I just don’t get this one. Duncan (James), an inward young teen is being dragged on a summer vacation with his mum (Toni Collette) and her new beau, Trent (Carell). Trent constantly berates Duncan for being the nebbish being that he is, so to escape, Duncan visits a local waterpark where he gains employment under the watchful eye of eccentric manager, Owen (Rockwell).
Did you see Adventureland? Did you love Adventureland? Good, then there’s no need to see The Way Way Back. A woefully uncharming coming of age tale that squanders a fantastic cast by making us spend time with an incredibly boring teen protagonist. At the beginning of the film, Trent rates Duncan as being a 3 out of 10. We’re supposed to find this wildly inappropriate but we’re not really shown anything on the contrary. Duncan mopes around for most of the picture and whilst the rest of the cast offer strong performances, Liam James just doesn’t show any charisma and drags the film down to a remarkable level.
The characters other than Duncan are all supposed to be kooky and crazy (well perhaps maybe not Carell or Collette) and the only one who comes off well for this is Sam Rockwell. A friend once told me that including Sam Rockwell in a film automatically gives it an extra star, and this film is no exception. Rockwell’s Owen character is the only bright spot in this film. He’s fun, crazy and his one-liners are to die for. It’s a shame that he’s only in a supporting role. The other wild and kooky roles are filled by Allison Janney playing the same role she plays in everything now, Amanda Peet or Lake Bell being ‘wild’ and the writers/directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon in two supporting roles that they seem to find hilarious, I’d be surprised if anyone else did.
A shallow rip off of Adventureland with an unlikeable lead and a plot that leads to nowhere. The film seems to want to say something but it hasn’t decided what yet. Rockwell steals the show which shouldn’t be so easy considering the strong cast involved. A real disappointment.
2/5 (1 for Sam Rockwell, 1 for just being a movie)