Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Way, Way Back Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
Dive into this comedy featuring an all-star comedic cast, including Steve Carell, Maya Rudolph, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Sam Rockwell, and Amanda Peet! While 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is being dragged on a family trip with his mom (Toni Collette) and her overbearing boyfriend (Steve Carell), he finds a gregarious friend (Rockwell) at a local water park. The two form a powerful bond as Duncan learns to swim through the challenges of life, love, family and friendship, resulting in a vacation he’ll never forget.

Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)

Teenager Duncan (Liam James) is spending the summer with this mom Pam (Toni Collette) and her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) at his east coast beach house. While Pam and Trent’s older teenage daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) sleep Trent asks Duncan where he sees himself on a scale of one to ten. Duncan hesitantly answers only to learn that Trent thinks he’s aiming way too high, informing the boy that he’s only a three. Trent is clearly a bully but at first it’s unclear if he thinks that he is truly improving the young man or if Trent is just mean. In the way way back of the station wagon Duncan sits in his rear facing seat wishing he could be anywhere else.

As the station wagon pulls in the driveway, obnoxious neighbor Betty (Alison Janey) greets the pseudo-family. She lives next door with her pretty teenage daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and her lazy eyed son Peter (River Alexander). Betty spends much of the film making fun of her son and his creepy eye while he reminds her of what a terrible mother she is.  Time in the beach house does not improve Duncan’s situation or attitude. Trent’s friends Kip (Rob Corddry) and Joan (Amanda Peet) hang out at the house a lot and it’s painful for a teenage boy to watch his parent’s idea of fun. 

Duncan escapes on a girl’s bike and heads away from the house seeking distraction. He happens upon a water park where he and manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) strikes up a friendship. Owen has a solid case of Peter Pan syndrome, refusing to grow up or take most of his responsibilities seriously. His assistant manager (Maya Rudolph) has been carrying the heavy load of his job and hers.  Although Owen has a lot of faults it is immediately clear that he genuinely cares for Duncan and shows him more kindness and respect than Trent ever will. Soon Duncan has a job and becomes a member of the water park family while lying to his own family about his whereabouts. Duncan awkwardly dances his way to the nickname “pop and lock” becoming a star employee and a member of the team.

The phrase “way, way back” is much less meaningful for anyone who’s never ridden in a station wagon. Sitting in the way, way back can often make you feel like the red headed step child of the family, and that feeling is what this movie is all about. Directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote and co-star in this simple, but sweet coming of age story that is extremely well cast. I am not usually a fan of Sam Rockwell but he nailed the part, providing amazing depth to a seemingly shallow character. Steve Carell plays the jerk amazingly well and Toni Collette is the only person I could see playing Duncan’s mother (after the fact). The pace of the film might be a little slow for some viewers but I truly enjoyed it. The supporting cast including Writers/Directors Nash and Faxon round out an excellent cast. It’s amazing that even the brash neighbor Betty is endearing and amusing as she manages to give loving insults to her family. Watching this movie I feel as though I have met every one of these characters and one point in my life – luckily not all at the same time.
Video (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The Way Way Back is presented on Blu-ray with a 1.85:1 ratio. Cinematographer John Bailey charmingly captures the east coast beach making the viewers feel like they are also on vacation. There is great detail and texture noticeable in the wood cabins and interior fabrics. In the dark cabin interiors, on a sunny beach and at a night time backyard party skin tones are even and black levels appropriate. 
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)

The Way Way Back is presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. The water park crowds add a great deal of depth. Overall, this is a dialogue based film and it doesn’t stretch the limits of your surround sound. The dialogue is even and consistent throughout and it’s a solid audio presentation overall.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray contains the extras listed below. The behind the scenes featurette’s are worth watching and are an excellent compliment to the film. Although there is no gag/blooper reel, the featurette shows the lighter sides of the actors and the filming process. 
  • Behind the Scenes with the Hilarious Cast and Filmmakers – Tour of the Water Park, The Filmmakers: Jim and Nat and Ensemble Featurette can be selected individually or with play all feature totaling over 30 minutes. 
  • Deleted Scenes – Approximately three minutes of deleted scenes from the film. 
  • Theatrical Trailer 
Summary (4 out of 5 stars)

Although not as clever as I had expected, The Way Way Back is an amazingly simple and sweet summer film. Many viewers will relate to the character Duncan and others will remember summers at the beach just like the one in this film. Life is tough when you’re a 14 year old stuck in a place you’d rather not be with people you don’t like. It’s interesting to watch the special features and learn how the film was almost made quickly and then put on the back burner resulting in a well planned and executed dramatic comedy.

Order your copy today!

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