THE WAY WAY BACK (PG13)
UNITED STATES - As a young adult story for a general audience, this coming-of-age tale works very well. Painfully shy teen Duncan (Liam James, above) is having a horrible summer at a beach house with his neurotic mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her snide boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell).
A chance encounter with the flamboyant Owen (Sam Rockwell), the manager of a water park, gives Duncan a sense of purpose and pride.
Duncan (James) is a standard-issue shy kid, and writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have not fallen into the trap of making him too likeable or weird. James also portrays him with the right amount of maudlin goofiness that never tips over into annoying teenage self-pity.
Mother Pam (the excellent Collette) is doing all she can to please Trent. Carrell's Trent is one of the most subtle and effective portrayals of a pathological father figure in recent memory.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.