The Way, Way Back

7.41 h 43 min2013X-RayPG-13
HD. An introverted teen's dreaded summer vacation is transformed when he lands a job with the screwball crew of a local water park.
Nat FaxonJim Rash
Steve CarellToni ColletteAllison Janney
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
AnnaSophia RobbSam RockwellMaya RudolphRob CorddryAmanda PeetLiam James
20th Century Fox
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
Content advisory
Substance usealcohol usesexual contentviolence
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4.7 out of 5 stars

5436 global ratings

  1. 80% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 11% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 1% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Garrison Haines-TemonsReviewed in the United States on September 12, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
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Socially awkward teenager Duncan is on a family vacation for the summer and couldn’t be more miserable. His mother’s boyfriend Trent is the worst of his tormentors. In the car ride on the way to the summer home, on a scale of one to ten, Trent gives Duncan a three and tells him to “get that number up by putting [himself] out there”. As Trent and his daughter continually berate Duncan, Duncan’s mother is powerless to do anything to stop them. The only place the awkward teenager can find any happiness is at a local water park run by a sarcastically humorous slacker named Owen. Trent destroys Duncan’s self-esteem and Owen rebuilds it.

What makes me give this movie an A+ above all else is the believability of each character. When I say Duncan is a socially awkward teenager, I’m not lying. He keeps to himself most of the time, he’s constantly frowning, he speaks with a blunt affect, and he can’t make conversation with cute girls without making them uncomfortable. Duncan sounds like a teenaged version of me in real life, so you’re damn right I’m rooting for him to find the love and friendship he needs.

Trent is the exact opposite of what a heroic character should be. He criticizes Duncan for every little thing, he cheats on Duncan’s mother while criticizing her as well, and pretty much has no redeemable qualities. TV Tropes dot org would refer to him as a Complete Monster, which is an annoying sociopath with no likeable traits. I used to have a step-father named Art and he was a living, breathing caricature of Trent. Naturally, I keep cheering for Trent to get flattened by a steamroller.

Owen, the water park owner who builds Duncan’s self-worth, is everything you could ever want in a role model (apart from the slacking off). He’s funny without being mean, he’s sarcastic, he’s charismatic, and whenever he’s not being goofy, his serious side is believable and warm. One of my favorite lines from Owen’s dialogue is when he sees Duncan sitting slouched over on a beach chair and jokingly says, “Excuse me, sir, I’m afraid I’m going to have to ask you to leave. You’re having way too much fun and it’s making everyone uncomfortable.” Duncan actually tries to get up and leave before Owen says, “That wasn’t even my best material!”

The entire character roster of The Way Way Back is special in some way. Peter is a nerdy kid who has to wear an eye-patch because his eye stares too far to the right. Susanna is a cutie pie who tries to bring Duncan out of his shell with borderline romantic love. Even Pam (Duncan’s mother) has moments when we can root for her despite her passiveness toward Trent’s abusive ways.

The Way Way Back is a movie a lot of people can relate to. Okay, so not everybody gets to work at a water park with a charismatic charmer. There are times, however, when we feel out of place. We all have someone we consider to be our greatest critic and we all have someone who will pick us up if we seek out that person’s help. The movie reminds us that love is out there and its ours for the taking. It may be far away, it may be much closer. Either way, it’s there if you look for it. It doesn’t have to be a kissy-kissy kind of love. It could just be a casual friendship. Somebody out there likes you and somebody out there cares. That’s not just a myth perpetuated by cheesy romance movies. That’s god’s honest truth. A life without love of some kind is the true definition of loneliness. If you ever feel this way, don’t let any jerk call you a “three out of ten”. Rankings can never determine the true worth within us all.
58 people found this helpful
Ezekiel DeanReviewed in the United States on December 20, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great Indie Film with Real Characters and Real Problems
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This is one of my favorite movies of all time, and almost definitely my favorite drama. Every character is so realistic, and you see certain characters as people you know yourself. The Way Way Back captures a part of a 14-year-old boy's life that changes him for the better. Some characters change while others stay in their little ruts. I think the title is perfect; this is a story about people and how sometimes to move forward, you have to go back. You have to find yourself.

