(out of 5)
Duncan (Liam James) is in for a miserable summer when his Albany, NY caterer mom (Toni Collette, as always superb) drags him to the Hamptons summer home of her obnoxious new boyfriend (Steve Carell). Carell’s idea of making them a cohesive unit is to get in Duncan’s face about his wayward maturity every chance he gets, while mom plays oblivious in the hopes that her bitter divorce from a man who left her for a younger woman will be soothed by a new, stable relationship. Duncan can’t wait to find other things to do with his time as soon as he arrives at the sunny beaches of Long Island, getting a job working at a local water park where its mercurial, infectiously fun owner (Sam Rockwell, never more appealing) becomes a mentor and a true friend to him. This core relationship, which is thoroughly heartfelt without ever getting sappy, gives a huge heart to a film that is already expertly funny and, at times, mercilessly cruel. Allison Janney is a veritable masterpiece as the alcoholic neighbour who wants to get everyone to reveal their true selves but actually just ends up making herself look desperate and pathetic, while Carell does a marvelous job of shedding his King of the Dweebs image to play a guy who is impressively virile but genuinely odious at the same time. James is the film’s heart, however, and he is instantly sympathetic, tapping into anyone’s memories of the awkward pangs of adolescence. Meanwhile, the snappy script by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (who also appear in supporting roles) provides for what is an instant classic, a terrific comedy with a giant heart and a big, brassy mouth.
Screenplay by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Cinematography by John Bailey
Music by Rob Simonsen
Production Design by Mark Ricker
Film Editing by Tatiana S. Riegel