Duncan is 14. He's shy, majorly insecure and not even close to understanding his place in the universe. Mom and dad are divorced, and mom has a new boyfriend. He's a controlling jerk. Duncan is his favorite target, and mom lets the guy verbally abuse the boy.
Desperate to escape the constant criticism, Duncan ends up at a water park. He is befriended by the park's loose-cannon manager and crew. Under their tutelage, and now with a real job, Duncan blossoms. However, Duncan doesn't tell mom or the BF about his new gig or his new friends.
Writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash won Oscars for helping write The Descendants in 2011. Both men appear as comic relief in this most excellent, and equally well-written film.
Newcomer Liam James does the klutzy Duncan. He's exceptionally pathetic and quite good in the role. Steve Carell is the creepy boyfriend and is brilliantly bad. Toni Collette is Duncan's peace-keeping mom. Sam Rockwell -- who owns every movie he's in -- does the water park manager. Maya Rudolph, a scene-stealing Allison Janey, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb round out the cast.
Coming-of-age movies are tricky. When done strictly for teens, they rarely work. Equally tricky is a coming-of-age movie aimed at adults and that reflect back on awkward teenage years.
That's The Way Way Back. And, like its summer cousin, The Kings of Summer, it is one that connects the adult in all of us to the kid we once were. Or at least who some of us were at one time.
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Stars: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janey, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, AnnaSophia Robb, Liam James
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for language and mature themes. It is playing at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.