Directed by Josh Schwartz, the creator of “The O.C.”, “Gossip Girl” and co-creator of “Chuck”, “Fun Size” is a cute, well-intentioned and intermittently successful update of the 80’s teen movie genre, especially “Adventures In Babysitting”.
This Halloween comedy stars Victoria Justice (“Zoey 101”, “Victorious”) as Wren DeSantis, a studious and college-bound girl and Jane Levy as April Martin-Danzinger-Ross, her best friend. Filling out the cast are Thomas Mann as Roosevelt Leroux, Osric Chau as Peng and Thomas McDonell as Aaron Riley, the most popular boy in school.
As overwritten and complex as the character names are, the escalating antics of the plot are even more amped up. On the night of Halloween, Wren is asked at the last minute to go trick or treating with her little brother because her mother is going out to a party with her new, younger boyfriend. Unfortunately, during a mix-up at a haunted house, her brother goes missing and sets off a chaotic search across a town awash with Halloween hijinks.
This was a theatrical release for Nickelodeon but it struggles to shake off a made-for-TV feel and while Victoria Justice makes for an appealing heroine, she lacks the comedic chops to really pull off the kind of performance this film needed. Although squarely aimed at a tween audience, “Fun Size” is desperately uneven in tone, varying wildly between sub-“Saved By The Bell” wholesome antics and Judd Apatow-style edginess, meaning it misses both of its marks and lands somewhere in a confused no-man’s-land: too adult for the kids, too childish for older teens and adults.
While the central cast are adequate and the shenanigans predictable but amusing (although credit where credit’s due the enforced slow drive by with Josh Groban blaring on the stereo is funny), it’s essentially the supporting cast which give this film what little mojo it has. Chelsea Handler brings a lot of weary pathos and deadpan humour to the character of Wren and Albert’s mum while the presence of the great Jackson Nicoll (“Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa“) as Wren’s impish little brother Albert prevents it from being overly cute or sentimental. Jonny Knoxville’s belated appearance adds an element of danger which is sorely needed and the story of his feud with Thomas Middleditch’s wronged store clerk, aided by Albert, is one of the few highlights of the film. There are, effectively, three stories going on during Halloween night and unfortunately the one we follow (Wren’s) is probably the least interesting. Providing neither big scares or big laughs, this is a Halloween disappointment on a par with getting fruit or mini toothpastes instead of candy.