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“The Way, Way Back” – Early Review (POSITIVE)

June 23, 2013

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 9.20.01 PMAfter their Oscar win with “The Descendants”, The Groundlings alums Nat Faxon & Jim “Dean” Rash premiered their directoral duo debut feature, “The Way, Way Back” at this years Sundance Film Festival. Being a volunteer at the festival, I knew this would be on the top of my list, and alas it was scheduled to premiere at my theater! But, twas not mean’t to be, my flight returning to the God forsaken state that is Florida was departing the night of the premiere…so I missed it.

Fast-forward 6 months later…

I finally saw the movie this past week! And what did I think? It was pretty good, not great, but pretty good. It’s fascinating to watch comedy writers turn over into the directing side of it all, in fact watching any movie directed by a first time director should be an interesting watch for the viewer, it gives  us the idea regarding the director(s) distinct voice, playful direction, and choice of actors they work with. “The Way, Way Back” is simply another entry in the coming of age summer comedy we’ve seen time and time again. The playing field here is nothing we haven’t seen before, but what makes the movie watchable is the casting of the film, we’ve got an all-star cast of funny people, some more so underused than others, but a dynamic cast of funny people!

Our story begins in the way, way back seat of the car, Duncan (Liam James) tries the old fake sleeping ploy to ignore his mother’s douche bag boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell). Trent is not the swellest guy you’ll ever meet, he asks Duncan how would he rate himself from 1-10, Trent already knows what Duncan is…a 3. This 3 goes on a journey in a small beach side town to find his inner 9 or 10. Duncan befriends an off-beat, colorful individual, Owen (Sam Rockwell) who promises to turn Duncan’s frown upside down, by giving him a summer job at the towns local water park, Water Wizz. Duncan learns how to like himself again, and how to like others without being that awkward teen we all know.

Like I said, for the most part the movie is pretty basic, teen angst 101. Mom has new boyfriend, Moms boyfriend & son butt heads, there’s a little resentment from both parties, we’ve seen this all before, and all in all it’s safe to say we know how the movie will end (kinda). The movie does take a few opportunities to put a different twist on the story and it’s characters. The teenage who should be having fun like any teen should during the summer, is bored and wallowing in self-pity, meanwhile mom galavants out with Trent, drinks and smokes pot as if she’s 17.

The character of Duncan is pretty bland here, I’m not sure if it’s the actors fault in his performance, or if Faxon & Rash directed him to be this way throughout 85% of the film. Either way, the kid was a huge Debbie Downer, thankfully we’ve got Sam Rockwell to the rescue! Sam’s performance is truly the best (and perhaps only) silver lining in this film. His character rings back to the wisecracking, ‘who gives a fuck kinda guy’ that Bill Murray played in the 80’s. Rockwell does find a balance of hilarity and heartfelt integrity in his character.

The movie has fun with it’s cast, and certainly makes the best of them for such a generic plot. Even Nat Faxon & Jim Rash have fun supporting roles, but out of the two, it’s Jim’s Louis that steals most of the movies awkward scenes. Lines like, “My doctor told me not to get water in my face!” will send tears of joy throughout the movie theater. “The Way, Way Back” is no “The Kings of Summer”, far from it, but it’s a good watch for people who want to take a breather from explosion films. Check it out this 4th of July.

GRADE: B

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