The Way Way Back
Drama, Comedy
IMDB rating:
Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Zoe Levin as Steph
Jeremy Weaver as Jason
Liam James as Duncan
Maya Rudolph as Caitlyn
Sam Rockwell as Owen
Jim Rash as Lewis
Amanda Peet as Joan
Steve Carell as Trent
Nat Faxon as Roddy
AnnaSophia Robb as Susanna
Storyline: 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.
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High Expectations, Very Disappointed
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 Duncan is so socially withdrawn and awkward that one would think that there was some level of autism going on.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.
Perfectly captures the magic and the reality of growing up during the summer
Summertime — there's no season more influential in a young person's coming of age. Being out of school means a chance for a new experiences and self-discovery, and spending that time in a new location always feels like a fresh start. In "The Way Way Back," Nat Faxon and Jim Rash ("The Descendants") portray the "life-changing summer" in a sincere way, but they also capture the nostalgia and fairy tale-like qualities with which we often remember these times in our lives.

It starts and ends with Duncan (Liam James). Too many characters in independent films are written like Duncan, the socially challenged kid who discovers himself with the help of some quirky role models and a beautiful girl, but James actually looks and acts the part, compared to the many protagonists we usually see in these films. He's quiet, closed off and doesn't stick up for himself, but he's more than the product of a the unlikable supporting characters jerking him around and most importantly, James is actually close to the same age as Duncan (a 16-year-old playing a 14-year-old), which so many coming-of-age characters aren't.

Duncan is going for a long summer vacation to the Massachusetts shore with his mom (Toni Collette) and her serious boyfriend (Steve Carell), Trent, who tries to impose rules on him while taking shots at his self-confidence. Along with Trent's superficial and self-absorbed daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin), they stay at Trent's beach house, which clearly is meant to be a getaway for Trent and Duncan's mom, who spend their days and nights there drinking and socializing with Trent's neighbors (Allison Janney, Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry). Clearly miserable, Duncan endeavors to get away, and in doing so discovers Water Wizz water park and its carefree owner/operator, Owen (Sam Rockwell).

Water Wizz is like an entirely different world, a Neverland of sorts where growing up doesn't require growing pains, where life's unfairness doesn't apply; a place where Duncan can find himself in the middle of a break dancing circle and earn the nickname "Pop-'n-Lock." There's a huge difference between the way the script treats scenes at the beach house, where Duncan can't be himself, and scenes at the water park. Rockwell's Owen is by no means a paragon of self-made success, but there's something about his attitude toward life and that of the other park employees played by Maya Rudolph, Rash and Faxon that's infectious.

The family drama away from Duncan's chlorinated safe haven, on the other hand, can get heavy and real. It is full of unhappy characters trying to force themselves into happiness and being inauthentic with themselves and each other. That's why Duncan can't stand it, especially when it becomes clear that Trent and his mother don't have the healthiest of relationships. As the story unfolds, the divide between Duncan's worlds grows so large that he can't straddle them any longer.

And what would this story be without a little romance? Janney's Betty, who lives next to Trent's beach house, has a teenage daughter named Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) who takes a curious shining to Duncan, presumably because her friends, which include Trent's daughter Steph, are also superficial. Of course Susanna is the kind of knockout that guys like Duncan dream about landing but rarely do, so their relationship is part of that nostalgic coming-of- age fantasy. Faxon and Rash clearly aren't aiming for 100 percent realism, just 100 percent genuineness of emotion.

Something about "The Way Way Back" so easily provokes the fond recollection of summers past. It taps into the feelings, emotions and nerve endings of those formative experiences and the role models that profoundly impact our lives. It has to be the honest, reflective writing and the telling of a story that has a lot of universal touch-points and therefore really resonates.

Casting actors who have perfected the dance between drama and comedy proves immensely important as well. Carell, Collette, Janney (practically a poster woman for independent comedy), Rockwell — they know how to operate in these stories and they know how to make humorous dialogue feel true to their characters. The script pushes for humor in spots, so talents like these help keep everything real.

Everyone should be able to find some kind of connection to "The Way Way Back," and that will keep it from getting lost in coming-of-age indie comedy obscurity. Faxon and Rash are two- for-two and whatever they've got in store next has to be considered a must-watch.

