, add this to your viewing list. It's not quite a gem but it's worth taking a chance on a movie that flies because of some very, very funny delivery of superbly written dialogue.

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10/10
Way Way to the top of my list as one of the best movies of 2013!
meeza24 July 2013
I have to go way way back in thinking of a coming-of-age summer comedic movie that made me feel so good, and in doing that the classic "Meatballs" comes to mind. The dynamic duo team of Nat Faxon & Jim Rash have swimmingly perfected a film that homages "Meatballs" and puts a new spin to it, without duplicating it; and that would be in their craft filmmaking of "The Way Way Back". The film stars teen actor Liam James as 14 year-old Duncan who is an isolated teen who despises the idea of taking a summer vacation with his timid mother Pam, her arrogant boyfriend Trent, and Trent's narcissistic daughter Steph. Their vacation spot is at Trent's beach house where nearby has a water park; I will slide into that one a little later in my review. Trent does have a few eccentric neighbors in his beach house which include the lush-filled gabby Betty, a divorcée with three kids; and also the vociferous couple Kip & Joan. Duncan is constantly ridiculed and excluded by Trent and Stephanie which puts him in the perpetual state of "I want to get the f*ck of out of here". However, in a twist of fate, Duncan befriends the vivacious water park employee Owen, perfectly played by Sam Rockwell. Consequently, Duncan starts to regularly visit the water park to hang with Owen and the other water park wacky employees. And before you know it, Duncan plummets himself to a part-time working gig at the park; unknowing to his mom and Trent. Duncan takes flight at the water park and you see the "coming-of-age" turn at every moment in his time there. Owen's character is very reminiscent of the Tripper character (played to the tee by Bill Murray) in "Meatballs". But Rockwell plays the part so superbly that it does not appear to be a Tripper duplication but instead a modern transformation within its Tripper homage; tripped out yet? Duncan also befriends Betty's teen daughter Susanna, who empathizes with Duncan's situation in dealing with a callous potential stepdaddy. Faxon & Rash's masterful direction & screenplay of "The Way Way Back" was not dead on the water; in fact- the vitality, humor, and tenderness they brought to the movie's direction & screenplay should hopefully land them in the wave of Oscar contenders for Best Director & Best Original Screenplay. As far as the thespian pool of the picture, I must state that it was a perfect ensemble. James showed potentiality that he will be on his way back to other leading roles with his fine work as Duncan. Steve Carell's performance as Trent showed the depth to his acting by playing a part non-typical to the Carell filmography; Trent was sure one heartless bastard, and Carell disappeared into the role. Toni Collette was spic & spam in her role as Duncan's mom Pam. Faxon & Rash themselves were a hoot playing two water park employees, Roddy and Lewis. Other supporting turns that were no lazy river works were of Anna Sophia Robb as Susanna, Rob Corddry & Amanda Peet who we had fun with as Kip & Joan, and Maya Rudolph as water park manager Caitlin; and I would be remiss if I did not mention the standout, scene-stealing performance from Allison Janney as the wickedly-hilarious Betty. Be it as it may, it was still Rockwell that stole the show here. His work in "The Way Way Back" should slide him into a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination. "The Way Way Back" is a gem of a movie, and I hope it does not land "way way back" in your "movies to see" list; if for no better reason, you will be delaying time in missing one heck of a flick. ***** Excellent
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7/10
Water Wizzdom
ferguson-67 July 2013
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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9/10
Great movie, great actors & a great message. I highly recommend this. One of the best movies of the year. I give it an A.
cosmo_tiger18 October 2013
"No patterns on my quarter, cut your own path." Duncan is a shy teenager who is stuck in a summer with his mom and her new boyfriend Trent (Carell). Duncan has no self esteem and when he leaves one day he ends up at a water park where he meets Owen (Rockwell) and finds himself. This is a very very funny and touching movie that all teens with low esteem should watch. This is a very different part for Carell and he does do a great job in this. As likable as Carell is you really hate him in this movie. This is also another movie that continues the trend of the lower budget movies being much much better then the big tent-pole movies that are being released. This is kind of hard to review since the movie is really nothing more then a kid gaining confidence over a summer but it feels like so much more then that. The kid that plays Duncan is great and Sam Rockwell is perfect in this. A great movie with great actors and a great message. A real must see. I highly recommend this. Overall, one of the best movies of the year. I give it an A.
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9/10
A perfect summer teen hit!
ruby-wells76417 January 2014
This film lived up to all my (very high) expectations! Liam James did a great job of playing the awkwardly charming Duncan - I instantly fell in love with his character... I thought the rest of the cast was also fantastically chosen, especially the comedy genius of Sam Rockwell in the role of Owen. The script is brilliant - a perfect balance of rib-tickling comedy and tear-jerking drama will leave you feeling not only completely satisfied but warm and emotional. Nothing is overdone in this film - in fact, its subtlety is what makes it so endearing and memorable.

