Complete A-Z list

Way, Way Back, The


Stars: Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Zoe Levin, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, River Alexander

Director: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash

Written and directed by two guys who also play supporting roles, this beguiling dramedy is from the same stable as the Jesse Eisenberg sleeper Adventureland. This isn't quite in the same class, but there is still much to like, as 14-year-old Duncan (James) is whisked off by his mother (Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Carell) to the beachside home of a friend, Betty (Janney), sullen daughter Susanna (Robb) and wall-eyed son Pete (Alexander).

Even en route it becomes it becomes obvious that Trent is a bully. Asked to estimate his worth between 1 and 10, Duncan says 'Maybe a 6'. 'No, I'd say a 3,' rasps Carell. Later, it becomes clear that he's a philanderer as well, but mom is unable to tear herself away.

Soon though, the morose Duncan is slightly cheered by a tentative friendship with Susanna, but rather more so by his several accidental meetings with the outgoing Owen (Rockwell) who, on the spur of the moment, offers the kid a job as the local waterworld park, which is where he works.

The joky relationship between Owen and his fellow workers (Rudolph, Faxon and Rash) is cleverly portrayed in relaxed fashion and you can understand the kid's pleasure as he unbends into life at Water Wizz. Meanwhile, back at the beach house things are far from relaxed, as Duncan spots Trent canoodling with Joan (Peet), the wife of a neighbour.

Rockwell has the plum role here and he makes the most of it, but Carell is also good, in the least sympathetic part. The writer/directors have made very decent entertainment out of familiar situations, and the glowingly effective colour photography renders their efforts easy on the eye.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: 20th Century Fox (Fox Searchlight). Colour by FotoKem.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 24 Aug 2013