Sundance '13 Review: THE WAY, WAY BACK Is a Terrific Coming of Age Comedy

The Way, Way Back

Writer/Directors: Jim Rash and Nat Faxon

Cast: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Liam James, AnnaSophia Robb, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon

Official Synopsis: The Way, Way Back tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan’s awkward, funny, and sometimes painful summer vacation with his mother, Pam, her overbearing boyfriend, Trent, and his daughter, Steph. Although Duncan has a tough time fitting in and finding his place, he does find an unlikely ally and mentor in Owen, a carefree employee at the local waterpark where Duncan gets a job. Over the course of the summer, as his mother drifts further away, Duncan—with encouragement from Owen—begins to open up and come into his own.


Steve Carell may get higher billing, but Sam Rockwell absolutely steals the entire movie with his hilarious performance as the fast-talking slacker manager of the water park. This kind of character has been played many times before, but Rockwell delivers Rash and Faxon's lines to absolute perfection and gives one of my favorite comedic performances in recent years. Carell is also fun to watch in this movie because he's doing something completely different, playing a sleazy asshat instead of his stereotypical nice guy role. Toni Collette, an actress I normally don't like, was very good as a mom trapped in a relationship with a douchebag boyfriend, and Allison Janney is marvelous as a drunken whirlwind of a mom, bringing a wild energy that could have been annoying but ends up being pretty damn funny. Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry show up in small supporting roles on the beach house side of the story, while Maya Rudolph, Nat Faxon, and Jim Rash all do solid work as the rest of the adults who work at the water park. The younger cast members also shine, including Liam James as the protagonist and AnnaSophia Robb as his love interest/neighbor.

Story and Direction

This could end up being one of the funniest movies of the year, and that's thanks in large part to Rash and Faxon's excellent script. We've seen a lot of films with the same themes as this one, but every element comes together very well and coalesces into a really special coming of age story. There are a lot of moving parts and a bunch of characters to attend to (the adults have their own drama going on that spills over into the protagonist's life), but the script allows them all to have some great moments. The Way, Way Back is a strong, confident, dramatic, and laugh-out-loud funny directorial debut for the Oscar-winning writing duo, and hopefully this film's ultimate success - which I'm confident it will attain - will encourage them to get back behind the camera and direct their own material more often.

Similar To

It's a much, much funnier version of Adventureland, but with twice the heart.

Chances You'll See It In Theaters

100%. This one has breakout hit written all over it.

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