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The Way Way Back Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Are you ready for the summer? Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    It's a joyous movie, the best one I've seen in a very long time.

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  • 60

    out of 100

    Variety Peter Debruge

    The story of a teen desperate for a father figure who finds encouragement from a wild-and-crazy water-park employee -- rather than from the guy auditioning to be his stepdad -- can be explosively funny in parts, but overall feels pretty familiar, relying more on its cast than the material to win favor.

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  • 63

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Michael Phillips

    The film's not as good as its cast, but The Way, Way Back has its moments.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter John DeFore

    Despite the familiarity of this setup, Way Back is a charmer, putting refreshingly little emphasis on Duncan's romantic needs and allowing family melodrama to erupt and simmer down without pat resolution.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly

    There's something slightly formulaic and familiar about Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's coming-of-age film The Way, Way Back, but not enough to dampen its crowd-pleasing charm.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Bill Zwecker

    Co-writers/directors Faxon and Rast have created a little gem of a film. Without question, The Way Way Back is the best coming-of-age movie of the summer and should be seen by audiences of all ages.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    It's funny, affecting, and appealing, and more worthy than much of what's out there. Often, coming-of-age stories rely forcefully on formulaic narrative developments but The Way Way Back remains fresh from start to finish.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 13+

Refreshing coming-of-age tale a joy for teens and up.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Way, Way Back is an empathetic, entertaining coming-of-age dramedy that rings true on many levels, capturing what it's like to be a 14-year-old boy surrounded by adults who should be doing a better job of acting their age. Some themes (i.e. infidelity) may be too much for tweens, but teens will appreciate the challenges the main character faces and how he decides to confront them. Expect scenes showing adults in various states of inebriation (mostly giggly and neglectful), seducing others who aren't their mates, and being cruel to teens, among others. A teen is shown sneaking a few beers into her purse; others talk about how one teen supplies adults with weed. Language includes one "f--k," plus "s--t" and "a--hole," and there's innuendo and stolen kisses between a couple who are involved with other people.

  • Families can talk about what makes The Way, Way Back a coming-of-age story. What elements define that subgenre to you? What are your favorites, both on screen and in book form?
  • Talk to your kids about the challenges of being the child of divorced parents. How does this film portray the adults? Are they responsible parents? What other challenges does Duncan face due to his parents' split?
  • How does the film depict drinking? Are there realistic consequences?
  • Why do you think Duncan feels so distant from his mother? Are his reactions realistic? Understandable? Why does he feel so alone?

The good stuff
  • message true1

    Messages: Just because someone (say, a parent) is older, that doesn't mean she's wiser. Sometimes teens are just as insightful, if not more so, and we can all learn from one another. Also, nobody's perfect, but some imperfections are kinder and gentler than others. Choose who you want to be. Being yourself and finding joy in it is the path to happiness.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: Duncan is a grounded, curious 14-year-old who can see right through adults' insecure machinations. But he doesn't use his observations cruelly. Even when he's despondent and upset, he finds a way out of his own misery. Owen, though immature at times, is kind and open-hearted, and he teaches Duncan how to be comfortable in his own skin. But Duncan's mother's boyfriend, Trent, is mean and disloyal, and his mother, though caring, forgets what's important.

What to watch for
  • violence false0

    Violence: Some arguments, both big and small.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Innuendo, plus some lingering camera shots on women's backsides (as they're ogled by guys) and stolen kisses between a man and a woman who are technically involved with other people.

  • language false2

    Language: Language includes one "f--k," plus "s--t," "damn," "d--k," "jackass," "crap," "ass," "a--hole," "oh my God," and more. A euphemism is used for the c-word.

  • consumerism false2

    Consumerism: Some brands/products are seen/mentioned, including iPhone, Pabst, Google, and Chevrolet.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adults spend a chunk of the summer pretty much drunk or nearly drunk. One woman proudly announces that she's off the wagon (and is obnoxious to boot). A teenage girl sneaks a few beers into her purse. There's talk of people buying weed, but viewers don't really see it. A man is shown smoking a cigar.