What a sad family portrait this is. A high-school student named Wren (Victoria Justice) who can’t wait to escape her town and go to college lives in a household where the father has died, her younger brother—a mixture of childhood obesity and emotional repression named Albert—hasn’t spoken in about a year, while her mother (Chelsea Handler) openly struggles with a midlife crisis in which she’s dating a mid-20s pretty boy named Keevin (the joke is that his name mixes both Kevin and Steven, get it?).
Set in Cleveland on Halloween, “Fun Size” takes this family dynamic and stretches it across an uncomfortable narrative that follows Wren’s search for Albert after he runs off while trick-or-treating, a responsibility given to Wren by her mother so the latter can attend a Halloween party being held in the basement of Keevin’s obnoxious friend’s parents.
While Wren joins up with her best friend, April (Jane Levy)—donning an over-sexualized cat outfit and persistently focused on getting to the mythical “Aaron Riley’s party”—and two “nerds” (Thomas Mann and Osric Chau) in the search for her brother, endlessly obvious themes begin their setup.
Will Wren find her brother, possibly cracking his silence and digging into how the youngster feels about the death of his father? Will Wren’s mother finally realize that being forced to down shots by a 26-year-old man in a teddy bear costume who proceeds to fart on you is not the proper lifestyle for a single mother?
Will Wren, through her search, discover that perhaps Aaron Riley’s party isn’t the most important thing? Is it possible these “nerds” might be the best friends she ever had?
But perhaps the most important question is—who on earth is this movie for? Delivered by Nickelodeon studios with one of their featured stars, Victoria Justice, leading the cast, the film carries a balance of elementary immaturity and raunchy aspirations that are never justified.
It’s a PG-rated story within a PG-13 container; a film rated as such because it so often inappropriately teeters the line between the age groups it’s attempting to satisfy. But I don’t think this group actually exists.
It’s a super tame wannabe of “Superbad” that paints high school as something sanitized slightly and fantasized fully. The younger, Nickelodeon crowd will find the movie amusing when it contains jokes about bodily functions and giant, mechanical chickens humping cars (don’t ask), but parents are likely to find many of its suggestive plots too much for their children who haven’t even entered high school yet—including an implied drunken hookup and a high school male’s glorified achievement of getting to second base.
Other than that, teens actually in high school or young adults with a recent enough memory of the ordeal will call complete bull on most of how the period is presented in “Fun Size.” Tossing a few swear words into the mix does not make the film seem more edgy or adult—if anything it knocks it down a few age ranks. “Fun Size” is for absolutely nobody in particular, its intended audience destroyed by the film’s own destructive decisions in the storytelling department.
Plus it’s hard to take a film seriously that places so much emphasis on what happens on this singular night of high school, Halloween hijinks, when in its opening minutes it clearly states that, “High school doesn’t matter. College is where you find out who you truly are.” My guess is that the movie never graduated or got its GED, because it is absolutely clueless on how to locate its identity.
And as a result, it’s crud—perfectly unpleasant fluff that offers a few good moments in a mess of horrible ones. “Fun Size” is a king-size headache, the kind of sugary poison that news reports would warn parents to check before their kids dig into their candy stash post trick-or-treat. In short, it’s the cinematic equivalent of a razor blade hidden in a chocolate bar.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.