[Review] – Fun Size

6 Nov

Title: Fun Size
Year: 2012
Director: Josh Schwartz
Writer: Max Werner
Starring: Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Thomas McDonell, Chelsea Handler, Thomas Mann, Josh Pence, Johnny Knoxville, Ana Gasteyer, Osric Chau
MPAA Rating: PG-13, crude and suggestive material, partying, and language
Runtime: 86 min
IMDb Rating: 4.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 24%
Metacritic: 38

Nickelodeon Movies has been around since 1996 and has released over 20 films since then. It’s newest theatrical output, Fun Size, however, stands as the sole film they’ve released on theaters that has received a PG-13 rating, one that, you would imagine, doesn’t go particularly well with the brand this studio has carefully built through TV and the films it’s made, many of which are based precisely on those successful television franchises like Rugrats and SpongeBob SquarePants.

Fun Size also marks another “first time” event, the first time Josh Schwartz has stepped behind the camera to direct a movie, with his Fake Empire Productions also stepping in to produce. Mr. Schwartz is, for those unaware, quite a force in the TV world, especially as far as teenage users are concerned. When he was 26 he became the youngest person in network history to create a series and be its day-to-day showrunner with The O.C., a show that, admittedly, had a huge influence on me when I was younger. Since then he’s spearheaded the developments of Chuck over at NBC as well as Gossip Girl and Hart of Dixie over at The CW where he has two new shows in development.

Anyways, the film was released this past Halloween and has a Halloween theme to it. You have Wren, the lead character played by Victoria Justice (who grew up in the Nickelodeon family), this sarcastic high school senior who really just wants to leave town and go off to college but must deal with one more Halloween where she grew up. Her widowed mess of a mother tells her that she must babysit her little brother while she goes off to a party with her much younger boyfriend, which is a problem considering Wren’s just been invited to an awesome party by her crush, Aaron, played by Thomas McDonell.

As movie luck would have it Wren loses her kid brother in a haunted house as they’re trick-or-treating and must find him before her mom finds out he’s missing. She enlists her friend April, as well as Peng who’s the debate team captain and Roosevelt, Peng’s nerdy best friend who crushes hard on Wren. If you think you know exactly how this one’s going to go then chances are you’re absolutely right, Fun Size follows its formula to a tee and just loves playing it safe as well as feeling like so many 80’s teen comedies we’ve seen time and time again.

By which I mean that it’s a totally disposable movie that, to be fair, probably would have played better as a Halloween special on Nickelodeon. I do think, by the way, that the whole Nickelodeon connection actually hurt this movie a bit. Yes, it’s the first PG-13 outing from that studio but you do get the sense that even though this one tries to be all rebellious to appeal to teens it also feels like it has the responsibility to be all hyperactive to appeal to kids as well. It’s like Mr. Schwartz was making a light version of something that was already light, like he was making a Nickelodeon version of one of his CW projects.

That’s the bad part, because it has to be said out front since I don’t recommend this movie, but I do have to admit that, for brief flashes of time, there’s some fun to be had with this movie. The screenplay from Max Werner, when it actually knows exactly what kind of movie it wants to be (which, granted, isn’t often enough) actually showcases tremendous amounts of wit, which shouldn’t really come as that much of a surprise when you consider Mr. Werner’s pedigree as an Emmy-nominated staff writer for The Colbert Report.

The cast, also, has some really cool people that do the best they can with the material they’re given and that, from time to time, really make this one quite fun. You have Jane Levy, who I have a crush on and love from ABC‘s Suburgatory, as April, as well as a lot of really neat faces in smaller supporting roles, including Ms. Levy’s Suburgatory co-star Ana Gasteyer as well as Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler. I do, however, have to admit that Victoria Justice didn’t do it for me at all and felt like she had no tangible personality whatsoever.

It really is just too bad that this film is so over the place for any of the good bits about it to really stick, I thought it didn’t concern itself with any kind of details and I thought it was just hopelessly immature. It’s really all about the foursome just hanging out and the worn-out dynamics of their characters with every so often a hint of worry splashing across Wren’s face to remind us that there’s a narrative here and that they’re really looking for her brother which doesn’t matter because not for one second do you believe there’s even the tiniest of chances that they won’t find him.

I like Josh Schwartz a good deal, and I will forever be thankful to him for The O.C. and Chuck, but his first attempt at a feature film was just quite sucky. The tone was just always inconsistent, as though he was trying to go for a John Hughes vibe with a few edgy references sprinkled in but always being bogged down by the Nickelodeon censors or something. In the end that just made it feel too over the place, half of its story lines being made for a more mature audiences and then the other half being peppered with juvenile gags. Still, he should try again, maybe get that Looking for Alaska adaptation he’s had brewing for a while off the ground.

Grade: C

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