*This review was originally posted as part of a series of capsule reviews during the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. I'm reposting to coincide with the film's upcoming theatrical release.
The Way Way Back
picking up a pair of Oscars for their work writing The Descendants,
actor-writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (Community's Dean Pelton and Ben
& Kate's Ben Fox) took their long-in-limbo script for The Way, Way Back and decided to make the darned thing themselves.
got plenty of help, namely their all-star cast of Steve Carell, Sam
Rockwell, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney and
TWWB tells the story of Duncan (Liam James) a
teenager smack-dab in the middle of his "awkward phase" who is dragged
against his will on a summer vacation with his mom (Collette) and her
new boyfriend (Carell). Once there, he struggles to find his place
between the boozy adults and their Ken and Barbie children, ultimately
finding his way to a nearby waterpark where he's taken under the wing of
the endearingly-arrested man-child manager (Rockwell). It is there,
with his new family of waterpark misfits, that Duncan feels comfortable
enough to poke his head out of the teenage cocoon and find a voice.
movie starts out slow, and Carell's arc doesn't seem fully realized,
but the introduction of Rockwell and Water Wizz inject this
coming-of-age tale with a shot of adrenaline as the plot comes alive
with wit, nostalgia and the kind of heartfelt inspiration showcased in
similar indies like Little Miss Sunshine and It's Kind of a Funny Story.
James as Duncan is exceptional, almost off-putting in his early
on-screen awkwardness before transforming organically in front of your
eyes. Faxon and Rash also pop up in a pair of understated bit parts,
contributing to some of the most memorable moments and, for those of us
paying attention behind the scenes, making the success of the story all
the more personal.
*The Way Way Back opens in Utah theaters on Friday, July 19.