The coming-of-age indie flick The Way, Way Back has been compared to Little Miss Sunshine and Adventureland. Starring Steve Carell, Allison Janney, and Toni Collette, it's certainly got the acting chops to make it a hit—but is it a hit with critics? The consensus is yes, even though it doesn't offer viewers anything new. It's expected but charming, with a few laughs thrown in the mix, too.
- "The film is awash in safe choices, from indie-pop-accompanied montages to sitcom one-liners and black-and-white characters," Liam Lacey writes at the Globe and Mail. Though he compares the plot to that of Little Miss Sunshine, he argues The Way, Way Back is "way underdeveloped."
- Betsy Sharkey at the LA Times appears to have been watching a different film entirely. She says the flick has a "witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing, and relatable edge." Though she admits it's a "fairly straightforward story of coming of age in a time of divorce," the writers "make it feel fresh."
- It's a "minor pleasure," as opposed to a "major work," concedes Ty Burr at the Boston Globe. But isn't that nice during the summer? "This one goes down like a popsicle on a hot day," even as it moves along "genially if not always freshly."
- Sure, "there's nothing strikingly new or different about The Way, Way Back," writes Andrew O'Hehir on Salon. "It's classic summer counter-programming, a low-tech indie comedy driven by its strong cast and eccentric characters." But it's done well, and it stays away from "raunchy teen-movie cliché" territory. O'Hehir liked the film enough to make it Salon's "pick of the week."