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article imageReview: ‘The Way, Way Back’ is doubly good Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Jul 4, 2013 in Entertainment
In ‘The Way, Way Back,’ a teen has trouble fitting in when he's forced to go on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend and his daughter.
It's possible the last great family drama and coming-of-age story to occur during a family summer getaway was Dirty Dancing. It's not that Baby was treated badly by her family, but it's at the resort that she finally comes into her own with the help of some new friends. The Way, Way Back doesn't have nearly as good a soundtrack, but it meets the other criteria with a bit of Meatballs mixed in for good measure.
Duncan (Liam James) is the unwilling hostage of a family vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Trent's idea of bonding includes insulting and embarrassing Duncan privately and publicly. But escaping the summer house of horror on a bike with a pink basket, he finds an oasis in the Water Wizz water park and a friend in its manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell).
No one said being a teenager was easy, but there are some people who insist on making it more difficult. Trent is an overbearing, controlling, judgemental jerk whose insolent behaviour is only enhanced when he's surrounded by his fellow beachcombers. They all adopt an adolescent attitude that includes binge drinking and partying all night. As one of their kids point out, "this place is like Spring Break for adults."
On the flip side, Owen couldn't be less offensive. Still not the best adult role model, he suffers more from a Peter Pan complex determined to enjoy life in the sun. But when push comes to shove, he can be a pretty stand-up guy with good advice. Taking Duncan under his wing, he pulls him out of his shell and literally has him walking a little taller by the end of the movie. Though the film's best feel good moment is when Owen physically puts himself in front of Duncan, protecting him from his bully.
Duncan is an average 14-year-old dealing with his parents' divorce and his desire for the opposite sex. He's close to his mother, but her more recent choice in men has put a wedge between them. At the water park, he forgets all the drama at home and indulges in the company of people who accept him as he is — and the view of girls in bikinis. Probably not a huge stretch for James, but he's convincing nonetheless.
Though Duncan is at the heart of the narrative, Owen is its main attraction. Rockwell is beyond compare. Portraying a version of his typically sarcastic screen personality, his whole shtick is layered with a sincerity that's impossible to overlook. It’s clear he cares about the people with which he surrounds himself. Conversely, Carell is playing a role he should explore more often — the bad guy. He's not funny or likeable, but he does a great job causing the audience to despise him.
Writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash effectively take the reins producing a picture that has the makings of a summer movie classic.
Directors: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell and Toni Collette
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