Directed by: Josh Schwartz
Starring: Victoria Justice, Chelsea Handler, Ana Gasteyer
Opens: Oct. 26
It’s the story that Disney and Nickelodeon seem to have on constant rotation: A girl tries to woo Mr. Generic Hottie and catapult herself out of the trenches of social geekdom. She encounters minor mishaps, but they only bring her closer to the man of her dreams.
Tomboy and bookworm Wren is usually too busy studying and taking care of her family to think about boys, but this Halloween she decides to cut loose for once and make a play for the coolest rocker in school by attending his epic Halloween bash. Surprise, surprise — things don’t go as planned. Wren loses her pesky little brother Albert in a haunted house and has to find him before she can attend the party of her dreams.
The film, starring Nickelodeon’s Victoria Justice as Wren, is geared to kids, but between the frank discussions of boob-grabbing and raunchy red-cup party scenes, the PG-13 rating is appropriate.
The outlandish adventures of the story begin as soon as Albert goes missing. Perhaps the following scenario is plausible in whatever tween-reality the 12-year-old viewer lives in, but any post-pubescent movie-goer knows it’s downright absurd. Wren calls the police, but the authorities are uninterested in helping her find her missing younger brother. The child endangerment continues as Albert meets his new friend Fuzzy, the gas station clerk, in a deserted parking lot. The pair of jokers (a twenty-something and an eight-year-old) drive off into the night to pull some pranks.
Like a young adolescent figuring out his comedic depths, the film switches quickly from tame potty humor and physical slapstick to abruptly dropped expletives. One moment Albert pulls the classic dog-excrement-on-the-front-porch maneuver, and in the next scene the b-word is used in a space where a mere exclamation point would suffice.
Certain members of the “Fun Size” cast seem to have been brought in for the sole purpose of pandering to adult humor. Chelsea Handler appears as Wren’s kooky mother who is trying desperately to relive her glory days with a younger hunky boyfriend. Johnny Knoxville is Jörgen, Fuzzy’s archenemy and the deserving victim of Albert’s pranks. These two are comedy superstars. Without their adult accessories of vodka and dirty punchlines, they appear much too reined-in and are a bore to watch.
Life as a tween can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster — and so is “Fun Size.” The audience is expected to go from contemplating Wren’s father’s recent death to drooling over the cutest boy in school to laughing at Albert’s antics to being angry with Wren’s mother for her lack of attention. Never settling into a scene long enough to get one’s emotional bearings, the film jerks endlessly through a series of silly misadventures as Wren searches for Albert.
The movie provides little character development and relies heavily on high school stereotypes for the audience to understand the characters, but there is something reassuring about knowing exactly how the movie is going to end up before the opening credits have finished rolling. Predictability and lack of depth makes the film easy to watch.
After the trick-or-treat years and before the skimpy-costume-and-drinking-game years, there are the movie-watching years. For a solid half-decade, Halloween is all about sitting in someone’s basement with the lights off, staring at a glowing screen for a little All Hallow’s Eve cinema action. The bubblegum blandness of “Fun Size” caters to the basement demographic but loses its flavor the longer it hangs around.
One star out of four.
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