Movie Review: The Way Way Back (2013)

The way way back

Duncan: “How long have you been working there?”

Owen: “Oh, the park? Um, I’ve always been there. Ever since I was a small Cambodian child. Of course, that was after ‘Nam. I was in the shit. Then I joined the circus to become a clown fighter. I know about 46 ways to kill a clown. I hate clowns. I’m kidding except for the part where I really do hate them.”


On a trip to Cape Cod, 14-year Duncan (Liam James) has a conversation with his mother’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). Trent asks Duncan to rate himself out of ten, and after some thought Duncan mentions he thinks he is a six. Trent says that he thinks Duncan is a 3/10, and that just starts the journey of a vacation of emotional bullying. The teen must watch his mother acting like a school girl and Trent’s daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) flouncing around. He is obviously unwanted and when he finds a pink, girly bike he takes it and starts cycling around.

Duncan soon discovers the Water Whizz, a water park away from their beach house. He is employed by Owen (Sam Rockwell), the park’s slightly strange yet hilarious owner who is held in line by an employee Caitlyn (Maya Rudolph). Everyone at the park speaks reverently about a legendary act: passing someone in the tube slide.


Duncan has a lot of fun at the park and he gets some much needed confidence from it. He even manages to have a conversation with Susanna (Anna-Sophia Robb), their neighbour Jenny’s daughter. Susanna isn’t in the best place either in her life, with her parents divorced and her mom, who isn’t necessarily a bad mother, drunk most of the time while on vacation. Susanna is a bit older than Duncan but seems willing to spend time with him instead of with her very shallow friends, of whom Steph is one of. They progress from very stunted conversations to sharing their similar troubles and quickly become friends.

Duncan sees Trent kissing another woman and is furious that his mother is falling into the same trap which she was in with his father. He yells at her at a party about it and storms away after people are forced to physically restrain Trent from hitting Duncan. Duncan spends the night with his friends at the Water Whizz. He returns the next day to find that they are all packed up and leaving, and that his mother will likely stay with Trent. Duncan climbs out of the car at the petrol station and runs to the park, and gets Owen to do the slide with him. They emerge victorious, much to the pleasure of the crowd. Owen stands up for Duncan when Trent tries to pull him and quickly let’s him know what Owen thinks of him. Duncan leaves the hero, and in the car gets another reward: his mom climbs through the car to sit with him the back, causing hope that she will leave Trent or at the very least start standing up for her child.

Rating: 7/10

I had a lot of fun with The Way Way Back. I don’t often watch coming of age stuff because I often find the acting and the script sorely lacking. This wasn’t like that at all. Although the storyline was an often used one, I found it refreshing and sweet. The movie explores good topics – how people should undergo tests to see if they will become proper parents and the things children go through to grow spines. I absolutely detested Trent and what he represented and I didn’t have much time for Duncan’s mother at all. She was way too immersed in her life to notice what went on in her child’s.

Liam James was well cast as Duncan. I constantly thought: “wow, look at this poor awkward kid”. He had nowhere where he fit in. He had a douchebag for a potential stepfather, his own father was busy having a rendezvous with his younger mistress and his mother was so wrapped up in her own new lover she couldn’t see how horrible he was to her child. It was so liberating when he found the Water Whizz Park and how he discovered key elements of himself there. He was sufficiently entertaining enough that every time he stood up to Trent I wanted to give the kid a high five and applaud.

Steve Carell surprised me. Except Stupid, Crazy Love, he is always in ridiculous roles that irritate me very much. He was SUCH a douche bag! I was shocked how well he became Trent Ramsey, a moron that told a 14-year-old that he is a 3/10. I was shocked by his reprehensible character and how he was so underhanded to make Duncan look like a bad kid.

Alison Janney as Jenny was rather hilarious. She was constantly drunk and so not comfortable being a mother to that poor boy with the eye. I was pretty steamed at her sometimes but at the end realized her character wasn’t such a bad person, but the fact that she is an awkward mother just clashed t-old that she was so stressed that her ex-husband would take away her children.

Sam Rockwell as Owen was one of the key elements that made the Way Way back a good movie. He was hilarious. He has some serious talent if you compare his diverse roles here and in the Green Mile, where he played psychopath Wild Bill Wharton. I really had some laughs in all his scenes and he stole it on every occasion. I just loved how he was portrayed as easy going and fun but when he met Trent he was obviously the better man and knew what was right and wrong.

Anna-Sophia Robb was entertaining as Susanna. I’ve only ever seen her in the Carrie Diaries so seeing her in something else was fun. She is a decent enough actress and I think she will become a fine actress in a few years’ time.

The WWB is recommended for those who need some cheering up 🙂

Have you seen the Way Way Back? Tell me what you thought 😀