If you like TV shows like Parenthood or about families facing some form of change or dysfunction, I think you'll enjoy The Way Way Back.

The summary says "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."

Even though the summary talks about the shy Duncan (Liam James), the story of the characters around Duncan truly help move his story forward, through the swirling details of what takes place with his family and friends.

All in all, it's a well conceived idea that's executed in a fashion that pulls you in along the journey.


Steve Carell plays Trent, the overbearing dick of a boyfriend to Duncan's mother, Pam, played by Toni ColletteAllison Janney plays Betty, the next door neighbor whose affinity for drinking is a bit scary, and her daughter, Susanna, is played by AnnaSophia Robb.

Other critical cast includes Sam Rockwell, who plays Owen, and Amanda Peet, who plays Joan.


To be honest, when we meet Duncan, I am not sure shy would be the first word that comes to mind when describing him.  I was thinking more along the lines of socially handicapped, but as the story goes on, you'll see that shy just might be the right term.  Liam James does well in the role.

Toni Collette plays a single mother who seems to have fallen for Trent (Carell) and they're on a summer road trip to a beach town for what's later referred to as "spring break for adults."  Collette does a great job as the single mom in an interesting situation.

Steve Carell is the real surprise here, playing the overbearing boyfriend/single dad.  I've seen Carell in funny and light roles, but never in a serious role that demands zero humor from him. And to be honest, he pulled me in and had me disliking, or believing him.

Then there's Sam Rockwell, playing the older man who ends up befriending Duncan.  On paper, this doesn't sound right or make any predictive sense, but once you watch how they interact and how Owen tends to draw Duncan out, you'll see how it works.

The last time I watched Rockwell, it was in Iron Man 2, and to be honest, his portrayal of Owen seemed to be that character, in a bit of a different setting.  Still, it worked out OK for me.

One thing that I didn't find in the story was what truly sparks Owen's first contact with Duncan, but you forget about that flaw as the story moves on.

And move it does, from Duncan slowly being pulled or drawn out of his shell, to everyone else's story and developing situations.  The tagline mentions Duncan's friendship with Owen, but every one around Duncan is a part of his summer journey.

All in all, it was a nice story that has some great moments of humor that come out of nowhere, most, thanks to Rockwell and his croonies.

If you like family stories that work through dysfunction, you should enjoy the flick.

On my review scale, I give The Way Way Back a dramatic 7, easy.

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