April 25, 2014

The Way Way Back (2013)

Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet

It's difficult to make a new coming-of-age story. Not only has it been done a million time before, it's been done so well a million times before that you can probably name a dozen excellent coming-of-age films off the top of your head right now. Almost Famous. Boyz N the Hood. Whale Rider. Dazed and Confused. The Outsiders. Sixteen Candles. Ferris Bueller's Day Off. The Breakfast Club. Hell, anything from John Hughes. (And if you're wondering if I Googled, that list, the answer is, of course I did! Who would come up with Whale Rider off the top of their head?? But I really have seen all the movies I just listed.)

My point is, the whole coming-of-age topic is so popular it's tough to pull off convincingly. It's even more difficult when the deck is stacked against you in casting. By that, I mean we've got the whole Steve Carell-in-a-serious-role-thing again, AnnaSophia Robb, who I just hate for no other reason than I think she makes a sucky Carrie Bradshaw, and it's all hinged on the shoulders of Young Shawn from Psych.

But, the movie is enjoyable. So enjoyable, in fact, that for a brief moment, I understood all those annoying people who can't stop talking about why indie movies are so much better than mainstream blockbusters. (Of course, then I remembered how many horrible indie films I've seen and thought about how it's idiotic to classify one type of movie categorically better than another.) This movie has such a charm to it and even though it's mostly predictable, it doesn't seem to matter. Maybe it's because I'm sucker for C.J. Cregg Allison Janney, who really steals the show during her brief appearances. I even tried to watch Mom for her. (Alas, I couldn't even make it through the pilot episode.)

There is, however, a weird Legally Blonde bend-and-snap moment where the movie takes a sharp left turn and you wish its attempt at a quick plot pick-me-up would stop. I don't want to give away too many details, but it involves beatboxing and a pretty terrible rendition of the robot. And I can't quite remember, but the worm may also have been involved? I've mostly blocked it out at this point.

But other than that, it keeps a pretty high standard throughout. And you don't have see Amanda Peet naked!! (For once)

Final word: It's not going to make any "best of" lists, but it's an enjoyable watch.

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