~Steven C

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Hooty-Hoo! Who is this and all his awkward-stage glories
I was blown away at this movie. Every performance is spot on, there are plenty of laugh- out-loud lines, and tear-jerking moments. This movie is about an awkward teenager who goes to a beach house for the summer. I won't give too much about the plot as I don't want to spoil.

The performances were stunning. Sam Rockwell had to have watched meatballs to prepare for this smart-ass, funny role. Allison Janney plays the drunk neighbor who steals every scene. Steve Carrell plays the bad guy, and plays him so well. I would say one of his best performance. And Toni Collete as the mom gives a great "sad" role.

I do not know how this movie was snubbed at the globes and Oscars. Rockwell and Janney should have been nominated. The writing was great, movie should have been nominated for best picture over Philomena or Captain Phillips.

This is just an all around great movie
Dramedy done right...
At this point, I will pretty much see anything with Steve Carell or Sam Rockwell and since they were both in this one, it's like I won the lottery...granted, lottery in the form of a really entertaining movie and not in the way that anyone actually wants to win the lottery.

Coming-of-age stories and films about awkward teens/adults/people coming out of their shells once they meet the right person to show them they have worth isn't anything new or original. However, writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash presented a film that was both simultaneously familiar and new. The movie was capable of making you laugh your backside off but then, the next moment, made you feel towards the characters and their journeys. To put it simply, Faxon and Rash made a very human film with real emotion behind it.

This emotional element was only supported and enhanced by the terrific cast the film had. Liam James is great as Duncan, the awkward teen. Steve Carell really showed another side of his talent by playing the really awful boyfriend of Duncan's mother. Toni Collette is once again incredible as she portrays Duncan's mom but the real show stealer for me was Sam Rockwell as Owen; the man who is, for the most part, a complete slacker working at the local water park but also becomes Duncan's best friend and the person who teaches him that he has self worth and is greater than he realizes. Rockwell's performance makes the film go even further as his friendship with Duncan makes it a semi-buddy comedy as well as a comedy of age comedy/drama.

The movie is one of those bittersweet comedies/dramas that can make you feel a whole range of emotions as the running length progresses. On the surface it could look like a dozen movies that can out over the years before it but the final product is so much more and has so much more heart than I had originally anticipated.

Hi! My name is Rev. Ron and I love movies! So much so that I write a blog where I review whatever film I am watching at the time. You can read a more in-depth review of this film (and many others) at
7.4? Are you kidding me?
I love movies like this and after watching the previews I was excited to see it. And then I watched it, and it was crap. Duncan was annoying and stayed that way the entire film. Maybe that's how they wanted him to play the character, but he was unlikable. Even when he started to break out of his shell he was still annoying. His back and forth with the blonde neighbor was boring and lacked realistic chemistry. There's no way that little blonde hottie would go for duncans character, there was no reason for her to, what because they both came from broken homes? Sure. The believability of their connection was non existent. Sam Rockwell's character was overkill, the only thing that was really funny was his Footloose reference, everything else he said was awkward and over thought. The break dancing scene was uncomfortable to watch, It looked like something from Saved by the Bell that Zach would have made Screech do at Malibu Sands. The ending was stupid and predictable. I really don't see what everyone loved so much about this movie. I tend to agree with the ratings people give movies on here but this one has me confused. I think for me it was the main character, Duncan who ruined the movie for me. I found myself not caring about his angst or his bad acting.

Someone wrote that this film should have won best picture. Wow.

Good movie overall. Enjoyed it.
Throughout this film, I felt a sense of truth that I don't often encounter in a film. The Way, Way Back is a story of a 15 year old boy named Duncan who lives with his mother now that his parents have split up. His mother and her boyfriend take Duncan and his bratty stepsister to a holiday house to spend the summer but things don't go quite as planned. Duncan is missing his father and wants to spend summer with him. Duncan is a quite, timid boy but just needs a little motivation in this life. After meeting a employee at a local water park, he realises that he can be happy and finds a place where he can call home. The story is touching and compels the viewer to watch more. To know more. The story had good build up and made sense, however my only concern was the ending. The ending was clever and quite adventurous to say the least but, as my critic friend has said, "I could have thought of a better ending than that!". I would recommend this movie to whoever fancies a casual, fun and interesting film experience.
'The Way, Way Back' is a great coming-of-age Comedy/Drama with great performances.
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The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age Comedy-Drama about Duncan, played by Liam James, who has to deal with his mothers over-bearing boyfriend Trent (played by Steve Carell, who's never been better), while on summer vacation at Trent's summer home with his mom and Trent's daughter. The boy deals with his mistreatment by going to a water park, without anyones knowing, where he befriends the water parks slacking manager Owen (played by a scene stealing Sam Rockwell), who ends up giving him a job.

