Halloween-themed comedies are mostly reserved to the small screen format. In their heyday shows like Roseanne and Home Improvement would try to one-up themselves by having the best Halloween-themed episode of the year. You also have The Simpsons’ famed “Treehouse of Horror” installments. Lately, Community and Modern Family have taken the mantle of current television comedies that embrace the shenanigans of Halloween.
Movie-wise, however, Halloween comedies are about as prevalent as seeing the Loch Ness Monster or Sasquatch. While humorous horror comedies do happen, having the story set at Halloween is an all too rare occurrence.
So the arrival of Fun Size presents an opportunity to become the Home Alone of All Hallow’s Eve. Unfortunately, this PG-13 comedy lacks edge and the jokes are far from the laughing kind (yeah, it’s not creepy at all that a convenience store clerk would take a parentless eight-year-old trick-or-treater for a joy ride to go toilet paper an ex’s apartment).
Victoria Justice, star of Nickelodeon’s Victorious, jumps from the small screen to the big screen in Fun Size. Not much of a leap, really; it’s a Nickelodeon movie that would have been better off as a TV episode. She plays Wren, a Cleveland high school senior who has dreams of attending NYU, the same university her dear departed father attended. He was her inspiration, teaching her that college is where you find out who you really are. The problem with this is making people believe that Wren is unpopular. Her beauty alone would vault her up the popularity totem pole. Though, she does give off a hot nerd vibe, like a present day Winnie Cooper. Wren’s idea of a cool Halloween costume is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (Avert your eyes from the screen when she suggests “Sexy Ruth Bader Ginsburg.”)
Wren may be oblivious to most in her peers, but it turns out the hunky heartbreaker, Aaron (Thomas McDonell), fancies her and invites Wren to his Halloween costume bash. Things are starting to go right for the young lass that is until her oblivious mother (Chelsea Handler without her fangs or snarkiness) leaves Wren in charge of her little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll), a portly, uncommunicative eight-year-old who has a fondness for instigating epic pranks and the comic “Galaxy Scout.” This is so mom can go to her own Halloween bash with 26-year-old boyfriend Keevin. Yes, his name is Keevin. Poor Handler – defanged and wearing a Brittany Spears costume to get her groove back.
As Wren and her BFF April (Suburgatory’s Jane Levy in sexy kitty attire) take little Albert door to door, the pint-sized, Spider-Man costume wearing hellraiser vanishes. The comedy switches to Adventures in Babysitting mode with a series of misadventures that fail to elicit laughs. The situations lack cleverness and credibility. Most of Albert’s misadventures are with Thomas Middleditch’s Fuzzy – the convenience store clerk mentioned earlier – who seems to have missed the Scooby-Doo movie by like a decade. This mop-top would have fit right in as Shaggy.
More characters get involved with the search for Albert, including Wren’s school pal, Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), his lesbian moms (Ana Gasteyer and Kerri Kenney-Silver) and his best friend Peng (Osric Chau). A certain “Jackass” also makes an unbilled cameo appearance and of course meets his match in Albert.
Josh Schwartz, who made a name for himself being one of the youngest TV showrunners in history when he created The O.C. at age 26, makes his feature film debut with Fun Size. In a recent Entertainment Weekly he talked about his comedy inspirations. They include the already identified Home Alone and Adventures in Babysitting, as well as John Hughes movies and The Goonies.
Inspirations are well and good, but it’s one thing to aspire be like those comedies and it’s another to make something that’s as good. So I look at the screenplay and see it was written by one of the writers of The Colbert Report. Apparently, his inspirations weren’t simpatico with Schwartz. Either that or kids in the ‘80s and early ‘90s were much cooler than they are nowadays.
Fun Size is a comedy misfire of missed opportunities. Sure it may have made for stunt casting, but if you are going to have a Babysitting adventure, why not have Elisabeth Shue play the oblivious mom character. Granted me and other charter members of the I Love the ‘80s Club would have gotten the joke, but at least it would be trying. Actually, the comedy only works on an observational level that’s not at all humor related. Like when Aaron dresses up as Capt. Jack Sparrow for Halloween. Turns out that Thomas McDonell played young Barnabus Collins in Tim Burton’s Dark Shadows. (Johnny Depp was adult size Barnabus.) Or being able to spot the character actor that played Manumana in the football comedy Necessary Roughness, back when Sinbad was popular and Jason Bateman was better known as David Hogan.
Sure it may be sad that this is the stuff I find most memorable about this Nickelodeon comedy. Would it have been too much to ask for Big Pete and Little Pete Wrigley to have cameos? Okay, my nerdism is showing. I’ll stop now.
Director: Josh Schwartz
Writer: Max Werner
Notable Cast: Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Chelsea Handler, Thomas Mann, Jackson Nicoll , Osric Chau, Thomas McDonell, Thomas Middleditch