Monday, July 15, 2013

A Reel Review: THE WAY, WAY BACK

In 2006, Steve Carell and Toni Colette teamed up and took front-and-center in the Oscar darling LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. Here in 2013, the two reunite for a more-or-less supporting role in the charming and funny coming-of-age tale, THE WAY, WAY BACK.
14-year old Duncan (Liam James) goes on summer vacation with his divorced mom (Toni Colette), her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his daughter (Zoe Levin). Duncan, a socially awkward introvert, has a rough time fitting in before finding an unexpected friend in the manager of a water park (Sam Rockwell).

The landscape of THE WAY, WAY BACK is familiar, but in a good way. Almost like sliding on a comfortable pair of shoes, the film is a joy to settle into and enjoy simply because the characters are written perfectly. Each character is developed quickly, and it takes all but five seconds to figure out who to root for, who to love, and who to hate. First-time directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash take the approach of taking the characters, throwing them into a box, shaking them all about and see what comes out. The approach works, and the story moves along briskly and joyfully.
At center of it all is Duncan, and again, it doesn’t take long to empathize with his situation. He’s a kid who doesn’t know his place in the world but knows he doesn’t like where he’s currently at. THE WAY, WAY BACK is all about the transition from boy to man, but during his transition, the adults find their way, too. In a clever way, the adults learn from the kids.

The cast really seems to believe in the material and it shows. Newcomer Liam James nails the sulking teenager perfectly, and his chemistry with Toni Colette, who is always in great form, is very touching. The big surprise of the film is Steve Carell. His character is an asshole and the true villain of the movie. Carell shows great range in the performance and it is a great peek into his abilities outside of screwball comedy. As good as Carell is, the show is stolen by an off-the-chain performance by Sam Rockwell, who goes from a wacko to a caring older-brother in the blink of an eye. The rest of the cast, which includes Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry, Zoe Levin, and Annasophia Robb are all perfect.
The finale brings about an emotional and gratifying closure to just about every character, and you feel privileged to have been along for their ride. As conventional as many of themes are in THE WAY, WAY BACK, the overall experience feels very new, fun, and incredibly human. Small in scale but close to the heart, this is one of the best charmers you can ask for.


No comments:

Post a Comment

A few rules:
1. Personal attacks not tolerated.
2. Haters welcome, if you can justify it.
3. Swearing is goddamn OK.