This was my most anticipated movie of the summer. I love Steve Carell and I was excited to see a change of the nice guys we always see. The movie had me feeling all kinds of emotions. I could relate a lot to Duncan, who is very misunderstood and is treated very unfairly. You can't help but feel emotionally attached to his character. The writers did a very good job making you feel attached to this movie and having it relate to your childhood in some way. There's probably a scene or two where you will point on the resemblance to your childhood, which makes the attachment to the movie that much more detachable.

The dramatic scenes were basically only when Duncan was surrounded by his family. The realism of the feelings of anger and sadness he felt around his moms boyfriend and daughter were very emotional. You couldn't help but hate those characters, as they treated him like an unwanted stepson and step brother. For example, the movie begins with Trent rating Duncan a 3 on a scale of 1-10, basically highlight his confidence level and himself as a whole. The comedic scenes are when he's at the water park, while surrounded by Owen and his co- workers, as they live their every day lives as water park employees, having lots of fun in the process. Those scenes are the escape from reality. The ones that make you feel happy that Duncan can have some sort of fun and support.

The acting was superb. Sam Rockwell stole the show. I couldn't help but smile every time he was on screen. He was the comedic glue holding the movie together. You couldn't help but hate Steve Carell in this film, which made me realize how much depth he has as an actor, which made me love him even more. Liam James was great as Duncan, playing him as a vulnerable young teenage boy who was living a hard life. He gave his character a sense of realism that was very powerful and heartfelt. You felt for Duncan and wished for him to be treated a lot better.

The way, way back brought me back to my childhood, where my hardest years were my early teens. Growing up is not that easy and it doesn't help when your moms over-bearing boyfriend is always there to shoot your confidence down. This movie is amazing on a very personal level for me. It was very light and wasn't too emotional. I guarantee you will walk out with a smile on your face. Take a break from your typical summer blockbuster and go check this one out. I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Grade: A
very ..nostalgic
since i am a 49 year old person,but feel ..kind of young,i really enjoyed this movie.although you 've basically have seen all this before,the troubled shy kid ,the cool ..mentor,the adults problems.another example if you make something with good taste you have a winner.of course it helps if you have an outstanding cast ,like Toni and Sam and ..dick carell ha ha.the kids also played's all about u find a special situation,a place,people, which you belong to.i think everybody craves for such whether young or old ,any living thing.very warm movie.hey ,in the end ,i,and the rest of the planet, like to think the two went back . tell me it is so.THAT was the power magic of this movie.GREAT ,JUST GREAT 11111 OOOOPS SORRY !!!!!!!! HAHAHAHA
The Way Way Back is Way Way Good
This is a truly amazing movie. Young Duncan (Liam James) has the kind of summer we all should have, even with a jerk like Trent (Steve Carell) hanging around. A fantastic cast, some of whom play against type, tell a great coming of age story. The amazing thing is how this is not just a coming of age for Duncan.

Duncan finds his way to a water park, and connects with Owen (Sam Rockwell), supposedly the manager of the park. Duncan finds a connection to Owen, and it becomes life-giving, although the full extent of Duncan's need only becomes apparent as we go through the summer with Duncan, his mother (Toni Collette), Trent, and Duncan's neighbors (Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb and a delightful River Alexander).

A crucial moment in this film would have been a downfall in a lesser movie. Duncan is directed to do something that could have lead to his humiliation, but instead becomes a moment where he finds an identity.

AnnaSophia Robb is of course in the film as a romantic interest for Duncan, but she does something far more important: she listens and talks with him. It is a trickier role, and Robb and James develop a lovely friendship.

A beautiful movie, well worth owning.
The Way Way Back (@cmp_moviereviews)
Coming of age films follow similar storytelling patterns. Patterns like "growing up sucks", "fathers be good to your sons/daughters", "accountability". "The Way, Way Back" follows those patterns, and yet still somehow manages to stand out as one of the best. The importance of the motherhood/fatherhood duo echo throughout this comedic drama, and are likely to shed a tear or two. Films like these transport you to moments, destinations, and memorable interactions of the past. I genuinely enjoyed watching and remembering all throughout. #thewaywayback
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