I definitely recommend giving this film a try - I guarantee that you will find something in it that either makes you smile, touches your heart, or that you can totally relate to...
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4/10
Did I see the same film as most of the reviewers?
iraz8 October 2013
What fun would it be if we all agreed about the films we see? Well, we don't have to worry about that however I was surprised by the amount of positive reviews listed here. I went through the first three or four ages and read only one negative review. Well, here's another one! I gave the film a four because the acting was good and Sam Rockwell stole the film with his performance.

The problem I had was that I did not emotionally connect with any of the characters nor the story and found the film predictable and not all that interesting. Based on the reviews I read, I expected something special and got an ordinary story I've seen many times. I could have turned the film off at any point without feeling that I was missing anything. The comedy portion was lacking and the drama was very plain. I think there have been so many poor films released that a so-so film has become more than it would normally be. I'm sure most people will disagree with me, but I had to include my two cents.
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8/10
Why can't I get a Sam Rockwell Main event?
pcrawake9 January 2014
Great movie, entertaining, blah, blah, blah.

Kid is dealing with a tough situation, I heard that. Kid is trying to find his own voice, a little love; steal that first kiss. Good Luck.

Everyone did a great job and the movie was well directed, but I would like to take this chance to demand a movie where Sam Rockwell is on screen at least 95% of the time.

Is that really so much to ask?

He leaves you wanting more, which is the skill of a great actor or salesman or prostitute. TBH, I felt like this film really dragged in parts. Without spoiling it, Duncan, the main protagonist did an excellent job. The movie followed him, was centered around him and the problems and conflict of the story are no cause of his own, only falling on him.

Such is the life for some kids in bad spots. My point is, in this movie when you don't really like the mother, the potential step father, the step sister, the neighbor--all the characters are playing in most respects negative roles to drive the plot, all of the burden falls on the protagonist, but, Duncan is a kid. He has no character to build on, which is the point. He is just a kid suffering a bad situation.

If it was not for Sam Rockwell's role there would be no outlet in the movie, no levity. There would be no where for Duncan to turn to when things were bad.

I can not stress how much Sam Rockwell's character and acting made this movie. Without him, it would just be a terribly depressing and unrewarding movie.
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Sam Rockwell watched "Meatballs" 11 times to prepare for this
rooprect24 October 2015
Great movie, funny, charming, etc. You can read the other reviews for adjectives I couldn't come up with. I just wanted to focus on the performances (in particular that of Sam Rockwell) to give you a taste of what's in store.

As my title suggests, in the Behind the Scenes feature, Sam Rockwell confesses that he watched Bill Murray in Meatballs eleven times to help develop the fast-yammering, charmingly-sarcastic, lovable slob "Owen" whom he plays in this film. Rockwell also mentions other iconic 80s influences like Michael Keaton (I'm assuming "Beetlejuice"), and although he didn't say it, I would throw in the late, great Robin Williams ("Good Morning Vietnam"). What I'm trying to say is that Rockwell's performance in "The Way, Way Back" is a HILARIOUS homage to those characteristic comedy leads you may have grown up with if you're between the ages of 30 and 50. Heck, even if not, it's never too late to get acquainted.