Duncan is a teenager that is mature for his age, but he has problems connecting with people and finding something to capture his attention. His mother is trying to forget about her problems and live it up with her new boyfriend, Trent, who is pretty much just a jerk. Owen is an immature adult, but as he starts to help Duncan loosen up he realizes he has some maturing to do himself. The point is, everyone has problems. I only named a few of the main characters, but nearly every person onscreen is fleshed out really well.

I'm a fan of independent films, but this one really tops the list. The Way Way Back grabs your attention from the first second and keeps you watching. Duncan is the awkward teenager that actually exists in real life, and the way he starts to come out of his shell is real. Speaking from personal experience, most movies and television shows with the "awkward/shy teen" don't really understand what it means to be shy. They assume the person just doesn't like people...but like Duncan, he just doesn't know HOW. He wants to but feels the weight of the world on his shoulders. He wants to be somewhere else, with different people. But like Owen says, "Carve your own path." And Duncan starts to see the upside in life, rather than just the downside. There are bad people, yes. But there are also good people. You choose who to be with.

I wholeheartedly recommend this to anyone and everyone. It might just be my favorite movie of all time.
21 people found this helpful
alex paulReviewed in the United States on March 4, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
A delightful coming of age film.
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This is a simple story of a 14 year old boy surviving his parent's divorce and his mother's new boyfriend. The Way Way Back refers to the backward facing third row seat in the old station wagons and the fact that the new dad has confined our hero to the way way back car seat, even though there are regular seats in the car. This instant tension of the drive to the beach where two divorcees will attempt to unite their families foreshadows the conflict, humor, growth and courage to come in the story. I am surprised by how much I truly loved this story and encourage others to watch it. Be patient, give it time, you will like it if you pay attention to it as much of the conflict is revealed in the dialogue.
6 people found this helpful
Isabella E.Reviewed in the United States on August 3, 2021
3.0 out of 5 stars
One red flag after another.
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It felt like I was watching pedophile propaganda.
This whole movie was like watching a grown man groom a kid for abuse, down to him losing his trunks in the pool & coming to a party at his house. Nothing ever manifests from it, but that just makes it feel like they’re grooming whoever is watching, as if to make they would want you to second guess yourself, in real life if you were seeing one red flag after another.
It’s sad, we live in a world where I couldn’t just see this as a sweet 52 yr old loser who works at a water park, who befriends a 16 yr old, desperate for a male role model. But it was way way too creepy.
2 people found this helpful
Terry HawesReviewed in the United States on January 2, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Underrated Movie.
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In the Way, Way Back, 14 year-old Duncan travels with his Mother, the mother's boyfriend, Trent, and his daughter to a cottage for the summer. Duncan is not too impressed with Trent and the latter believes Duncan rates only a 3 out of 10.

Things soon pick up for Duncan when he meets a girl that is living next door to him and he encounters a gentleman, Owen, at a local water park. At this point, Duncan would rather be at the water park then at home as he only feels happy when he is at the park with Owen and the other crew.

Duncan later discovers that Trent is having an affair and wants his Mother to end it with him, but she refuses, and Duncan later discovers that his father didn't want custody of him. After a late night at the water park, Duncan arrives back to find out that his Mother and Trent are leaving the cottage early, but Duncan is reluctant to leave.

In the end, Duncan makes one final stop at the water park to say goodbye to Owen and he eventually leaves with his Mom and Trent, but the ending is rather interesting.

