The Way, Way Back – the film starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, AnnaSophia Robb, and Liam James – tells the story of a boy named Duncan, who comes into his own after spending the summer developing amazing friendships at the waterpark where he works in secret. Intertwined with the charming and dramatic story of Duncan’s journey to maturity is a lot of lighthearted comedy, none of which Steve Carell’s character, Trent, is responsible for. In the film, he plays Pam‘s domineering boyfriend who is the absolute worst to her son, Duncan. He’s bossy, inconsiderate, and even has an arrogant sense of humor. It’s clear that while we may be expected to sympathize with his struggles, we’re definitely not expected to like him. This is where I feel lost, confused, and vaguely distressed because my brain can’t understand how he could possibly play a character who didn’t make me want to even silently giggle.
You see, the world operates most smoothly on a system of supply-and-demand, where the Steve Carells of the world promise to say funny things as long as they’ve got an audience who promises to laugh at them. I was already prepared to form a love-hate relationship with his character because even though he always plays decidedly flawed characters, they’re still endearingly funny. So, boy, did I look silly when I showed up at the theater with all of that protective laughing gear (equipped with a helmet and both elbow and knee pads) and didn’t even need any of it.
The movie’s point of view is skewed in the favor of Duncan, who feels ignored and misunderstood, so it makes sense that Steve’s character is portrayed as an intruder who is ruining everything simply by existing. He gives up his ability to be funny, and instead takes on the role of the parent who just doesn’t understand (so to you, all the kids from across the land…). While I applaud him for taking a risk and playing the role of the movie’s bad-guy, I think that it was missing that sliver of Steve Carell-ness that he brings to every one of his characters. I’m not saying that he doesn’t play a decent villain, I’m just saying that I don’t buy or like him as one. Every time that his voice goes into his trademark high-pitched tone, I expect him to be saying something amusing and then when he isn’t, I’m like “wow, okay, maybe next time”. I’m like Pavlov’s dog, except jokes instead of bells make me drool.
So, for the next few 11:11′s, I’ll have to put my wishes for a purple pony with matching purple cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat on hold because I’ve got more important things to wish for, like that Steve Carell starts doing funny movies again. This is an actual plea that I plan to follow up with a formal IM to Steve later on today. There’s no one else that does what he does and if he stops doing it, where will I be able to turn when I’m craving a character who is a socially-awkward man-child in khaki pants? The S-AM-CIKP store just went out of business, so Steve’s my only beacon of light. I really don’t think I can handle a disappointment from another Steve.