Duncan (Liam James) and his mother Pam (Toni Collette) are off on a summer getaway to the beach house with her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Duncan is not your typical young boy actually according to Trent out of one to ten Duncan is only a three, something he apparently needs to work on. Actually Trent and Duncan don’t quite see eye to eye in the car, at the beach or elsewhere for that matter. Rightfully so since Trent is actually a bit of an ass and Pam for the most part seems to go with the flow as does Steph who shows absolutely no love for Duncan in the first place.
When they arrive at the beach house their neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) and her daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) greet them at the driveway drink in Betty’s hand and ready to party. Soon thereafter Duncan gets introduced to Peter (River Alexander) who by the way doesn’t see eye to eye with Duncan either but actually no one does for that matter due to Peter’s physical misfortune. Along for the beach gatherings and summer fun in more ways than one is Joan (Amanda Peet) and Kip (Rob Corddry) with one of the two happening to have eyes for Trent.
The direction and writing is quite whimsical and moving almost like the feeling of reading a book on the front poor on a warm summer day. The music is fitting, the beach is inviting and the cast is nicely chosen with Carell so far showing a bit of his serious less admirable side to a character. Interesting that he pulls it off pretty well considering the majority of his roles have been mostly comedy. Collette is just perfect as always and Janney is the levity to an otherwise moving but dramatic storyline. I haven’t seen Peet in much lately and as for this role she basically takes a side door to the other lead characters main entrances. I absolutely like Corddry as an actor although I thought he was a bit underused here.
The story takes a turn for the better when Duncan runs away and takes a job working at Water Wiz for Owen (Sam Rockwell) who works with and is in love with Caitlyn (Maya Rudolph) who admits to liking Owen other than the fact he needs to grow up. A tight bond is forged between Owen and Duncan as he returns to the park everyday also working with Lewis (Jim Rash) the nerdy character that works at the cabana and Roddy (Nat Faxon) the cool guy with the bad teeth that works the slides and visually undresses young females all day, hopefully after making sure their over eighteen. Divorce, separation, cheating, fights, mis-understandings, anger, trust, respect all come into play here as the writers point out personality disorders amongst the characters and ultimately reflecting on audience members own lives as well. Rockwell truly rocks in this story and even though Rudolph, Faxon and Rash take a back seat to him the Water Wiz moments in the story are superb both with humor and intensity.
In the end Duncan aka “Pop N’ Lock” a nickname he earned discovers he is much bigger than a three, pretty much gets the girl and learns how to stand up for what he believes no matter what the cost. But just when you may think your all into it together albeit in the end blood is truly thicker than water. I absolutely enjoyed this story about an awkward boy that truly finds his inner man during a beach getaway with his mother ultimately embracing new friends leading into a whole new outlook on life. It is by far not a fast paced story but if you pay attention and sit back in your seat and watch you’ll find that this is truly a film worth seeing as if you are relaxing to a fine novel and sipping on a nice glass of Merlot. Written and appreciated especially for its great cast of characters with two paws out of four by Jon Patch.