Fun Size is a film that doesn’t even remotely earn the first half of its title. It’s vapid, juvenile, pointless, and most alarmingly, utterly confused about what audience it’s intended for. Although it earns its PG-13 rating with a few well-placed swears, some mature themes, and a couple of very crude visuals, it’s at heart so innocent and uncomplicated that only slight editorial tweaks would have made it suitable for a Nickelodeon made-for-TV special – and wouldn’t you know it, the film is a Nickelodeon Studios production. Most of the plot is so insubstantial that entire scenes evaporate from memory before they come to an end. The rest shows an astounding lack of insight on the part of the filmmakers, who have some incredibly wrong ideas about what is and is not funny, even for a story geared towards younger audiences.
It’s Halloween in Cleveland, and teenage best friends Wren (Victoria Justice) and April (Jane Levy) have finally been invited to a party hosted by Wren’s crush, the popular hunk Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonnell). April, a remarkably shallow young woman whose only concern is her social standing at school, is especially excited to go. But then Wren’s mother, Joy (Chelsea Handler), drops a bombshell: She too is going to a Halloween party. This means that Wren will have to watch her kid brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), a chubby little prankster who reads Manga novels, spends virtually the entire film in a Spider-Man costume, and is addicted to candy. Things get worse when Wren and Albert get separated in a haunted house. He wanders into a convenience store and immediately befriends a college-age employee named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch), a socially inept geek who ropes him into a scheme to take revenge on his ex-girlfriend.
Already, this is so very wrong. Exactly where is the humor in enticing an eight-year-old boy into being an accomplice to a prank, which, incidentally, escalates into further misadventures? But there are other major problems at work, here. Consider the reason why Joy is attending a party: She’s going with her new boyfriend, a much younger man named Keevin, who she has been dating since the death of her husband. This inappropriately tragic subplot works its way into the lives of Wren, who wants to attend NYU, her father’s alma mater, and Albert, who hasn’t spoken a word since his father’s death and now takes to stuffing firecrackers and cherry bombs in his socks just in case he needs them. This is not healthy behavior for a child to be exhibiting, and yet the filmmakers dismiss it as mere comedy relief.
But wait, it gets even worse. After being picked up by a teenage girl dressed as his favorite Manga character, she takes him to a club and exposes him to people doing shots and dancing lewdly. He then has a run-in with an MMA thug who pushes him to the ground and threatens to beat him. Later on, this man will have Albert locked in a closet for successfully setting off his stash of firecrackers. Was I the only one who found this disturbing? Apparently so; everyone in the theater assumed these were all innocent gags in a youth-oriented movie. The thug – who, to the best of my recollection, is not given a name – is played by an uncredited Johnny Knoxville. As to why he wasn’t given a screen credit, I have absolutely no idea. I do know that he has children of his own, so I’m appalled he wasn’t repulsed by this role when it was offered to him. You can’t make light of a child predator, not even if you turn him into a slapstick buffoon.
As they search for Albert across the city, Wren and April eventually team up with unpopular class nerds Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau), in large part because Roosevelt has a car. April sees this as social suicide, although she will in due time fall for Peng, who’s dressed in an Aaron Burr costume. And yes, Wren will fall for Roosevelt, as they both share an interest in Supreme Court judges. We eventually meet Roosevelt’s lesbian parents (Ana Gasteyer and Keri Kenny), two of the year’s cruelest stereotypes, and his twelve-year-old cat, who has asthma and goes into wheezing fits around scented products like lotions or perfumes. And wouldn’t you know it, April had just that afternoon used Nair on her butt, so the cat nearly dies gasping for air when she enters the room. Roosevelt will inevitably wreck his mothers’ car, making for a particularly awkward moment in the parking lot of a fried chicken restaurant.
Does this sound like a movie you’d willingly pay to see? Although it works primarily in vulgar sight gags and needless displays of child endangerment, there are select moments so soppy and sincere that, for a split second, I considered the possibility that scenes from an entirely different movie had somehow been spliced in. I no longer have the mental energy to speculate on whether or not such an occurrence would have been an improvement. You really do have to marvel at some producers; even after reading a script for a movie like this, they’re still motivated to get the project financed. What bizarro universe are these people living in? Oh my God, but Fun Size is a bad movie. I live in hope that its very existence is nothing more than a Halloween prank, one the cast and crew will probably get over much sooner than I will.