Not much to shout about in Fun Size
Set on October 31 in Cleveland, when the entire city dons fancy dress to trick-or-treat, Fun Size is the sort of upbeat coming-of-age story that John Hughes made almost 30 years ago.
Only his portraits of teen angst - Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty In Pink, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off - were beautifully crafted around a nub of painful self-reflection.
Fun Size doesn’t concern itself with such trifles as genuine emotion.
So long as a nerdy guy with a heart of gold gets a beautiful girl by the end credits, all is well in the film’s fantasy world of rocking house parties and flatulent frat boys.
Director Josh Schwartz, executive producer on The O.C. and Gossip Girl, peddles the same wish fulfilment as those TV series, albeit with the accent firmly on broad comedy rather than brazen bed-hopping.
Wren (Victoria Justice) is thrilled when dreamboat Aaron (Thomas McDonell) invites her to his Halloween party.
“Aaron Riley - God. Stud. Legend,” she gushes in voiceover as the camera lingers on the object of her hormone-fuelled affection.
Alas, the young woman’s excitement is extinguished when her mother Joy (Chelsea Handler) reveals she is going to a party with her 27-year-old boyfriend (Josh Pence).
This condemns Wren to babysitting her destructive little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), who hasn’t spoken since their father died.
Suitably aggrieved, Wren heads into the night dressed as Dorothy from The Wizard Of Oz with best friend April (Jane Levy) and Albert, dressed as Spider-Man, in tow.
At a haunted house, Wren loses her little brother and she encourages April and debate team school mates Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) to help her search for the oddball tyke before Joy finds out.
Meanwhile, comic book-obsessed cashier Fuzzy (Thomas Middlemarch) befriends Albert and invites his costumed sidekick on a mission to win back his girlfriend Lara (Abby Elliott) from her tattooed new beau, Jorgen (Johnny Knoxville).
“Ever since you left I’ve been roommates with my misery,” Fuzzy tells Lara as his plan spins wildly out of control.
Taking its title from a slogan on Albert’s T-shirt, Fun Size doesn’t stray far from a well-trodden path of peer pressure, redemption and nervous first snogs.
Justice is suitably perky and Mann is a likeable love interest, who has held a torch for her from afar, whispering, “I love you” under his minted breath.
Levy tosses out the snarky one-liners, lamenting Roosevelt’s choice of soundtrack on his car stereo - “You are one nerd music jam away from total social suicide!” - while Nicoll affects an impish grin as he runs amok.
Set pieces involving a replica musket and a chicken drumstick, and Roosevelt’s asthmatic cat, are risible but do qualify as half-hearted attempts at invention.
by Damon Smith