Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
There, they meet up with booze-loving neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) and her daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and son Peter (River Alexander). There is also Kip (Rob Corddry) and Joan (Amanda Peet), a couple in the area. Duncan will do all he can to stay away from every one of them—except Susanna, who movie conventions say he has to crush on.
Through his dodging, Duncan comes across Water Wizz, a theme park managed by Owen (Sam Rockwell), a lazy wisecracker with a crappy car and no chance of reaching the second level on Pac-Man. And that is when summer really gets rolling.
The Way Way Back is one of the many coming-of-age movies centered on a shy and awkward teen who views himself as a six out of ten. This allows for a certain amount of moping and, of course, moments of revelation where the teen will acknowledge what’s important, how to cope and why life doesn’t have to be all that much of a drag.
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (who won Oscars, along with Alexander Payne, for their The Descendants screenplay), The Way Way Back premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, where movies like this thrive and get picked up for distribution. For their first original script, Faxon and Rash have turned to a well-worn formula despite their supposed dislike for patterns (symbolically illustrated via Pac-Man), making the whole story feel far too familiar—and certainly not for the nostalgic reasons they’re shooting for.
Another issue is that nearly every stereotype—the asshole near-stepdad, the sympathetic mom, the cool older dude, the cutie next door, the loudmouth lush, the cheating spouse—is covered, and too few of the characters even feel like mildly fresh takes. Indie favorites like Collette and Janney try to add dimension, but come up short. The major saving grace is Sam Rockwell, who could make a recitation of a takeout menu sharp and hilarious—we might even have a harder time predicting the ending to that one.
Theatrical Behind the Scenes is divided into three sections: Tour of the Water Park (3:22), The Filmmakers: Jim and Nat (3:16) and Ensemble Featurette (4:34).
Deleted Scenes (3:02): There are three here, which can be viewed separately or as a whole. They are: “Catching Bob,” “The Morning After” and “Do You Wanna Get Wizzed?”