This summer movie season has felt relentlessly grim. Almost every big budget movie currently or recently in theaters has featured an end-of-the-world scenario or some other type of epic massacre. Even comedies like The Heat and This Is the End featured several gun deaths and an apocalypse, respectively. Which is why going to see The Way, Way Back this weekend was such a relief.
Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's delightful movie, about a young boy coming of age with the help of some oddball water park employees, is a nice reminder that the summer doesn't have to be all 9/11 imagery and mass killing. There's plenty of smaller, less gruesome fare coming our way in the next two months.
Though summer is meant to be the time of popcorn fare at the movie theaters, the biggest summer blockbusters this year have tended to mix popcorn entertainment with sheer horror. The casual destruction Man of Steel wreaked was mind-boggling, especially when weighed against real-life disasters. Star Trek Into Darkness destroyed half of San Francisco, an aircraft slamming into a building no less. World War Z put zombies into a real-life, globe-annihilating context. The Lone Ranger featured not one but two massacres of entire tribes of Native Americans. As our Richard Lawson wrote about this season's ultra-violence: "It's almost as if filmmakers don't trust audiences to appreciate the gravity of a situation unless there's a heap of implied carnage to illustrate it. But even then that 'carnage' is only sort of glancingly addressed, as if a building could be destroyed and presumably thousands of lives lost, but the minute the camera looks away, everything's fine."