The Way Way Back

Rated 3.0

Writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning adapters of The Descendants, here co-direct their earlier script, another melancholic beach-house comedy of sympathetic middle-class white folks whose failed marriages are hard on their adolescent kids. Producers and actors from Little Miss Sunshine complete the cutely movie-ish family-dysfunction formula. An awkward, inward 14-year-old (Liam James), drifting apart from his divorced mom (Toni Collette) and her douchey new beau (Steve Carell), endures a strained summer vacation with help from a friendly water-park manager (Sam Rockwell), who helps the kid come of age. Consequently, he does all right with the perfectly available pretty blond girl (AnnaSophia Robb) next door. The supporting cast includes Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry and Maya Rudolph, all generously doing their duty to nudge both the awkward and the feel-good moments forward. But Rockwell is the highlight here, exuding great warmth, wit and just enough irony to make even the bromides seem savory.