Take your favorite scene from Adventures in Babysitting, soften its edges considerably, and what’s left is likely similar to the overall tone of Nickelodeon’s Fun Size, a harmless and sometimes capable film from long-time Gossip Girl writer/producer Josh Schwartz.
Victoria Justice stars as Wren, a high school student struggling to find her identity while dealing with the recent passing of her father. A brief prologue gives us a peek inside her home and the family’s coping mechanisms. Her mother (Chelsea Handler, giving the term “phoning it in” a run for its money here) seems to be suffering a mid-life crisis and attempts to mask her sorrows by dating a vacant-eyed delinquent about half her age. Wren’s little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll), meanwhile, has a borderline dangerous affinity for sweets and hasn’t spoken a word aloud since his father’s death. Wren finds herself in the undesirable position of mother hen while the family sorts through their emotions. This includes but is not limited to taking Albert trick-or-treating on the same night she’s meant to go to dreamboat Aaron Riley’s party. THE HUMANITY!
Determined not to let the little monster (or, as is the case here, one-armed Spiderman) ruin their night, Wren’s best friend April (Jane Levy of ABC’s Suburgatory and the upcoming Evil Dead remake) whines a lot while also scheming to find a way to convince or trick Wren into going to Dreamboat’s party. They manage to lose Albert almost immediately while bickering with one another at a haunted house, and the rest of the movie follows them on their shaggy mission to find him.
Using their manipulative/seductive prowess, the girls enlist the help of nerdy peers Peng and Roosevelt. Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) harbors a crush on Wren, and one touch of her hand is enough to convince him to steal his parents’ car and go on a city-wide search for Spidey. Obstacles predictably thwart them at every turn, and if you think the car is coming back in one piece, you obviously haven’t seen the superior but similar teen flick License to Drive.
Fun Size is wildly inconsistent in tone. It never seems quite sure what it wants to say or be. Gross-out gags are occasionally interspersed in an apparent attempt to temper the overt sentimentality throughout. Justice turns in an unwisely muted performance, which only proves more distracting when coupled with the shrill and obnoxious Levy. I fully understand that April is meant to be insufferable, but that doesn’t make it any easier to sit through. Mann has a few nice moments as Roosevelt, but is too often lost in the shuffle. Where the film excels is in Albert’s scenes. Wistfully wandering town looking to fill his “stash can,” he manages to make an impact on just about everyone who encounters him.
One such impacted stranger, Fuzzy, works at a convenience store that Albert strolls into. Lovelorn, earnest and desperate for friendship, Fuzzy (comedian Thomas Middleditch) is far and away the highlight of the movie. He scores some of the biggest laughs, most of which seem off-the-cuff or at least partially improvised. Whether this is the case or not, the fact that we even question it is nothing if not a compliment to his skills. Albert becomes the pint-sized accomplice as Fuzzy darts off to win back the affections of his ex-girlfriend (a tragically underused Abby Elliott), leading to slapsticky but amusing results. Riki Lindhome and an uncredited Johnny Knoxville also pop up, but neither leaves much of a lasting impression.
Things conclude as they must and a touching scene near the end is executed quite nicely. As far as coming-of-age flicks go, though, Fun Size is a mere blip on the radar.
Final Grade: C