"Owen" is the sort of kind-hearted yet darkly witty character who walks around mumbling hilarious zingers to himself almost as if he's alone in a psych ward. That is, until he snaps out of it and says (to his unappreciative, deadpan co star) something like, "WOW, do you even get comedy?" or "Come on, that was some of my best material!" The result is a true Rockwell original: a character who's a weird blend of Bill Murray and maybe Rain Man ("Kmart sucks"). This movie is well worth watching for its story alone, but Rockwell is what gives it that extra little push over the cliff.

Playing lesser roles but just as fun to watch are Owen's band of misfit coworkers at "Water Wizz" (ya gotta love that hilarious name which, oddly enough, is the REAL name of the water park where this was filmed). There's Maya Rudolph who plays Owen's keeper, or the only real "adult" at the water park. There's writer/director Nat Faxon playing "Roddy", a harmless pervert who operates the water slide. And there's the other writer/director Jim Rash playing "Lewis" in his funniest role since he played "Andrew" on Reno 911 (yes that was him, the weird pervert who used to call the sheriff's department for such outrageous crimes as a prostitute getting peach Schnapps on his man parts).

Thus, without even getting into the story, the stage is set with some of the weirdest personalities you can imagine. The story, as you've probably figured out by the IMDb summary, is about "Duncan", a 14-year-old boy who is subjected to an excruciating summer at the home of his mother's new boyfriend (played by The Office's Steve Carell, but in a role that makes you want to call child services on him). Duncan, suffering from a severe case of introversion, if not a terminal case of uncool, wanders into Water Wizz one afternoon, and the fun begins. What's great about Liam James' portrayal of Duncan is that, unlike a lot of introverted coming-of-age characters who are actually somewhat in control, Liam conveys a sense of absolute psychological spaghetti. What I mean is that this kid seems to be just 1 trauma away from growing up to be a serial killer. That gives the story much more meaning when you realize that this poor kid, thanks to the absolute failure of all adults in his life, is desperately in need of rescuing.

I also have to add major comedy points to Allison Janney who plays the mai-tai swilling next door neighbor in tight pants (think Peg Bundy). In addition to putting on the best Boston accent (she's actually from Ohio), her rapid fire, largely improvised wit is an absolute treat to watch. It should be noted that in an interview Allison admits that her character's mannerisms as well as a lot of priceless lines came from some of her real life friends. So yes, I guess people like that really exist.

Whether you're looking for a coming of age story, a story about dysfunctional families, or just a great comedy, this movie is well worth the price of admission. It may even inspire you to take a trip to Water Wizz to hurl yourself down the Devil's Peak slide (which was given its name for this film and it stuck). Just don't try to pass anyone on the slide, or it may lead to intense depression, self-loathing and a meaningless future as a male prostitute. Watch the movie and you'll get the joke.
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10/10
This Movie Gets the Awkward Teenager's Life Right!
MsLiz14 January 2014
I spent a lot of my teenage years feeling like an outsider. When I got to my 20s I was surprised to realize that most of the people I talked to did not feel like a success when they were teenagers, even the pretty, smart and handsome ones.

For me, summer stints as a camp counselor helped me find myself as a useful pre-adult. Someone taught me to serve a volleyball, and then I helped my campers win games. Someone played a guitar and led singing, and I found that I could also play guitar and sing with others.

The movie had me laughing out loud at the library showing, and I was delighted with the way this movie realistically told us about Duncan's summer of self-discovery! I look forward to the next movie these writers, producers and directors put together, I am sure they have more to tell us.
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4/10
High Expectations, Very Disappointed
filmguyCI21 July 2013
When I heard about this film, it became a must see. The creators of Little Miss Sunshine? Steve Carrell and Toni Collette? A feel good coming of age story? What would not be to like? Basic plot, a 14 year old boy spends the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend (Steve Carrell) at his beach house. In order to escape his misery, he gets a job at a local water park where Owen (Sam Rockwell), the outrageous water park manager with a big heart takes him under his wing and helps him out of his shell. The plot is a lot like "Meatballs," one of my favorite films of the 70s. That may have been the problem for me. Sam Rockwell's characterization is so much like Bill Murray's that he should be arrested for stealing a performance.

