Fourteen year-old Duncan (Liam James) takes a summer trip to a beach property with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), his mother’s boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s daughter. Duncan is very attached to his mother and resents Trent. Trent, who is trying to adjust into the family dynamics, is mean to Duncan on a regular basis.
Exploring the town Duncan meets a man named Owen (Sam Rockwell) who works at a water park, who not only hires him for the duration of his stay in town, but also helps the teen build his self-esteem and confidence. After all it’s said and done Duncan has made friends, becomes a wayward teen and gets an admirer in the older Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb).
I liked this movie. The Way Way Back is a coming of age, funny and entertaining movie with lots of heart for the whole family. The humor is very light and fresh and in no way crude, as most comedies are nowadays. I didn’t like Steve Carell’s character; what seemed like ways to discipline a teenager were actually mean ways to get back at Duncan for being so attached to his mother. Trent turned out to be a jerk after all and managed to ruin the vacation for the whole family. I thought that was an odd choice of character for Carell since he is used to play nice guys on screen.
I thought the movie belonged to Liam James as Duncan and Sam Rockwell as Owen. They both had good working chemistry and made the movie all the better for it. Their relationship enhanced the plot and was a welcome side dish from the adult world Duncan was immersed in at the beach house.
In summary, The Way Way Back is a funny, light way to spend an afternoon at the movie theater.