“The Way, Way Back” is occasionally funny and features some terrific performances from its ensemble, but the film feels more like a retread of many coming-of-age stories that we have seen before than an original movie written and directed by “The Descendants” screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
Duncan (Liam James) is a 14-year-old kid who is forced to spend summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), her bully of a boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his teenage daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) at a beach house. With nothing to do at the beach house, Duncan decides to explore the small beach-side town until he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), a sarcastic water park manager at Water Wizz, the local water amusement park. Seeing that Duncan is unhappy, Owen makes it his mission to help build-up the kid’s confidence.
“The Way, Way Back” is familiar and generic in terms of using the formula of a geek/outcast coming out of his shell thanks to a misfit he befriended and his associates whether it is “Adventureland” or “The Sandlot.” As much as Faxon and Rash try to best to their ability to covey a whole range of emotions throughout their first feature film, their use of trite situations and cliché characters makes their movie feel like an afterschool special.
As unoriginal as the story may be, “The Way, Way Back” features a tremendous cast that include outstanding turns from most of the performers in the ensemble. The performances from James and Collette are a hit-and-miss in the movie with their roles as the neglected son and his mother. Carell shows that he certainly has some range in his acting repertoire by playing a man who is unapologetic about his behavior towards Duncan. However, it is Rockwell who steals the movie as a likeable guy whose sarcastic jokes often fly over the head of Duncan. Usually known as an actor who playa a despicable character, Rockwell’s role is a refreshing character that could have easily been as cliché as this film’s script.
“The Way, Way Back” is a familiar and generic coming-of-age tale about a young boy coming out of his shell that features terrific performances from its ensemble including a movie-stealing turn from Rockwell. The script has enough jokes to offer some laughs, but it easily fall into the territory of been-there, done-that.
“The Way, Way Back” is now playing at AMC Aventura 24, AMC Sunset Place 24, Paragon Grove 13 and Regal South Beach Stadium 18. Click here for showtimes.