The young boy portraying Duncan completely overplays the role. Duncan is so socially withdrawn and awkward that one would think that there was some level of autism going on. I found it hard to warm up to this character.

Plot holes run through the whole movie. We are to believe that Duncan is working every day at this water park and his mother doesn't even question where he is. When Owen, a grown man, drives him home for the first time, his mother casually questions "who is this friend of yours who drives?" and doesn't say another word about it.

There are other characters and plot lines that are never fully developed. Maya Rudolph plays Owen's boss. The two had a relationship that went south. This is mentioned in one scene and never explored further despite the fact that there seemed to be ongoing feeling between the two. There is also an ongoing joke about a neighborhood kid with a lazy eye that becomes a running gag despite it not being particularly funny.

I'm not getting all the glowing reviews. Maybe my expectations were too high. But another "Little Miss Sunshine" this is definitely not.
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10/10
Perfect! Relatable!! Hilarious!!!
kj57014013 July 2013
This movie is the perfect balancing act between comedy and drama. Both work extremely well in the audience connecting to all of these flawed characters. Having a movie set around a waterpark and during the summer allows audiences to connect on some sort of level. Great movie. I loved the whole cast. This movie was not clichéd when it could have been which allowed me to not get distracted in the movie like a clichéd action as seen in 20 other movies would have done. Pay attention to Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who are so far 2 for 2 in making movies (The Descendants(writers)).

Oscar: Sam Rockwell. Every line of dialogue was amazing. Has anyone noticed that he dances in a majority of his movies. I feel like that is an amazing trademark to have.

The Related Rank: 1. The Way, Way Back

2. Perks of Being a Wallflower

3. Dazed and Confused

4. Stand by Me

5. Adventureland
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9/10
Would you know a diamond if you held it in your hand?
nybred42 December 2014
Did you ever fall in love with somebody without knowing that you were falling in love with that person? You never, ever considered the possibility until you were already in love. Weather you realize it or not, you will fall in love with this movie if you watch it a couple o' three times. Jim Rash and Nat Faxon helped co-write "The Descendants". While it would be vicious to say Clooney is simply "Da Emperor's New Clothes", this movie outdoes "The Descendants", from every angle. Ask 500 forty-fifty year old New England women, after viewing each flick once, which is better. 480+ women will say "The Descendants", IMHO.

Sam Rockwell is stupendous. Is stupendous even still a word? He rises above a cast of masters and that ain't EZ.

This movie does what Adam Sandler made 100 million dollars trying to do, but never came close to what this movie successfully did.

A family movie for decades to come. There, I said it .
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8/10
I could have used a summer like this.
SmileysWorld30 December 2013
I can relate to the kid in this story.I think I must've set a record for low self esteem in my youth.The Duncan character from this film probably would have looked pretty good next to me.I wish I could have had a summer like Duncan did.I liked this film because it spoke to the kid I used to be.I only wish it had been made 30 years ago.Steve Carell plays a not so nice guy in very impressive fashion,but I was even more impressed with Sam Rockwell,who was perfect as the water park manager.The real star though is Liam James as Duncan.Thank you,Liam for channeling that shy,reclusive,kid I used to be and making him smile.I had a blast.
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10/10
Great movie, fun,sad and growth
chrislefave27 December 2013
This movie is a great re watchable film with lovable characters. I have not seen a movie along these lines for awhile that has real issues in todays childhood and with our current relationships. You can watch it for the small 'love story' the growth of the main character or just the humour in the situations. I have watched this movie twice and enjoyed it both times, the characters are all great the acting is very well done, especially the lead boy. His acting of the very awkward and shy boy is fantastic his body language is very well done. Steve carrel plays a meaner guy, or I guess more realistic view of many of todays relationships and fathers. It was a first for me to see him like this but he does a great job and even when you hate him you still understand him. Overall they made a great film full of lessons and great for the whole family.
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8/10
A Beautifully Made Movie!
eminent-archit22 October 2013
Many movies are such that despite having the feel good factor right up there, fall prey to predictability. This is what directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash avoid skillfully. The film takes the viewers in the direction of being predictable, but takes a U-Turn at the last moment.

