The Way Way Back [2013] ★★★

way_way_back_ver3How do you take a familiar premise and turn it into one of the most enjoyable indie movies of the year? For answers, see the engaging new comedy “The Way Way Back” which introduces Liam James and Sam Rockwell (“Matchstick Men”, “Moon”) as you’ve never seen him before. Nat Faxon and Jim Rashare are mainly sitcom actors, but they’ve managed to write and direct their first feature film and they can be proud of what they’ve achieved. James plays Duncan, a 14 year old boy whose divorced mom (Toni Collette) has dragged him to the summer home of her annoying boyfriend (Steve Carell). Duncan can’t fit in, so he finds refuge at a nearby water park where he unexpectedly bonds with Owen (Rockwell), the free spirited manager. The two lead performances are soulful and lift this film above the norm for coming-of-age stories, which is why it won me over completely. The movie is also packed with delightful performances, notably Anna Sophia Robb as the older girl Duncan crushes on. “The Way Way Back” doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but it’s so well acted and told, that I found it hard to resist. It also adds to my ever-growing admiration for the underrated Sam Rockwell and provides a pleasant sense of discovery in seeing newcomer Liam James acquit himself so well in a part that any actor might find challenging. If you like low-key, offbeat comedies, consider “The Way Way Back” a must-see.

Rating: 3/4

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