Tuesday, 17 September 2013


I had little enthusiam for seeing this, knowing, as I did, that it dealt with that off-putting subject of teenage angst, yet again. Within five minutes I thought that it may not be quite the feared ordeal - and so that turned out to be the case, the situation rescued largely by the presences of Toni Collette and Steve Carell as mother and effectual step-father of the sullen, withdrawn, pubescent son at the core of the tale. 

The family (also including Carell's stuck-up teenage daughter to complete the quartet) drives out to their holiday home, where there's an outrageously loopy next-door neighbour with her own adolescent daughter. (Allison Janney as the mother is one of the features that made the film worth watching. I wish there'd been more scenes involving her.)
Close to the home is an amusement park with water features, to which the boy is drawn. He there encounters wise-cracking employee, Sam Rockwell, all mouth and baggy shorts, unable to complete a sentence without some sassy quip or ready bon mot. Rockwell takes him under his wing, prods the surly teenager out of his shell, getting him to go after a particular girl to whom he's taken an especial fancy (attaboy!) and enlists him onto the centre's workforce, all unbeknown to the boy's parents. Meanwhile Carell's wandering attentions, observed by his step-son, imperils the parents' relationship. When the boy opens up to Rockwell about his concerns, the latter drops his exasperatingly jokey facade and turns out to be (wouldn't you know it?) a genuinely sympathetic and comforting guy, providing exactly the supportive shoulder needed to cry on.
(In a small role, co-director and co-writer Jim Rash plays a wimpy, eyes-turned-upwards, rather effete booth worker - one who didn't have a mom but "had two dads".)

Both Toni Collette and Steve Carell starred in 'Little Miss Sunshine' (2006), of course, and there is a superficial resemblance to that film here, mainly in the angle of the humour, but also in showing a family of varied odd-ball strained relationships. I thought 'Sunshine' was the more entertaining of the two films, though not by a great deal.

If one doesn't share my aversion to schmaltz, which comes to the fore in the latter part of this film, you will probably enjoy this more than I did. With a different cast of lower quality it could have become an insufferably painful experience, but it didn't descend down to that level.
With no substantial regrets, then, I confer on it a score of......................5.5.


  1. I love a big dollop of schmaltz every now and than, so I'll be hopping off to see this on my one day off this week. I'm a fan of Toni's I have to admit, which is perhaps driving me toward it rather than anything else.

  2. Jase, I too am a fan of Toni Collette and if she hadn't been in this I may well have not bothered. She acquits herself well - but when has she not?
    It does get treacly, and there's nothing intrinsically wrong with that if that's your bag but, even though I could have done with less of it, the emotion doesn't quite overbalance the film as badly as it could have done.

  3. Ray, I am sure you are aware of this, but in case your not, last night, "Candelabra" added three more Emmys to its haul: (1) Best movie, (2) best director and (3) Best actor prize for Douglas. Douglas also got a big laugh with some innuendo aimed at Damon during his speech.

    Elton John paid tribute to Liberace with a new song. Also mentioned his influence in his style of dress.

    With NPH acting as host, well, all-in-all a satisfying evening.

  4. Yes, Paul. I saw the news this morning. Not so sure it deserved the 'Best picture' and 'Best director' accolades, but I'm not complaiing. Douglas' award was certainly deserved and I'm very pleased for him. (I read about his 'dig' at Damon too. Nice one!)

    Btw: You might think I've been a bit measly on my cinema-going recently, which is true. However, plans are that this week is going to be busy, busy, busy.

  5. I as drawn to this film by its title. It's been a while since I watched it but I remember I enjoyed it as a light and somewhat entertaining film. Sometimes that's all one needs.
    The title you ask? Well when we were kids getting ready to go somewhere in the family wagon, the one who gpcalked out "I get the way way back" was the lucky one who got to ride in the back of the station wagon behind the seats.