So I’m in Atlanta on the way back home from vacation.

Naturally I saw THE WAY WAY BACK on Carl’s suggestion. It’s very funny. The audience laughed out loud time and again. The waterpark manager Owen (played by Sam Rockwell) is a knock off of Bill Murray in MEATBALLS. In this case knock off means an improved version. The saddest display is the loneliness and desperation of divorced women who have to pretend that they like acting like children to attract men who really do like acting that way. They, of course, screw up their kids as a result, mainly by ignoring them and not treating them like kids. But with one exception the women in the film come off relatively well: The cause of divorce and related relational meltdowns seems to be mainly narcissistic men (and so we feel for the women who make the mistake of trying to humor them).

It’s also a PG movie. The raciest thing that happens with the teenaged kids is a quick and heartfelt good-bye kiss. And everything that IS wrong is shown as wrong. It’s always clear what should have been done, as Carl points out, in this or that situation. So expressions of moral ambiguity and tragic existential whining about one’s wounded soul are typically rationalizations for being irresponsible. The simple lesson to kids of all ages: Grow up, man up, and BE there for those you love.

I’m not saying it is a great movie. (Character development is pretty uneven.) But it’s one to enjoy with the whole family (except little kids, of course).

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Articles by Peter Lawler

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