Fun Size Directed by: Josh Schwartz Cast: Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Thomas Mann, Thomas Middleditch, Jackson Nickoll Running Time: 1 hr 30 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: October 26, 2012
PLOT: A high school girl (Justice) loses her younger brother (Nickoll) while being asked to babysit him on Halloween night.
WHO'S IT FOR? Fun Size is a rockier PG-13 than one might expect, so parents should keep that in mind before loading up the van with tweens and teens to multiplex world. For all you rebellious tweens, here's something you might like.
EXPECTATIONS: I had little idea of what to expect going in, except for the idea that this was Justice's first movie. It's always curious to see new headlining talent — would Justice prove herself to be something fresh? Is there any chance that this could be her Easy A?
Victoria Justice as Wren: Her first time leading a feature film with wide theatrical release, this isn't an appearance that proves Justice has any spark playing a teenage girl who is stuck between cute boys, is unsure of her own identity, etc. For the most part she's just fine, yet in other situations she can show stiffness in the part, especially during some interactions with her friends April and Roosevelt. Score: 4
Jane Levy as April: She's a socially conscious redhead meant to fill in the role of popularity-worried sidekick. April is also used by Fun Size to up the PG-13 ante, with her mentioning of the product Nair and her private regions, along with her Halloween-typical costume of being a slutty cat. Despite the brashness of this character, she does not succeed in getting shock laughter. Score: 4
Thomas Mann as Roosevelt: Having been seen last March in the similar Project X, Mann turns out to be the most colorful of characters in Fun Size, without letting his post-Michael Cera charm feel like it's begging to be liked too much. Like other elements of Fun Size, he is being put through the teen comedy wringer, but emerges most victorious as a unique character with a fine performance considering the small material he is working with. Score: 5
Thomas Middleditch as Fuzzy: He's the wacky older teen who relates more to a little kid than anyone of his age. So even though Justice is the one who has literally had a kid's TV show to her name, this is the character that will remind viewers most of this story's juvenile inspirations — he's the one who seems to be playing it up most for the absent canned laughter. Score: 3
Jackson Nickoll as Albert: Considering the audience for this movie, it doesn't seem like this tiny terrorist is a type of character necessary for the viewers, but is only there to create events that will fill up running time. This Dennis the Menace of the Autotune era's appetite for destruction is quickly unamusing, especially with its forced sense of innocence as a "La la la" musical motif accompanies his every deleterious move. This character keeps his anarchy as babyish (instead of caustically adult like the tweens in The Sitter). Oh, and you can blame him for the silly movie title, per the shirt he wears at the end of the movie. Score: 3
TALKING: The non-PC attitude of Fun Size is expressed through the movie's dialogue, which covers topics like boobs, boob touching, things coming out of butts, references to cocaine usage, calling Cleveland "the mistake by the lake," a young African American boy calling Wren "bitch," jokes about Ruth Bader Ginsberg's sexual appeal, allusions to pedophilia, and more. In an effort to show general story awareness of top of all this, Fun Size's dialogue is guilty of overdoing the wink thing (such as when Mann drops his orange soda in front of his desired Wren, and says "My Crush!"), but like the rest of the humor in this movie, it falls flat. Score: 3
SIGHTS: In terms of tactless editing and equally indifferent cinematography, Fun Size has a very bland look to it, one that beckons another mention to the film's aesthetic roots to cable channel sitcoms. With this regard, Fun Size would have been better off as a TV movie. Score: 2
SOUNDS: The Fun Size soundtrack has a mix of hip tunes, old and new, from Beastie Boys' "Fight for Your Right" to Passion Pit's "Love is Greed." Though the movie is largely led by mellow tunes of the alternative variety, lest this movie not show its pop roots, "This Kiss" by Carly Rae Jepsen plays during the movie's credits. Score: 4
BEST SCENE: I think I laughed when I saw the Obama sticker on the car belonging to Mann's on-screen moms (Ana Gasteyer and Kerri Kenney).
ENDING: Albert speaks. Joy.
REWATCHABILITY: Probably never again, which is fine. I'd be most interested in watching it again to re-witness the film's horrible visuals.
A Project X for tweens slowly phasing out of canned laughter Nickelodeon sitcoms, Fun Size has the wacky characters of a sitcom, but without the immediate family friendliness. This is a transitional project that attempts to grow Justice with her demographic, who have now started to add Passion Pit to their middle school dance playlists, while pondering the potential of their first make out session. The chaos comes so naturally in Fun Size from scene to scene, and with such a hip understanding that it might indeed hit well with its target audience; maybe it's the parents who will get the wrong idea.
The script for Fun Size is essentially a chain of contrived events that keeps piling on to keep characters busy so that a problem is always at hand, even if said events lack any comedy bite. By some type of miracle, this piling does work for the Fun Size, as it at least makes this movie's running time go much faster than it should for a film that is so laugh-less. Fun Size might only have its recklessness to show for creativity, and it also might feel like an exercise in educating PG-13 moviegoers on teen movie clichés, but it isn't slow.
One would be remiss without mentioning that underneath all of the zip-zop-a-zippidy-doo wackiness in Fun Size is the actually sad story of a family whose unity is lost to dysfunction after the father figure dies. The mother (played by Chelsea Handler) has started a relationship with a younger man in hopes of moving on, the son has stopped talking entirely, and the daughter clings to a jacket her father wore, while also feeling guilt for possibly going off to college away from the broken family. Really dark stuff. It's a focus choice which doesn't seem to serve a purpose in Fun Size but to attempt to sarcastically present a family in emotional chaos after a grave loss. In the scheme of this movie's insistence on being non-PC, it's probably the most bizarre concept, and certainly its most amusing risk.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10