Trent (Steve Carell – Crazy, Stupid Love) and Pam (Toni Collette – The Sixth Sense) take their respective kids on vacation. They’ve only been dating for awhile but Pam’s son Duncan (Liam James – 2012) doesn’t get on with Trent, who talks down to him all the time. Fully expecting the summer to be a washout, Duncan manages to find hope at a water park run by Owen (Sam Rockwell – Moon), a carefree loafer who befriends Duncan and gives him a job. With his confidence now building Duncan learns to stand up for himself, and in the process be more confident around girls, especially the neighbours daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb – The Carrie Diaries).
Writer/Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have crafted a delightful homage to the holiday movies of old. Cameoing in the film too, Faxon and Rash have made a sweet and hilarious coming-of-age story in The Way, Way Back that hits all of its marks and is a joy to watch from start to finish.
The ensemble are all excellent and elevate this story above the norm. It’s nice to see Steve Carell take on the role of villain for a change. He does well as Trent, even if he does look a little too sweet to really play a jackass. His strained relationship with Liam James’ Duncan is mostly handled well too, but on some occasions he does paint the picture of a pantomime villain.
Liam James does well as the movie progresses. With the story seen through his eyes, the character of Duncan feels a little bit too awkward at the start. James gets more comfortable with the character as the movie progresses and does hand in a performance that ultimately impresses.
AnnaSophia Robb continues to make great career choices and the talented actress excels in The Way, Way Back. Having made her name in Charlie & The Chocolate Factory remake, Race To Witch Mountain and The Reaping, Robb has gone on to star in The Sex & The City prequel series The Carrie Diaries. It looks like her career is following a similar style to Hayden Panettiere, with her ability to command the screen both enjoyable and effortless. She’s also quite perfectly cast as Liam James’ ultimate teen crush with the two young actors doing a convincing job here.
Alison Janney steals her scenes yet again, this time as a party-loving divorcee who likes to get into people’s business. Her hilarious relationship with her son is also one of the films high-points (especially when she has a go at him for having a lazy eye!). Toni Collette plays Carell’s new girlfriend Pam with gusto and shattered hope whilst Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry supply some nice comic relief as their holidaying chums who may cause some problems down the line.
As great as everyone is, The Way, Way Back belongs to one man – Sam Rockwell. He hands in an amazing performance that will have you in fits of laughter. From quoting Bonnie Tyler to ogling women at the water park, Rockwell is a revelation and guarantees that The Way Way Back is remembered as a genuinely funny comedy with bags of heart. He shares a great chemistry with Liam James and also Bridesmaids’ Maya Rudolf as his romantic interest.
The film echoes those classic 80’s and 90’s movies that chart a character’s emotional journey over a summer. There are elements of Adventureland in here too, (itself a wonderful homage to that bygone era) that takes you back to your childhood and how it felt to have your first bit of independence and discover your first holiday crush. It captures the ambiance of a vacation town really well too, with the film being mostly shot in Massachusetts.
The Way Way Back is a fantastic coming-of-age story that will strike a personal chord with you. Despite a few early hiccups it comes out as one of the best comedic dramas you’ll see all year thanks to its amazing cast. The Way, Way Back is one movie you’ll not want to miss and is easily one of the highlights of 2013.