Thursday 17 Apr

Holy Ghost People

Holy Ghost People examines two sisters whose bond is torn — but by what? After her sibling has been missing for more than a year, Charlotte (Emma Greenwell, TV's Shameless) intends to find out.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

No Holds Barred

RLJ Entertainment's new Blu-ray for No Holds Barred begins with what seems like dozens of trailers for movies starring pro wrestlers from the WWE talent pool. Each flick went direct to home video, but once upon a time — aka 1989 — one had to go to the multiplex to catch such a spectacle.
04/15/2014 | Comments 0

Knights of Badassdom

In 2008, the third act of the guy comedy Role Models used LARPing — live-action role-playing, that is — as a backdrop for our protagonists' lessons learned. Today, Knights of Badassdom extends that half-hour into a full feature, to the point where viewers are left not smiling, but exhausted. 
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Switched on

Not everything on television has to appeal to mass audiences. In fact, with the further fractioning of viewership thanks to alternatives like Netflix and VOD, more series can afford to become more niche. Here are five examples of shows both past and present — and new to DVD and/or Blu-ray — that encompass some of the more outrageous ideas ever to go beyond boardroom discussion.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0

Confession of Murder

Seventeen years after slaying 10 women and getting away with it, the charismatic serial killer Du-sok (Park Si-hoo) comes clean with a Confession of Murder, in this 2012 South Korean crime thriller. He does so by publishing a book that dishes all the grisly details.
04/02/2014 | Comments 0
Home · Articles · Movies · Drama · The Way, Way Back

The Way, Way Back

Although pleasant, this dramedy works too hard to offer so little.

Zach Hale July 17th, 2013

If there’s any type of movie unlikely to offend, it’s usually the coming-of-age story. Films with a relatable central character are more likely to instill a heavy rooting interest in its audience, as we empathize with the protagonist as the story unfolds.

Fox Searchlight — the studio that brought us Garden State, Juno and Little Miss Sunshine — has a knack for these pleasure centers, and The Way, Way Back is the latest installment in this line of cutesy, sentimental films. It opens Friday.

The story follows the 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James, TV’s The Killing), an awkward, introverted adolescent who begrudgingly accompanies his mother, her autocratic boyfriend and his daughter to a coastal summer vacation home.

As the family’s black sheep, Duncan has a difficult time fitting in, but he finds sanctuary in the local Water Wizz water park, whose manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell, Seven Psychopaths), takes Duncan under his wing.

It’s a linear storyline suited for a wide range of moviegoers, yet the film never really challenges its audience, opting for a dumbed-down struggle that doesn’t think much of your capacity to infer or come to your own conclusions.

This is made perfectly clear from the film’s outset. In its opening scene, we find an aloof Duncan in the backseat of a car with his headphones plugged in, as Trent — his mother’s boyfriend (Steve Carell, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone) — asks him to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10. Disinterested in the question, Duncan reluctantly gives himself a 6, and Trent — in an obvious ploy to assert his superiority — tells Duncan he thinks he’s more of a 3.

It’d be one thing if Trent were doing this in even a mildly altruistic fashion, but co-writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants) really want you to know that this guy has no redeeming qualities — to the point where it almost feels like they’re rubbing your face in it.

Other issues of believability exist throughout the film. Next-door neighbor Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb, Soul Surfer) takes up an inexplicable interest in the ham-handed Duncan, even after several excruciatingly awkward encounters.

Faxon and Rash seem to force this issue rather than letting it unfold naturally, or at least offering the slightest kernel of reason to the notion that a girl way, way out of Duncan’s league might find him to be anything other than an excruciating bore.

The film’s one saving grace is Rockwell in his brilliant portrayal of an unlikely father figure, offering the most depth, allure and comic relief in a cast of largely uninteresting characters. Had Faxon and Rash been as passionate in writing for the rest of the cast, The Way, Way Back might have offered a little more intrigue.

As an easy, lighthearted dramedy that’s unlikely to offend, you could say the film achieves what it set out to be. But if you’re looking for a poignant coming-of-age tale in which you can actually relate to its characters, you might be better off with one of Fox Searchlight’s earlier offerings. —Zach Hale

Hey! Read This:
The Descendants film review 
The Incredible Burt Wonderstone Blu-ray review    
The Killing: The Complete First Season Blu-ray review      
Seven Psychopaths Blu-ray review     

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