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07/05/2013 11:58 AM |

The Way Way Back Steve Carrel

The Way Way Back: In the scheme of movies that play great at Sundance, The Way Way Back isn’t too bad: it’s a heartfelt little coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy having a simultaneously lousy and great summer, dealing with his mom’s jerk boyfriend (lousy) while working at a water park in secret (great). It’s “from the studio” that made Little Miss Sunshine, which is another way of saying it was made by people who have nothing to do with Little Miss Sunshine, then acquired by people who counted the money that Little Miss Sunshine made (strangely, that studio and the writer-directors, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, previously collaborated on Alexander Payne’s The Descendants, a movie that made about as much money as Sunshine but goes unmentioned in most marketing materials for this one). All that said, it’s vaguely compatible with that indie breakout, in that it recasts Toni Collette and Steve Carell (brother and sister in that movie) as the mother and the boyfriend. Both are good, as is just about every other member of this movie’s large cast, but the parade of good performers undermines the movie’s supposed aims: it’s an intimate character study cast like an ensemble comedy. It’s also more warmly amusing than particularly funny, and it’s hard not to recommend just finding a copy of Adventureland instead. But how things have changed: Little Miss Sunshine‘s slightly sitcommy sensibility was insult fodder back in 2006. Now, saying that The Way Way Back has sitcom overtones brings to mind pretty decent shows (some of which Rash and Faxon have appeared on).