Duncan (Liam James) starts off the film not being able to escape the number 3 that Trent (Steve Carell) said that he was. Duncan’s wardrobe was off brown khakis and oversized t-shirts as a “family trip” began in Cape Cod. He was painfully quiet and oblivious to even breathing.
That changes when Duncan meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), an employee at Water Wizz. Owen is carefree and is probably the only friend Duncan has ever made. Duncan is treated like a little boy although he is a teen and is only awkward because he lacks self-esteem. Duncan begins to wear shorts and tank tops once his friendship with Owen grows. His nickname becomes “Pop “N Lock” because of his dance moves. He also grows a pair of balls, putting his mother, Pam (Toni Collette) in her place and fighting nearly physically with Trent to defend his mother. While Trent’s daughter is pissed because she broke up with Chad, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) is a young girl next door but has a backbone and likes to read complex novels on the beach and not hang out with snobby tan girls. Duncan gains a confidence that he was able to find himself through adults.
In this film, the humor is drier than the Mojave Desert but Sam Rockwell really steals the film, as does River Alexander, who plays Peter, Duncan’s 8 year old mature sort of friend. Allison Janney, as Betty, a “off the wagon” neighbor to Trent, is always the seal of approval for an awkward comedy. Toni Collette is wonderful. Amanda Peet is solid in a small role of a bigger picture for the story. Steve Carell is outstanding as the overbearing boyfriend who oversteps his boundary with trying to raise Duncan. Steve is really able to step away from his more notable roles (see Michael Scott as an example) to establish himself as an actor. Liam James, in his first notable role, is excellent. Sam Rockwell is great as is Maya Rudolph in a role that suits her acting ability.
With this film, it will give an audience the perspective of what teenagers are dealing with regarding their parents as well as how childish adults can be. Where the film could be very clichèd, the story is taken to the left. Jim Rash, who co-wrote the film, is hysterically awkward in this film.