Sunday, August 4, 2013

The Way Way Back: Movie Review

Actors deliver the comedy in an otherwise dysfunctional family drama.

“The Way Way Back” is a coming-of-age / dysfunctional family dramedy about Duncan (Liam James) trying to find his way to adulthood. He has a lost mother, her intentionally (but disguising as unintentionally) mean new boyfriend, and his over-sexed daughter. And all the summer brings is an inappropriately over-sexed neighbour and her precocious daughter. But none of them make it easy on him. Duncan just wants to get through adolescence and find a place he belongs. Regular readers will know that I find dysfunctional family dramedies tiring and this one doesn’t start out much better.   2013

Directed by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Screenplay by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell

I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the end of the night, He’s gotta be strong, He’s gotta be fast, And he’s gotta be fresh from the fight. I need a hero, I’m holding out for a hero ‘til the morning light, He’s gotta be sure, And it’s gotta be soon, And he’s gotta be larger than life.

It takes around 30 minutes, but eventually the film finds a hero in Sam Rockwell. He’s absolutely hilarious, and livens the whole film up every time he’s on screen. Not the least of which is one scene in which he dramatically says the entirety of Bonnie Tyler’s “Holding Out for a Hero” in all seriousness waiting for the other characters to get the joke. At least the audience does.

Owen (Rockwell) is a manager at a water park. Duncan wanders into the water park and decides Owen is a suitable role model. He shouldn’t be, but comparatively he is. Owen and fellow water park employees enjoy all the adolescent goings-on since they haven’t yet matured to their 40-ish ages. In particular, Roddy (Nat Faxon) and Owen liked to manipulate the bikini-clad girls into posing for them. They were of course very funny, so I’ll let the one inconsistency slide (the bikini-clad girls would have been purposely posing in front of them, no manipulation necessary).

The rest of the film was a drama. A by-the-note dysfunctional family drama, where the adults revealed themselves to be less put-together than Duncan, and Duncan figured out how to mature without them. None of the adults were likable and Steve Carell playing mean isn’t funny in and of itself so all of the dramatic funny scenes dragged on. However, Sam Rockwell was the highlight. Duncan couldn't wait to get back to the water park each day and same goes for the audience. The comedy and maturation that was provided in those scenes was enough to keep the movie afloat. It doesn’t even matter if Duncan found his way in “The Way Way Back” because Owen did.

Similar Titles:

The Kings of Summer (2013) - Funny, amusing and takes just a few simple mis-steps on the way to adulthood.

The Spectacular Now (2013) - Floats around life with two good performances..

Ping Pong Summer (2014) - Recreating 1985 but the funny premise quickly becomes stale and tiring.