If there was one term that cropped up in nearly all of the reviews for Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s comedy “The Way, Way Back” when it premiered at Sundance this year, it was “crowd pleaser.” After all, it’s distributed by Fox Searchlight, for whom crowd-pleasingly quirky is a mission statement (the trailer is quick to remind us that they are the producers of “Juno” and “Little Miss Sunshine”), and penned by the writers of “The Descendants.”
Rash (Dean Pelton from “Community”) and Faxon are also in director mode here, as well as playing small roles in the film, which follows the summer exploits of an awkward young boy (Liam James) who is dragged along with his mom (Toni Collette) and her jerk of a new boyfriend (Steve Carrell) to the latter’s summer home. There he falls in with a pack of misfits at the local water park, led by the dependably awesome Sam Rockwell. AnnaSophia Robb also stars as the girl he falls for.
So yes, it seems to follow the carefully arranged machinations of dozens of coming-of-age Sundance indie comedies before it, but can the combined effects of a little “Adventureland” and a dash of “Little Miss Sunshine” churn out another sleeper hit comedy? Fox Searchlight seems to be banking on it. It was the biggest buy at the festival, with the studio paying $10 million to acquire the film. We’ll see if the sum was worth it when the film is released on the appropriately summery date of July 5th, You can watch the breezy, warm-hearted trailer below.