The Way Way Back


Fox Searchlight


Rating: PG-13


Reason for the Rating: Thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material.


Plot Summary: Fourteen-year-old Duncan must spend summer vacation with his mom and her horrible boyfriend, but finds friendship in an unlikely place.


PopFam Recommends: This is a summer sleeper you need to wake up and see with your family— great for ages 12 and up.


Chances are you didn't see this way, way cool movie when it came out this past summer. Grossing just over $21 million in total box office sales (compared to Smurfs 2 which grossed $17. 5 in it's opening weekend alone), The Way Way Back was the best kept summer secret. Surprising, since the line of A-lister's starring in the movie is long.


If you grew up in the '70's or early 80's, your family may have owned a station wagon (the 70's version of a minivan). If you were really lucky, your station wagon included a 3rd seat in the back. "The way back," as it was called. Duncan (Liam James) doesn't live in the 70's or 80's, but his mother's boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), owns a "cherry" of a wagon, and Duncan's place is the way back. Which seems to indicate where shy Duncan fits in society. On the outside. Unfortunately, Trent is a bit of a bully, and seems to take some sort of pleasure in shaming Duncan relentlessly. And while she loves Duncan, his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), wants her relationship with Trent to work, and is willing to overlook Trent's behavior.


Left on his own, Duncan takes to exploring the beach town where they are staying. It doesn't take him long to discover the Water Wizz waterpark, where he is befriended by Owen (Sam Rockwell), the sarcastic and always joking manager of Water Wizz. Seeing a lonely kid, Owen offers Duncan a job at the park, an opportunity Duncan can't resist. Unbeknownst to his mom, Duncan spends every day at Water Wizz working and making new friends. She often asks, "Where were you all day?" To which he replies, "Nowhere." Surprisingly, she never pursues it any further, and allows him to leave in the morning and come home at night, never knowing where he is.


I think Duncan is like a lot of us, which is why the story rings true. We all have a soft spot that keeps us unsure. At the beginning of the movie, Trent asks Duncan, "On a scale of 1-10, what are you? How do you think other people see you?" Whether we want to admit it or not, we all take this same inventory and ask ourselves similar kinds of questions. We might not be so shy or socially awkward, but the desire to be accepted is still the same. Which is why Water Wizz and the people there are so life changing to Duncan. This is where Duncan feels at accepted. "This is the only place I'm happy" he says. It's a place where he's changed by the friendships he forms and strengthened by them as well.


What more do I need to say to convince you to check out The Way Way Back? The story is phenomenal. The acting is perfect. The humor will keep you chuckling throughout. It will leave you feeling good, and maybe even willing to make a few new friends. Unfortunately, for someone who loves to rent movies and watch the special features, there are none on the DVD. Disappointing, but true. Get it'll be glad you did!


Let’s Talk About It

Use these questions to spark discussion among family members who are interested in this movie:


• Where is someplace you feel happy?


• Why do you think Duncan refused to tell his mom about Water Wizz and introduce her to Owen?


• How does knowing Jesus changed the way you see yourself? Explain.




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