Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Way Way Back

Plot: Duncan (Liam James) rides in the way way back of an old station wagon on the way to his Mom's/Pam's(Toni Collette's) boyfriend's/Trent's (Steve Carell's) beach house. At the beach, the adults spend the whole time flirting and drinking, while the teen girls ignore Duncan. Duncan goes to a water park where he meets the cool manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) who trusts Duncan, unlike his family. The other water park workers are nicer and more agreeable than his relatives too. This is a summer vacation movie, so you can probably guess how it ends.   [imdb]    [photos]

Review: The first half of the movie, where Duncan's awful  family life is set-up, is nearly unendurable. I was thinking about leaving the theater. It is not funny, or cool, or interesting, or clever. It is one cringe-worthy scene after another where the stupid adults say stupid things and Duncan just sits there radiating hate with a sneer on his face.  Woody Allen could make these awkward adult conversation scenes interesting and cute, but writer directors Faxon and Rash weren't up to it. 

In the second half, Duncan gets to the water park, and we are entertained by the fun-loving antics of Sam Rockwell's Owen. Owen is like a big brother to Duncan, and the writers intended to make these quirky characters into a substitute family, but that never really works.  

Steve Carrell's acting is probably OK, but he played an unfunny jerk, so it was wasted on me. Toni Collette is likable -- and she has some good facial acting. Sam Rockwell is funny, but he more of a cartoon than a character. Really all the characters are pretty cartoon-like. 

Way Way Back has elements of a good movie, but it didn't work for me. I don't understand why the Sundance Film Festival endorses weak movies like this, but it seems to be a pattern.

There isn't much of a message in the movie -- perhaps to develop more self-confidence. While promo materials called this a 'coming of age movie,' Duncan does not deal with any adult issues or do anything more adult than learn to use his powers as a water-slide monitor to ogle girls' asses. Seriously, I thought the ass ogling was insensitive, distasteful and not funny. Is that really what coming of age means? 

Cast: Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, 

Directed by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Rating: 2.0 stars: not recommended.
More:  Did this movie occur in the past or in the present? That old station wagon with rear facing seat was from the past. Certainly all the music was old, and the Star Wars action figures too. On the other had, Duncan had an iPhone. The whole film could have been in 1985 except for that iPhone.

The movie is called the Way Way Back which might imply it is from the distant past of the writers. I expect there is a draft of the movie somewhere, that actually was set in the eighties.