Flippantly Silly Fun Size at War with Itself
On Halloween, studious bookworm Wren (Victoria Justice) and her popularity-craving best friend April (Jane Levy) are invited to a party by high school heartthrob Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell). But after getting all dressed up and ready to go, Wren’s mother Joy (Chelsea Handler) drops the bomb. She’s going out with her much younger boyfriend Keevin (Josh Pence), and that means her daughter will be responsible for babysitting her devilish little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll).
Crushed, the two friends take the boy out to trick or treat, April particularly frustrated that they are going to miss the party of the entire year. Things take a wild, surrealistic turn when the tiny, one-armed Spider-Man (Albert’s gory take on the famous wall-crawler) goes off on his own in search of even more candy, leaving the girls understandably freaked-out as to what might have happened to him. Hooking up with geeky friends Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau), the quartet scour the town in search of Wren’s fearlessly unconventional sibling, their nightmarish Halloween adventure taking one bizarre turn after another.
I have no idea what to make of Fun Size. Coming from the usually family-friendly minds at Nickelodeon, this effort the cable channel’s attempt to make their “Victorious” star Justice a household name, the film is nonetheless an odd assortment of gags that never comfortably coalesce. Too juvenile for teens and college-aged kids, too stupid and facile for adults, yet also too raunchy and risqué for the younger elementary-aged set, I haven’t the first clue who the target audience for this one is. Not terrible, yet not especially worthwhile, this comedy sort of sits there aimlessly trying to sort itself out, and all things considered that it is unable to do so is hardly shocking.
For director Josh Schwartz, one of the creators of “Chuck,” a show I kind of love, this feels like something that should have been tailormade for his talents. There are times his unconventional eye and penchant for inspired lunacy is on full display, and I got the feeling he was more at ease dealing with the adult secondary characters (most notably a friendless convenience store clerk who finds a soul mate in Albert, played with inspired buttoned-down lunacy by Thomas Middleditch) than he was with his teenage protagonists.
Not that Max Werner’s script, a longtime staff writer for “The Colbert Report,” does the director any favors. An obtuse combination of Adventures in Babysitting, the recent Project X, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Baby’s Day Out, other than Wren (and to a lesser extent Roosevelt and a few of the periphery side characters) he’s created a group of unlikable, one-dimensional individuals not worth spending time with. In particular, April might just be the worst best friend of all-time, her actions as horrifying as they are objectionable.
Yet I do not hate this film. Justice is an appealing performer and I can see why her show has managed such a devoted following. While I have no idea how good an actress she will prove to be in the future, spending 90 or so minutes with her was hardly a chore. Chandler steals a handful of scenes, while cameos from Kerri Kenney and Ana Gasteyer (playing Roosevelt’s kooky moms) are nothing short of priceless. Additionally, as uneven and as comically unsure of itself as the script might be, Schwartz uses his television background in regards to pacing and visually ingenuity beautifully, conjuring up more than a few scenes that had me chuckling out loud.
On the whole Fun Size does not work. The film has trouble deciding which story it wants to tell, running off on several different tangents which never allows any of them to blossom into something memorable. While hardly terrible, I still can’t say I was ever entertained, the fun promised in the title sadly missing for the majority of Wren and Albert’s dueling adventures.
Film Rating: 2 (out of 4)