Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
Writer[s]: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
A 14 year old boy heads to a summer house with his mother and her new boyfriend, and has to break out of his shell and make the best of his life. Nothing new on the story and theme front, but coming from the writers of The Descendants (with the exception of writer/director Alexander Payne), which was similarly cliche ridden but still managed to get on my list of favorites, I am hoping to find an enjoyable film capable of keeping my interest and invoking some good emotions/memories (as The Descendants did).
The film focuses on fourteen-year-old Duncan [James], who we first find sitting in the way back seat [get it?] of his step-dad Trent’s [Carrell] station wagon with Duncan’s mom Pam [Collette] and Trent’s daughter Steph, on their way to Trent’s summer home. Here they will spend their summer and hopefully bond and become a family. This is easier said than done for the socially inept Duncan, who doesn’t say more than fifteen words for the first thirty minutes of the film. His only bonding comes from Owen, a thirty-something overly sarcastic water park employee.
Unfortunately, after the first scene, which is inspired by a real conversation had by Jim Rash and his step-father when he was the same age and inspired the script, it is painfully obvious that this film is nothing but cliches. The dialogue is obvious and pretty shallow in every respect, and in his first semi-starring role, Liam James [Psych, The Killing] is just boring in his awkwardness. The only time the movie finds a new idea or path to take, it falls flat on its face. Honestly, a lot of the movie just makes zero sense. This kid Duncan clearly has never interacted with strangers on his own in his entire life, yet we find him dancing in front of a crowd of fifty plus people out-of-the-blue. Duncan’s mom is made to look like she is worried about him, yet she doesn’t ask realize that he works at a water park, nor does she get actually curious about where he is for hours at a time every day. There are too many holes to list.
Apart from the top-tier actors, the performances are dreadful. Rockwell does his best with the flat material he is given, but even he, Carrell [who isn’t particularly great in his anti-cast-type role], Collette, and Janney can’t save this sinking ship. It is clear that Faxon and Rash aren’t lead writers for a film, but they still can’t be denied of some talent, with each having an Academy Award on their shelves [Best Original Screenplay, The Descendants]. They also don’t seem to have the knack for direction, as the film doesn’t deliver any force or artistic taste. One of the biggest indie film disappointments I can remember.
0/4 – With a deep cast list that sparks a lot of interest, The Way Way Back is a cliche-ridden “comedy”/drama that doesn’t spark any laughter, emotion, or surprise.