A sweet, funny, emotional coming of age story, The Way, Way Back may not have the most appealing or descriptive title, but the film is awash with offbeat humor and a prescient look at present day adolescence that makes the generation gap sometimes seem as wide as the Grand Canyon. Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have both written and directed this time out and turned in a movie that pushes all the right buttons. It’s a winner.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DTS
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 43 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case in a slipcover
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 10/22/2013
Fourteen-year old Duncan (Liam James) isn’t looking forward to spending the summer with his divorced mom Pam (Toni Collette), her insinuatingly insufferable boy friend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s snooty teenage daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) at their Massachusetts beach house. Pam is preoccupied with strengthening her relationship with Trent ignoring Duncan’s loneliness and fish-out-of-water status, and even with the cute girl-next-door Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), it promises to be an endless, dispiriting summer. That is, until he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), the man-child who manages the local water park, who is the first adult who doesn’t talk down to him, who offers him friendship and even a paying gig doing odd jobs around the park. Duncan’s introduction to the world of the water park places him in a world of older people who treat him as an equal: park supervisor Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), horndog waterslide supervisor Roddy (Nat Faxon), and deadpan equipment supervisor Lewis (Jim Rash). Their friendship and his growing feelings for Susanna allow Duncan a refuge from the increasingly hostile environment at home where he discovers Trent cheating on his mother with Trent’s old friend Joan (Amanda Peet).
The Production Rating: 4/5
Though the movie gets off to a slow start with the incommunicative Duncan almost like an alien not only to his family but to the viewer, too (adolescent awkwardness is one thing but what kid wears jeans at the beach?), we’re soon warming up to Duncan as he emerges from his humorless shell of shyness and begins to get with the program of having fun in the here and now. The various experiences at the water park (the stuck sliders, the pop ‘n' lock episode, the employee parties) are captured by directors Faxon and Rash with crystal clarity, and they contrast violently with all of the family outings which are cruelly non-inclusive of the kids (apart from an excruciating game of Candy Land). Rarely have the highs and lows of adolescence been brought forth with such pinpoint accuracy, and one alternately suffers with and later celebrates with Duncan as he comes into his own. Since the movie is being shown from his point of view, we’re only privy to sometimes unsatisfying glimpses into the adult world. Thus, the star wattage from Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney as a divorced neighbor drowning her domestic failure with a bottle, and Amanda Peet doesn’t get fully utilized. The film is not their story, but there is certainly enough there for an alternative film with Collette as the star.
Liam James carries the heavy load of the film’s leading role as the discomfited Duncan. His resuscitation to life is the film’s primary joy and reason for existence. Sam Rockwell as his guide to the wonders and flavors of living is also a most engaging performance, some of his best-ever work. Maya Rudolph as the girl friend who must keep him in line is appealing in a much smaller role. AnnaSophia Robb has a small, sweet part as the pretty, quiet neighbor girl whose attraction to Duncan is perhaps telegraphed a bit too much. Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have given themselves funny parts as park workers, the former one of the guys and the latter a lovable eccentric. As for the other primary adults, Toni Collette’s part is underwritten, but she certainly does well with what she’s been given. Steve Carell is memorably douchy as the often thoughtless and generally squirrelly boy friend, and Allison Janney has a field day with a role she has played many times: the loudmouthed friend who knows more and says more about everyone else’s business than she should.
The film is presented in its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness remains pleasing throughout while the overall brightness and strong, consistent color combines for an appealing image with lifelike summertime skin tones. Shot on a low budget, the film really does look quite beautiful. The film has been divided into 32 chapters.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix pays much more attention to the front channels than it does the rears. Some music spills into the rear channels on occasion, but little has been done to fully engage the viewer in a surround sound experience even with a heavily populated water park as a frequent background to lend lots of ambient sound to the mix. (The low budget may have had something to do with that.) Dialogue has been well recorded and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 4/5
The Making of The Way, Way Back (31:19, HD): the most informative of the disc’s supplements, the writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash along with the primary members of the cast participate in discussions about the genesis of the script, the casting process, the location chosen for filming, memories of the shoot, the actors discussing their characters, and the premiere at Sundance.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Deleted Scenes (3:02, HD): three scenes may be watched individually or in montage.
Behind the Scenes Featurettes (HD): each of these brief EPK interviews contains mostly footage used in the above “making of” featurette.
- Tour of the Water Park (3:22) exactly what the title suggests
- Filmmakers Jim and Nat (3:16): the writer-directors discuss their longtime professional partnership formed during their years with The Groundlings.
- Ensemble (4:34): the actors talk about their characters and how they fit into the movie.
Theatrical Trailer (2:26, HD)
Promo Trailers (HD): The East, Baggage Claim, The Heat, among others
Ultraviolet: instruction code sheet enclosed
The Way, Way Back is an engaging coming of age story with dry humor and lots of heart. While not possibly the most original of stories ( the recent Adventureland is certainly similar), the wonderful cast and smart script makes this an easy film to recommend.
Overall Rating: 4/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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