The film is about a timid 14 year old, Duncan, who is reluctant to spend his summer with his Mother's new boyfriend but he is forced to, at his mother's boyfriend's beach house. What starts off as a reluctant journey ends up to be a life changing experience for Duncan. Now, the plot of The Way Way Back is no extraordinary storyline yet it leaves an impression as deep as a Shawshank Redemption or an Inception would.

The film benefits from the terrific performances pitched in by its three male leads. Liam James as Duncan delivers a restrained performance as the shy teenager. It is a refreshing change to watch Steve Carell play a character with negative shades with as much ease and finesse as he plays the comic roles. But the star of the movie is Sam Rockwell, as the carefree Water Park Manager, who brings life to the proceedings and makes you fall in love with his careless attitude.

I am going with 4 out of 5 for THE WAY WAY BACK. The film has its heart in the right place. Don't Miss IT!!!
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5/10
Little "near-Miss" Sunshine revisited?
clehoullier17 August 2013
And yet again, another "highly rated" movie, one recommended by friends, leaves my wife and I heading for the theater, plunking down our money, sitting and hoping....and waiting...and waiting...and waiting for this movie to shine. It isn't awful, it isn't great.

Why? Why do movies have to sprinkle lame songs around like so many mini-soundtracks to all of the stuff going on in the particular scene? Why did Toni Collette get such the short end of the stick on her part? (she essentially repeated her character from Little Miss Sunshine)...Why was Allison Janney's role so bizarrely written, so out of balance and front-loaded?....and as others indicated, the plot has more holes than Swiss cheese. This movie really doesn't have nearly enough feel-good parts to be called a feel-good movie - there are too many feels like crap moments that tilt the balance. The movie ending is more of relief, than joy...including relief that it is finally over.

Clearly meant to be a general crowd-pleaser, I suppose it succeeds by not being particularly good anywhere, and at the same time, not awful enough to walk out on.

Mostly, where are the truly great movies - those that don't include schlock, unbelievable or incomplete plots and character development, and clichéd use of generic rock music?

Such a disappointment....
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1/10
One of the worst movies I've ever had the displeasure of watching
leonardo-zaninetti4 September 2013
this movie is a giant ball of nothing.

the characters are all flat, emotionless, unidentifiable drones who have no purpose other than to fill up space and try and create conflict in what is an already trite and clichéd story idea.

a lot of the characters seem to be hastily written in, like the "love interest" in the film who does absolutely nothing to make us like her (or hate her, she literally just does nothing) or the older "mentor", another character that does sweet FA throughout the film in terms of depth and growth

this feels like someone typed in "heartwarming summer movie" into a computer and then handed it to a studio without even scanning it. every plot twist was predictable, every "moment" the audience was meant to perceive as triumphant and beautiful fell flat, a million b stories fought over each other until there were just hundreds of really terrible b stories without any depth in them (the girl feels like someone at the studio said "can we get a love interest in there?" and the writers put her in in a single night)

it brought nothing to the conversation in terms of its themes, or cinema in general. this film will be forgotten about by 2014.

in summary, i don't know WHY this film is so acclaimed. it was one of the worst films I've ever watched, and not in a so-bad-its-good way.

avoid this film at all costs.
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1/10
A mundane film
richgibphxaz27 July 2013
I like Toni Collete, I cannot understand why she elected to do this film. The story is mundane with situational plots you can see coming way in advance. I almost wondered if a high school freshman had written the script. The film is filled with transitional scenes accompanied with songs that we must endure much too long. - must have had lots of film to use. The major adult characters are shallow and uncaring - mom shows no real concern to find out who the adult man is that drives her 14-year old son home. I recently also saw the "Kings of Summer" another growing up film which was magnificent. I give it 10 stars. This one gets a 1.
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