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It’s hard to imagine a more likeable film on paper than The Way, Way Back. Written by Jim Rash – aka The Dean from Community – and Nat Faxon, who currently voices Elfo in Disenchantment, the film features a veritable whose who of some of the most consistently watchable actors currently working – from recent Oscar winners Sam Rockwell and Alison Janney to the always dependable Steve Carrell, Toni Collette and Maya Rudolph. I’d watch that group of actors in a shot-for-shot remake of The Phantom Menace.
Fortunately, there’s no ‘however’ here, because The Way, Way Back is just as delightful as it promises to be. A sweet coming of age summer movie about a teenage boy holidaying against his will with his well-meaning but distracted mother (Collette) and her obnoxious new boyfriend (Carrell), the film manages to be heartwarming and beautifully observed while also delivering consistent laugh out loud moments.
Many of these laughs come, predictably enough, from Rockwell, who has one of his best ever roles as a caring but dangerously irresponsible water park manager. A forty year old manchild who hangs around almost exclusively with underage boys could easily have wandered into uncomfortable territory, but in Rockwell’s hands the character emerges as a much-needed force for good in the life of our teenage protagonist.
There’s also standout work from Alison Janney, treading a fine line between endearing and insufferable as a perennially tipsy and hilariously indiscreet single mother who mortifies her friends and children in equal measure. Carrell, by contrast, impressively suppresses his innate likability in his portrayal of Trent Ramsey, a detestable bully who undermines and humiliates his future Son in Law at every opportunity.
Yet special praise should also go to Liam James, the young star of the movie who not only holds his own against his decorated adult co-stars, but delivers a heartbreakingly relatable portrayal of the insecure teen experiencing peak awkwardness. With relatively few lines of dialogue, it’s a character that could easily read as sullen or dull, but James absolutely sells the characters loneliness and vulnerability.
The Way, Way Back was recommended to us by this week’s special guest Charlie Dudley, host of the popular shows Why Did I Do That? and A Podcast for Everyone. Charlie joins us on this episode to discuss important matters including the origin of Alison Janney’s disgusting Capri pants, Sam Rockwell’s questionable water park safety methods and much more.
As ever, we also conclude by pitching our own fantasy follow-ups to The Way, Way Back, which this week feature a pair of bittersweet sequels, and a prequel that fleshes out some of the key side characters while delving into the kinky world of adult partner-swapping. Look, just listen – it’ll all make sense in context.
You can check out this week’s episode right now on all good podcatchers by simply following the links at the top of this blog post, or by searching for Beyond The Box Set wherever you listen to your podcasts. Reviews and recommendations really help us to find new listeners, and for extra special fans, we have a dedicated Patreon page packed with exclusive bonus content – all yours from as little as $2 per month. You can also reach out to us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram and we sell merchandise on sale now at Teepublic.com.
Stay tuned to the end of this week’s episode as well for a very important announcement about our forthcoming 100th episode spectacular! You won’t want to miss it. Until next week, and a very different beach-themed cult favourite – happy listening!