A responsible girl looking to meet her crush at a Halloween party is instead saddled with watching her little brother in Fun Size, a middle-of-the-road Halloween offering.
It’s no full-size Snickers, but I guess it’s no misshapen Tootsie Roll either.
Wren (Victoria Justice) is a smart girl with a sassy friend, April (Jane Levy), and a crush on school hottie Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell). (Side note: ever notice that the unobtainable crush is always referred to only by his full name — e.g. Jordan Catalono, never just “Jordan”? Think about it, that guy you liked in the 9th grade; if you remember his name at all, you remember first and last as one thing, DocmartensMcHaircut or BaggiepantsJones. )
Wren is shocked when AaronRiley invites her to his Halloween party and so, at the insistence of April, she pulls together a not-too-trampy Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz costume and decides to go. She is almost out the door when her mom (Chelsea Handler), dressed as Britney Spears circa “...Baby One More Time,” tells Wren that she has to take little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or- treating. Wren and Albert’s father has died and their newly widowed mom has, as Wren explains, dyed her hair blonde and started dating a younger guy who calls himself Keevin (Josh Pence), rhyming with Steven. Also possibly connected to the father’s death: Albert, a roly-poly kid who likes trick-or-treating and loves a good prank, doesn’t talk. Wren begrudgingly takes Albert out but is panicked when she loses him in a haunted house. With the help of nerdy friend Roosevelt (Thomas Mann playing the Brian Krakow of this movie, since we’re talking in So Called Life terms), Wren and April, who is still trying to find a way to get them all to the party, search for Albert. Meanwhile, armed with a Spider-Man costume and fireworks, Albert sets off on an evening of his own brand of fun.
Fun Size is an odd creature. On the one hand, all its little-kid humor and rather innocent portrayal of teendom makes it feel like the kind of tween-fun that the words “Nickelodeon Movies” suggest. On the other hand, there is just enough of what the MPAA calls “crude and suggestive material” that, as I watched the movie, I decided I probably wouldn’t be recommending this one to my 12-year-old stepson. I’m sure it’s no more risque that a lot of the humor he encounters — in fact, at least one of the “crude” jokes was a sight-gag involving a car and a chicken statue that wasn’t too different from a sight gag that appeared on the season premier of Modern Family. But if I’m going to soften my standards, I’d rather do it for the smart, sweet Modern Family than for this shaky business.
Which is not to say that Fun Size isn’t sweet — it has some nice moments between Wren and Albert and even with Chelsea Handler, whose dating but still grieving widow is actually a potentially good setup for a sitcom. (It could join NBC Go On for a tragedy + time sitcom hour.) But the movie doesn’t have enough of this meatier fare, where humor and humanity mix, and has too many instances of Jane Levy (hey, you still have Suburgatory) acting like a living Bratz doll. Fun Size needs to pick a side: either more kid-friendly Goonies territory or more crudely funny The Sitter-type territory. As it is, it feels like a soft lump of comedy mush not particularly well-suited to any audience. C
Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive material, partying and language. Directed by Josh Schwartz with a screenplay by Max Werner, Fun Size is an hour and 30 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.