Flickchart Battle: The Way, Way Back (2013) vs. Space Jam (1996)


This week’s match-up has an independent dramedy against a kids sports film with a lot of nostalgia. You might think this match-up is an easy one, but for me it’s a lot trickier than it looks.

Space Jam will always hold a special place in my heart. As a kid, I remember the years of Michael Jordan and his dominance in the NBA. And as an avid sports fan, who didn’t dream of slicing and dicing the defense the way Jordan did while on the Chicago Bulls? Space Jam was a special film that teamed up the most popular sports star with the likes of the Looney Tunes, led by Bugs Bunny. What boy in the right mind wouldn’t love Space Jam?

Meanwhile, I’ve only seen The Way, Way Back once, and that was last summer in the movie theaters. Written and directed by the duo of Nat Faxon (Ben and Kate) and Jim Rash (Community), who won the Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar for The Descendants, this was a film I couldn’t pass up. Starring Liam James as a socially-awkward teenager going on summer vacation with his less-than-perfect family, it’s a nice coming-of-age tale with some hilarious moments from Sam Rockwell.

Being completely unbiased, Space Jam is not a very good movie. Michael Jordan is one of many athletes failing at his attempt at acting, and while he struggled alongside cartoons, it was even more evident when Bill Murray shared a scene with him. The film is too predictable and doesn’t offer much for adults to enjoy, aside from the nostalgic factor. The Way, Way Back isn’t a great movie, but it is a strong one. While most of the movie is a little bit too conventional and predictable, there is a good amount of heart that grows between Duncan and Owen, and it’s easy to sympathize with Pam (Toni Collette) as she tries her hardest to make everything work.

I must say that The Way, Way Back had one of my favorite scenes of 2013 when Owen is trying to teach Duncan to feel comfortable talking with girls. He convinces him to go down the water slide with a few attractive girls, but when he finally reaches the bottom his swimming trunks slide off. It might seem like a silly, forced scene, but it was full of great comedy from Sam Rockwell.

So which movie am I going to choose? When you eliminate the nostalgia factor for Space Jam, there’s not much that remains, but with The Way, Way Back, while it’s somewhat forgettable, it has a lot more moments that work, including the dysfunctional family dynamic, emotions of young love, and the torture of a doomed family vacation.

Winner: The Way, Way Back


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