If you thought Steve Carell’s Michael Scott was a total jerk on the American television version of “The Office,” that was just a warm up to his humorless character in “The Way Way Back.” In this must-see new DVD release, he plays Trent, the controlling and insensitive boyfriend of a divorced mom named Pam (Toni Collette). Her 14-year-old son Duncan (a perfectly cast Liam James) is the comic book super hero version of awkward. Already ultra-shy, largely mute, and seemingly devoid of any sense of humor, he is devastated by Trent calling him a three on a scale of one to ten en route to a summer at Trent’s beach house. What first appears to be a prison sentence at an extended adult version of spring break actually provides Duncan’s salvation.
That salvation comes from the Water Wizz water park and its happy-go-lucky operator Owen. An instantly ingratiating Sam Rockwell finds his most endearing character to date in Owen, an outwardly irresponsible man boy with a solid personal foundation. He’s like a modern version of Bill Murray from “Meatballs” but with more depth. Owen gives Duncan a job, brings him out of his very hard shell, and grows up a little with him in the process.
Co-writers-and-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash not only crafted this delightfully funny, touching and feel good feast, but also give slam-bang performances as Water Wizz employees Roddy and Lewis. A boozy, lewd and loud Allison Janney appears as Trent’s beach house neighbor Betty, a nearly grown-up AnnaSophia Robb plays her daughter Susanna, and Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet round out the terrific cast.
“The Way Way Back” is that rare gem that looks at people honestly with an accent on the hilarity in humanity. You’ll love some of them, you’ll hate some of them, but you’ll remember all of them in this pitch perfect coming of age treat for everyone.
The DVD is available thru your Roanoke Valley Public Libraries.