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The Way, Way Back - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
The Way, Way Back
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B+

Okay, let's be honest. We've had so many coming-of-age movies that even the good ones have less and less chance of being particularly memorable. Is anyone who sees The Way, Way Back now all that likely to remember it, say, a year from now? Maybe, if they've only seen ten movies in their life.

That said, it works for now. That's all most people really want when they happen to go to the movies, isn't it? This is the kind of movie that distributors hope might become a sleeper alternative hit in the midst of summer blockbusters. It's about a young teenager who is on his summer vacation, so it makes sense. This movie isn't going to break the box office. It doesn't deserve to, really. But it does deserve to be seen, if you want something other than big, dumb action movies.

Duncan (a nuanced Liam James) is 14 years old and spending his summer with his mom (Toni Collette) and her jackass boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) at his beach house. He would rather be with his absent dad in San Diego. They have a boisterous beach-house neighbor (Allison Janney, playing a bit against type), whose own somewhat alienated teenager daughter (AnnaSophia Robb) is slowly taking an interest in Duncan.

Duncan takes to leaving on long bike rides on a girl's bike he finds in the garage. He winds up at a water park, the unfortunately named Water Wizz, where he develops a bond with Owen (Sam Rockwell), an older employee there. Owen, while constantly flirting with coworker Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), offers Duncan a job, which Duncan keeps secret from his family.

Duncan is socially inept and terribly awkward, but predictably, his time at the water park systematically brings him out of his shell. Honestly, this entire movie is predictable, but that hardly matters. What you come to this kind of movie for, this movie delivers. Duncan endures terribly uncomfortable and embarrassing moments, which all add up to make him feel better about himself, and you leave the theatre feeling good for him.

There's not much about this movie to set it apart, aside from winning performances all around -- even by Steve Carell, who doesn't usually play a jerk -- and a typical propensity for making you feel wistful for a time with Duncan's kind of innocence. Sam Rockwell, an underrated actor if ever there was one, lifts every scene he's in with his ample charms. It could have used a little more depth, but neither does it come across as shallow. The Way, Way Back delivers on its somewhat limited promise. It's pleasant enough.

Liam James and Sam Rockwell go THE WAY, WAY BACK.

Overall: B
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