As a follow-up to their Academy-Award Winning screenplay for THE DESCENDANTS, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have written and directed THE WAY, WAY BACK, a fair to middling coming-of-age tale of a 14-year-old’s summer vacation with his family in which a Water Park manager changes his life forever. Or something like that. I liked this better when it was called ADVENTURELAND.
Unfortunately, things start to become a little too predictable in this “summer that changed everything” story. The direction is fairly uninspired, and Rash and Faxon have given themselves ridiculously underwritten roles. I really enjoyed Faxon on the cancelled BEN AND KATE this past TV season, as he displayed a wild, unhinged energy. Here, he’s as bland as the cinematography. DP John Bailey has made a career out of shooting high-key, flat-looking studio comedies. I wish this film had been given a more artistic, grittier look. It looks and has been staged in the most boring of fashions.
Brightening the film is Sam Rockwell as the aforementioned theme park manager. He’s as loose as Bill Murray was in MEATBALLS and adds a kick the film sorely lacks elsewhere. Don’t get me wrong, there is a delightfully light, MARGARITAVILLE vibe, and some terrific performances. I just wish it didn’t have a been-there, done-that quality.
As I was watching, I kept wondering what this movie would have been like had it not been about the kid, but about the parents all struggling with arrested development. I’m not sure I would have liked that better, but at least it would have been more original…kind of like an indie GROWN UPS.
Glenn Gaylord is an award-winning Writer/Director/Producer and graduate of the UCLA School of Film and Television.