“Fun Size,” written by Max Werner, directed by Josh Schwartz, 90 minutes, rated PG-13.
It’s hard to tell if “Fun Size,” the latest film from Paramount’s Nickelodeon branch, is intended for children, teenagers, or if it’s just really uncertain as to what its demographic is.
Josh Schwartz’s film takes us to Cleveland (yes, Joakim Noah, Cleveland), where we meet Wren (Victoria Justice), a book-smart high-schooler with a few dreams: Studying at NYU like her deceased father did, escaping her abnormal life for just one night on Halloween and, of course, going to a party held by her crush, Aaron Riley.
But when it comes to the party, there’s a roadblock in the form of her chunky, 8-year-old prankster brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), who hasn’t spoken since his father’s death. Blindsided by her mother, Joy (Chelsea Handler), who’s in the midst of a widow’s crisis, Wren is put in charge of babysitting Albert while her mom goes out with a group of 20-somethings.
Decked out in her Dorothy costume with sparkly red Converse, Wren takes to the streets with her one-armed Spider-Man brother for some trick-or-treating. But with her mind on the party, she loses Albert in a crowd, and has to rely on the help of two nerdy acquaintances (Thomas Mann and Osric Chau), and her best friend, April, (Jane Levy) to track him down.
While Wren and her friends face one silly, somewhat amusing obstacle after another, Albert is having the night of his life helping his new, fanboy buddy Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) get revenge on the girl who broke his heart.
With “Fun Size,” Schwartz tries to replicate the feel and success of “Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist,” taking one night in these teenagers’ lives and turning it into a roller coaster of adventure, comedy, and ultimately, romance. But “Fun Size” lacks the intelligence or independence of “Nick and Norah,” substituting it with a childish, and often crude sense of humor.
The problem for “Fun Size” is that it never commits to an audience, trying to sell itself to both children and teenagers, but its unlikely to connect with either. It certainly isn’t a kids movie, with jokes and references that are just out of their league, and with the Nickelodeon label, it’s not really for teens either.
The good news is that “Fun Size” embraces its youthfulness and silliness, with an energy that is like 90 minutes of Pop Rocks. It even manages to throw in a few Beastie Boys references.
The film also marks the debut of Nickelodeon starlet Victoria Justice as a big-screen lead. This is a good transition for her, portraying a character with quite a few similarities to her Nick persona, but with enough difference to establish herself as Victoria Justice, and not just Tori Vega. It’s similar to what Zac Efron did with “17 Again,” and it’s a smart move with a safety net built in. Those are the types of moves a young star makes to build a strong base for a bright future.
Although it can be somewhat lowbrow, the film is called “Fun Size” for a reason. It’s like a sugar high. It doesn’t have much substance, and it doesn’t last long, but when you’re in the moment, it’s not bad.