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DVD Review: The Way Way Back

November 5, 2013

The Way Way Back Blu-ray CoverThe Way Way Back – A Fox Searchlight Release

DVD Release Date: October 22nd, 2013

Rated PG for mature themes and language

Running time: 103 minutes


Nat Faxon (dir.)

Jim Rash (dir.)


Nat Faxon (writer)

Jim Rash (writer)


Rob Simonsen (music)


Liam James as Duncan

Steve Carell as Trent

Toni Collette as Pam

Allison Janney as Betty

AnnaSophia Robb as Susanna

Sam Rockwell as Owen

Maya Rudolph as Caitlin


Our reviews below:


The Way Way Back DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Duncan (Liam James) is going through an awkward time in his life, while on vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her jerk of a boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell).  Stuck at their beach house, he catches the eye of Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), the daughter of their drunk and hilariously overbearing neighbour (Allison Janney).  But then the 14-year-old Duncan is taken under the wing of Owen (Sam Rockwell), the hyperactive manager of a local water park, who gives him a job and helps him come into his own against a backdrop of memorably quirky characters.


Directed by the writing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way Way Back is a pitch perfect coming of age film that does an excellent job of capturing all of the touching highs and awkward lows that come with being a teenager.  The acting is excellent across the board, as Liam James leads the charge with a remarkably nuanced performance.  Backed up by a typically excellent Fox Searchlight soundtrack, The Way Way Back is an absolute delight from beginning to end, the sort of hilarious and heartwarming film that already feels like a summertime classic.


The Blu-ray includes deleted scenes and a bunch of featurettes.


The Way Way Back DVD Review By Erin V.

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Way Way Back is a coming-of-age dramedy taking place over one summer.  14 year old Duncan is going with his mother (Toni Collete) to spend the summer at her new boyfriend Trent’s (Steve Carrell) beach house, along with his teenage daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).  Trent thinks little of Duncan and makes no secret to him of this fact, and his daughter in her own turn is also acting like a jerk to him.  As Duncan feels out of place, he at first is just spending his days riding around the town on an old pink bike he found in the garage.  Eventually though, he finds himself at the Water Wizz water park, and after sneaking in the employees entrance day after day, is offered a job.


Keeping the new job a secret from his family, Water Wizz becomes a safe-haven for Duncan, and the only place he is actually happy.  Making new friends with the girl next door Susanna (Anna-Sophia Robb), as well as with the staff at Water Wizz including manager Owen (Sam Rockwell), Duncan starts to come out of his shell and be more confident in who he is.


The film is hilarious, but also heartfelt and incredibly real feeling.  Adults will relate to the feel of when they were teens, and teenagers who take a chance on this one will relate to it as well.  Boasting strong performances all around, as well as a super-sharp script, The Way Way Back is definitely worth seeing.


The Way Way Back DVD Review By Nicole

***1/2 (out of 4)

The Way Way Back is a coming of age dramedy about one boy’s search for belonging.  The 14-year-old Duncan (Canada’s Liam James) is a shy boy who is stuck with his mother’s (Toni Collete) jerk boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell), who tells him that “he is only a 3” in terms of looks.  Duncan also has to put up with Trent’s equally obnoxious daughter (Zoe Levin), and their alcoholic neighbour (Allison Janney).


But Duncan finds sanctuary at Water Wizz, a local water park where he finds a father figure in the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell), who is just like a 14-year-old himself.  Duncan also finds solace in the neighbour’s daughter Susanna (Anna Sophia Robb), whom he has a crush on.  He proves as a great companion to Susanna and her little brother Peter (River Alexander), a shy and nerdy boy who just needs a friend.


The Way Way Back is a believable story.  It is, in fact, partially based on the childhood experiences of writer-directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who both play park staff in the film.  All the acting in this film is superb, and the writing is really sharp too.  The Way Way Back feels like it could be a Young Adult novel, and I think this movie will really connect to the 12-17 demographic, as well as appealing to adults.


The Way Way Back DVD Review By Maureen

***1/2 (out of 4)

Being fourteen is hard enough.  Add in a beach house vacation with your Mom’s humourless new boyfriend and his less than friendly teenage daughter and you have a summer to dread.  Right from the beginning you can’t help but feel sorry for young Duncan (Liam James).  Under the guise of trying to be helpful, his mother Pam’s (Toni Collette) boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell) informs him that on a scale of one to ten, Duncan comes across as a three.


Since they’ve been vacationing there for years, everyone knows Trent and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).  Next door neighbour Betty (Allison Janney) is welcoming to Pam, and figures Duncan can hang out with her cross-eyed son, Peter (River Alexander).  Duncan feels awkward from day one, especially since he discovers Betty’s daughter Susanna (Anna Sophia Robb) is cute.


It’s only when Duncan makes his escape on an old pink girls bike and discovers the nearby Water Wizz water park that his summer starts to turn around.  Duncan is befriended by the park manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell) whose “don’t take life so seriously” attitude helps Duncan discover that awkward is okay.  Working at the water park with the goofy and oddball staff (including the directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash) gives Duncan a sense of fun and plenty of confidence.


The Way Way Back is a funny and believable coming of age dramedy.  The dialogue is sharply written with just the right mix of downright funny and hurtful conflict.  Duncan’s growth over the summer is nice to see.  This is a movie with strong performances all around.  Usually funny guy Steve Carrell is really good as the often mean spirited boyfriend.  Liam James is sweet and believable as Duncan.  The comedy scene stealing comes from Allison Janney as the usually drinking neighbour.  Sam Rockwell also provides a lot of the strong comedic moments as well as the more touching ones.


Writer/directors Jim Rash and Nat Faxon tapped into their own adolescent memories to create a film that believably captures the experience of feeling out of place and finding something that helps you move past that awkward stage.  The Way Way Back is for anyone who’s ever felt that way.


The Way Way Back DVD Review By Tony

**** (out of 4)

The title: The Way Way Back (the extra “Way” added to avoid confusion with another recent film) refers to the rear facing “wayback” seat on the classic Buick Estate station wagon where the main character Duncan (Canadian born Liam James) sits at the beginning (and end) of the movie. Though he would rather be with his father who has gone west with a new spouse, 14 year old Duncan is spending the summer with his mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) at Trent’s Massachusetts beach house.


The sensitive and awkward Duncan is uneasy around Trent and his friends Kip (Rob Corddry) and Joan (Amanda Peet) and especially the vulgar next door neighbour Betty (Allison Janney), a feeling he discovers is shared by Betty’s daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb). Duncan finds refuge in a job at the nearby “Water Wizz” water park where the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) takes him in as a mentor.


Like the previous Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, The Way Way Back is an excellent Fox Searchlight comedy, with a sharp script from the writer/director team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (who appear, with Maya Rudolph, in the film as Water Wizz staff) and an excellent score of appropriate tunes.


Consensus: With a sharp screenplay by directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and excellent acting led by the young Liam James, The Way Way Back is a hilarious and heartwarming film that is highly recommended for both teens and adults.  ***1/2 (Out of 4)

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