I was impressed with the acting of Liam James (Duncan) and Sam Rockwell (Owen) in the film; many critics thought Rockwell should have been nominated for an academy award and I can see why after a spirited performance.
15 people found this helpful
kookenhakenReviewed in the United States on August 2, 2015
5.0 out of 5 stars
A lovely little movie
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I've seen this movie at least half a dozen times and it's one of my favorites. It's a thoughtful and ultimately joyous little movie, as the main character (a sullen, unhappy teenager whose mother's jerky new boyfriend and his daughter clearly disdain him) discovers (and then must leave prematurely) a place where people like him and accept him for who he is. If you enjoy movies that actually make you think--about human behavior and why the characters do what they do--this movie is very satisfying. It is funny without aiming for non-stop hilarity, and touching without being melodramatic. They weren't trying to make a blockbuster here, just a movie that feels like a little slice of real life.

As an aside, we recently visited Water Wizz, the water park where much of this movie was filmed, and came away pleased by how the movie captured, authentically and affectionately, the spirit of the place. They really didn't change anything for the movie. Yes, it's small, slightly shabby, and a bit corny, and for people used to huge, shiny and slick theme parks it may be a disappointment. But it's family-owned and it feels like a labor of love--when you reflect on what a gruesome winter we had here in New England, the fact that anyone could be optimistic enough to build a water park in a place where you can only operate it for three months out of the year feels downright miraculous. It may not be the best thing for the environment, but they seem to understand how much we need a little summer fun to help get us through the long cold winter ahead.
11 people found this helpful
Joogle83Reviewed in the United States on January 5, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
Truly heartfelt and Hilarious Dramedy
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Watched The Way Way Back Featuring Featuring Liam James (2012) as Duncan , Steve Carrell (Get Smart) as Trent Ramsey , Toni Colette (Little Miss Sunshine) as Pam, Allison Janney( Juno) as Betty Thompson ,The Stunning AnnaSophia Robb(Soul Surfer) as Susanna Thompson , Amanda Peet(Syriana) as Joan , Maya Rudolph(Grown Ups )as Caitlyn and Sam Rockwell (Moon) as Owen. There are some movies which sound so simple that it's hard to convey to people just how good they are. The Way, Way Back is one of those movies. It's simply a coming-of-age story about a 14-year-old boy over the course of his summer break. There are no big action scenes or special effects here, just really good writing with actors who can bring such a realistic story to life.

The movie begins with the boy, Duncan, riding in a car with his family to his mother's boyfriend's beach house. As the mother sleeps in the passenger seat, the boyfriend asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10. After replying with a 6, the boyfriend insists that he's just a 3. What's surprising is that this seemingly heartless guy that the mother is dating is played by Steve Carell. Carell is known for playing lovable and funny characters. But he switches it up with this role. That scene sets the tone for how little Duncan is looking forward to this summer trip. And it doesn't help that his mother doesn't really set her boyfriend straight even when she is awake.

To escape the annoyances at his new temporary home, Duncan takes a bike to ride around town with. When he finds a way into the local water park, he meets one of the middle-aged operators there named Owen. Duncan seems fascinated by Owen and how he uses humor in almost everything he says. It seems like he's never met anyone like him who's so worry-free and exudes such confidence all the time. Owen manages to get Duncan a job at the park where he tries to instill some of that same confidence in him as well. It becomes clear that as they bond with each other, Duncan wishes this would be the kind of guy his mother would date instead. The job at the water park also opens up a whole new fun side that this 14-year-old kid didn't even know he had in him. Amazing score by Rob Simonsen(500 Days Of Summer), Costume Design By Michelle Matland(Closer) & Ann Roth(Signs ) and Amazing Direction/Writing by Nat Faxon(The Descendents) & Jim Rash(Adopted) Truly heartfelt and Hilarious Dramedy 8/10
4 people found this helpful
SuzeReviewed in the United States on September 19, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
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This was a wonderful, unexpected treat. I'm a huge fan of both Toni Collette and Sam Rockwell and they were at the top of their game in this one, along with the charming, endearing lead. I reveled in the super-saturated cinematography. With so many films shot in anemic, institutional washes of grey, this one popped like a sno-cone in July. Just beautiful. Subtle, but masterful arcs for mother and son left my husband and I glancing at each other, eyes brimming with huge smiles, in the final seconds.

And three cheers for Duncan's Theme, as much a character as the rest of the stunning cast and setting. Encore.
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