Denver Seminary

Engage Magazine - Fall 2013

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CULTURE The Way, Way Back There's something in all of us that leaps with joy when we see or experience redemption— the process of regaining something of great value that was lost through corruption, error, or misfortune. That's the underlying theme of this past summer's surprise hit movie, The Way, Way Back. Popularly billed as a feel-good, "coming of age" film, The Way, Way Back quickly pushes beyond that familiar territory into a land of loss, pain, and rejection. Duncan, the movie's protagonist, is an awkward 14-year-old whose mom, Pam, is dating a car salesman named Trent after a traumatic divorce. In the opening scene, the ubernerdy teenager is subjected to a ruthless display of cruelty by his potential step-dad on a drive to the beach for the summer. "Hey buddy," taunts Trent, "on a sliding scale of 1 to 10, where would you put yourself?" When Duncan finally manages to suggest a 6, Trent instantly crushes him by sneering, "No, you're only a 3." But this is only the beginning of Duncan's mounting pain. Once they arrive at the beach, he realizes that he's also lost his mom, as she increasingly ignores him in a foolhardy effort to make her relationship work with the narcissistic and maliciously deceitful Trent. While the adults enthusiastically engage in their own version of spring break, Duncan seeks refuge at the local Water Whiz Water Park. There he finds a source of hope and safety in Owen, the Peter Pan-like owner who quickly sizes up the kid, gives him a job, and cheerfully takes him under his wing. Over the course of the 20  FALL 2013 Looking for redemption in summer's surprise hit movie starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, and Liam James. summer, Duncan becomes part of the water park community— which embraces him while simultaneously providing him with dignity and love. But it's only near the movie's end, as Trent stops for gas on the ride home, that Duncan's redemption comes to full fruition. In classic Hollywood fashion, Duncan flees the back of the station wagon for a final fling of joy at the Water Park. Without giving away all the details, he wins public acclaim, is defended from Trent by Owen, and soon thereafter reconciles with his mom. The Way, Way Back illustrates that while the writers and artists of our culture may not always understand the details of the Gospel of redemption, there's no question that they're experts in communicating the power of how it feels. Scott Wenig, PhD PROFESSOR OF APPLIED THEOLOGY Denver Seminary does not endorse the full content and message of The Way, Way Back. Discretion and consideration of the movie's PG-13 rating is advised before viewing.

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