Starring: Victoria Justice, Jackson Nicoll, Chelsea Handler, Josh Pence, Jane Levy, Thomas Mann, Thomas McDonell, Osric Chau, Thomas Middleditch, Riki Lindhome, Kerri Kenney, Ana Gasteyer, Abby Elliott, Johnny Knoxville.
Director: Josh Schwartz
Rating: PG-13 (for crude and suggestive material, partying, and language..)
Running Time: 90 Minutes
Release Date: October 26, 2012
Home Video Release Date: TBD
North American Box Office: $TBD
Nickelodeon Movies, Anonymous Content, Fake Empire, and Paramount Pictures.
Written by: Max Werner.
This review was featured at The Rogue Valley Messenger.
★★1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Eventually, Nickelodeon had to make the leap, right? In creating and airing programs aimed at a tween audience for decades now, all while immersed in a stalemated rivalry with The Disney Channel for the same pool of viewers, Nickelodeon finally turned to its film division and one of its biggest stars, Victoria Justice, to test the waters with a PG-13 film. The first PG-13 movie in the Nickelodeon Movies brand, Fun Size is a bizarre, intermittently entertaining mess which has no idea what it wishes to be or how it wants to present itself.
Justice is front and center here as Wren, a 17-year old high school senior tasked with taking her 8-year old brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), out for a night of trick-or-treating on Halloween. Wren is less than thrilled doing this, as her irresponsible mother, Joy (Chelsea Handler), provided her with no notice, leaving the house in a Britney Spears-style schoolgirl outfit for a costume ball she is attending with her 20-something boyfriend Keevin (Josh Pence).
Complicating matters for Wren is the fact that the most popular boy in school, Aaron (Thomas McDonell), has personally invited her to his swanky Halloween party and Wren’s best friend, April (Jane Levy), is insistent, if not flat out unrepentant, that Wren… Must. Attend. That. Party. But we also have the kind-hearted, awkward and nerdy Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), who has a massive crush on Wren, but constantly tells himself that he is completely out of Wren’s league. This belief is driven home time and time again by April, who has Wren’s ear apparently no matter how annoying she is. April routinely belittles and rips on Roosevelt and his best friend, Peng (Osric Chau), leaving them hurt, uneasy, and embarrassed whenever they spend time with her
The entire film pivots on the “wacky” misadventures associated with Wren losing Albert in a community haunted house, Wren, April, Roosevelt, and Peng forging together to find the lost kid, and Albert’s increasingly odd encounters with a motley crew of strange young adults. Ranging from a goofy convenience store clerk (Thomas Middleditch), to a woman who dresses like a popular comic book character, apparently even when it is not Halloween (Riki Lindhome), and eventually, the rattled madman who stole the convenience store clerk’s girlfriend months back (Johnny Knoxville, in a cringe-worthy turn), Albert’s wide-eyed innocence and ill-advised trusting of strangers is naturally portrayed with a light and comedic air.
Is not having an 8-year old on screen, willingly taking rides with strangers…in CARS…on HALLOWEEN?! not a dangerous message to send out to younger viewers? In a society who thrives on imitative behaviors, is this not something we should be alarmed by? Am I overthinking all of us? Oh, probably.
Except…Fun Size does not skimp on its messages, with max Werner’s screenplay finding many teachable moments, or at least the appearance of those moments, as a means to try and place meaning behind the goofiness depicted on screen. You see, not only is Albert lost on Halloween, with Wren’s sense of urgency flickering at best, but we also must understand and empathize with Wren and Albert’s mother, Joy. Joy, you see, at or over the age of 40, is dating a 26-year old because her husband recently died and she is absolutely lost in life.
Elsewhere, Wren is desperate to break away from her hometown and head off to college to put the tragedy of the recent months behind her and begin a new chapter in her life. Roosevelt has never felt this way about anyone ever and recognizing that he is running out of time to act, hems and haws over how to best tell Wren he loves her. These are real problems, y’all, and they are constantly present as we simply are distracted from the fact that we really need to get this 8-year old boy back home safe and sound, right?!?!
Acknowledging the innumerable problems with Fun Size, I must put all cards on the table and admit that there are indeed some funny moments and the characters all retain some level of charm about themselves. Directed by “The O.C.” creator Josh Schwartz and written by one of Steven Colbert’s writers on his political satire show “The Colbert Report”, charisma is in full supply here and Victoria Justice does show some signs that she could be a breakout star in the foreseeable future. Justice creates some great chemistry with co-star Thomas Mann (Project X), plays well off of Jane Levy’s annoying Bratz Doll character brought-to-life, and the film is stolen outright by Kerri Kenney and Ana Gasteyer, who, in cameos, play Roosevelt’s two mothers, and are a laugh-out-loud riot to watch for all 4 minutes of screen time they get.
So, as much as Fun Size entertained me, I also saw right through the fact that this is an empty-headed screenplay with rudderless direction and clearly a film that throws everything possible at the wall to see what sticks. Switching hats with ease between vulgar PG-13 humor and light comedy found during television’s safe harbor time slots, Fun Size simply wants to be liked…by someone…by anyone…really, really bad. And in that sense, it truly is more in touch with its characters and their motivations then a good half of the films I have watched in 2012.
SHOULD I SEE IT?
- Fans of Victoria Justice and her recently cancelled television series will be thrilled to see her finally make the leap to the big screen. Is it appropriate though?!?
- The actors are actually pretty good and are easy to have fun with on screen.
- I have a feeling that despite a treasure trove of problems with the movie, this is something that is infinitely watchable and re-watchable over and over again. I know the 13-year olds I saw it with had a lot of fun with it.
- You may think that this is for kids, but this completely earns every bit of its PG-13. We do not have any “F” words or flat out sexual content, but the humor and the strut of the film will make this more mature than parents may be anticipating.
- Truthfully? Fun Size is a mess of a film. A rambling wreck if there ever was one.
- Seeing an 8-year old kid jump into strangers’ cars, willingly taking the head of seemingly nice people he does not know. I don’t know. I can think of a handful of people who would not appreciate that concept being played for laughs and being shown as nothing to worry about.