The Way, Way Back

Movie nebbish cliche.  Liam James in "The Way, Way Back."

Movie nebbish cliche. Liam James in “The Way, Way Back.”

“The Way, Way Back” is an obvious, unfunny, snarky coming of age movie.  The story revolves around a nebbishy teen-ager.  How do we know he’s a nebbish?  The kid’s name is Duncan (Liam James), he has bad hair and he’s introverted.  Duncan, his mother, sister and mother’s boyfriend Trent, are spending the summer in a resort town.  Trent is played by the tiresome, over-exposed, “I’m in every movie,” groan inducing actor, Steve Carrel, who here, at least, plays a character with an edge.  Trent is such an obvious jerk that one has to wonder why, or how, the mother, Pam (Toni Collette) is even with this guy.

Duncan gets a job at a local, run down water park.  Wait a minute.  Isn’t this the same premise as the 2009 movie “Adventureland” in which that king of movie nebbishes, Jesse Eisenberg, gets a job at a run down amusement park, complete with wise-cracking fellow employees and a super attractive, completely out of his league girl?

In “The Way, Way Back” the big wise-acre is Owen, played by Sam Rockwell.  Owen is the lazy boss of the park who has a smart comment for just about everything and everyone.   Owen is so smug and obnoxious that I think the filmmakers would have been well advised to have digitally removed him from the film after his first two minutes.   Finally, way too late in the movie, one of the characters, Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), says to Owen, “I’m tired of you.  I’m sick of you,” summing up what I had been thinking from the moment Owen was introduced.  Some members of the audience with whom I saw “The Way, Way Back” found Owen to be a funny character.  It was sad to see people this starved for summer entertainment.

I am just astounded that “The Way, Way Back” (even the title is tiresome) was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, co-writers of “The Descendants,” a really good movie which won an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay in 2011.  Really? This the film on which they spent their Oscar street cred?

Aside from its uninteresting stock characters, “The Way, Way Back” has a climactic scene staged in such a way that we do not even get to see it.  I am serious.  I wont say what happens, out of consideration for those of you who will, despite my warnings, insist on seeing this movie.  However, the moment takes place inside of an enclosed water slide and, while we understand what happens, we do not get to see it.  Truth be told, what occurs inside the water slide is not even that big of a deal to begin with, certainly not enough to qualify as a movie’s climax.

For those of you who must, “The Way, Way Back” is playing locally at Regal Union Square Stadium 14, 850 Broadway and AMC Loews Kips Bay, 570 2nd Avenue.

The Way, Way Back, Directors Nat Faxon, Jim Rash, 2013,

103 minutes, rated PG-13


About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on July 20, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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