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Entries in Fun Size [2012] (1)

Saturday
Oct272012

Fun Size (2012)

Minor Accomplishments

Being a parent is hard, especially if you're a film critic. Here's a good example that I'm sure everyone in the first world will not only relate to, but empathize with on the level that inspires relief funds.

Yesterday, after a full morning of pre-pre-Christmas shopping in a city that is not my own, I realized it was too close to noon to make it back from the mall with my brood and then return to the same mall for the early-bird matinee. I suggested that my wife drop me off at the theatre instead, which she did. I kissed her and my son goodbye, and headed right for the ticket booth.

"One for Cloud Atlas, please," I asked.

"Sorry," said the kid behind the glass, "the noon one's been canceled."

"Canceled?"

"Yeah, projector's broken. Should be up for the four o'clock."

My brain short-circuited, realizing that I was effectively stranded for at least two hours, but probably three (for reasons more boring than the anecdote you're scrolling past right now). I stepped aside and frantically looked for anything else starting at or around 12pm.

While hilarious, I'm sure, Tyler Perry's Alex Cross came out last week--meaning it wasn't current enough to count as a new weekend review. There was no way in hell I'd give Chasing Mavericks a dime or my time.* That left only one choice:

"Um, one for Fun Size, please," I mumbled, looking everywhere but in the ticket master's eyes.

He started to type something into his console, and paused for a fraction of a second to eyeball me. It wasn't so much an "Are you sure?" look, or an "Are you serious?" look, as it was, "Hey, man, there's gonna be kids in there. Do I need to call the cops?"

In an instant, he registered the defeat on my face and printed out a ticket.

Twenty minutes later, after having survived the trailers for Twilight: Part Four: Part Two and the Red Dawn remake, the feature started. Unfortunately, the feature started with a full-length Carly Rae Jepsen music video--which is, I guess, the ear-stabbing, tween-flick equivalent of a Pixar short.

Sorry, I'm just now getting around to writing about the movie itself. The trouble is, Fun Size is such a product of the films that inspired it that there's very little to consider. Victoria Justice plays Wren, the kind of super-hot, super-nerdy high school girl who only exists in movies. She and her best friend April (Jane Levy) want nothing more than to get invited to super-cute Aaron Riley's (Thomas McDonnell) Halloween party--much to the dismay of Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), Wren's dorky soulmate who can't hardly wait to express his love for her.

Sadly, Wren's mom (Chelsea Handler) has a hot date with her young-stud boyfriend and has saddled her daughter with watching her younger brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll). While trick-or-treating at a haunted house, Albert turns up missing. Wren, figuring she'd be better off dead than to return home without her mute, mischievous sibling, embarks on several adventures in babysitting. She teams up with April, Roosevelt, and Roosevelt's Reserved-But-Secretly-Freaky Asian Sidekick, Peng (Osric Chau) to find Albert, foil a pair of 'roided-up bullies, and, hopefully, return Roosevelt's moms' car, which he stole with barely a license to drive. All of this plays to an infinite playlist of soulful, emo, indie-ness, available now on iTunes.

(Not for sale, I hope, is Wren's impromptu street rap, which gave me the kind of uncomfortable flashbacks to Teen Witch that make the passivity of sitting in a movie theatre feel like complicity in a murder--never a good way to spend Friday afternoon.)

In order, I'm sure, to avoid lawsuits and/or industry-wide derision, screenwriter Max Werner and director Josh Schwartz drop a couple of "B" stories into the mix, including Albert's odd relationship with a lovelorn convenience store clerk (Thomas Middleditch, the best thing in the movie, next to Levy's leopard-print bra**) and Wren's mom's struggle to get over her husband's mysterious death. Neither add up to more than the kind of loud, colorful, and occasionally smirk-worthy distractions that Yo! Gabba Gabba became famous for.

Having said all that, I can't tell whether or not Fun Size is a bad movie. It may be the perfect coming-of-age film for kids who've yet to either come of age or watch coming-of-age films. I'm so far removed from my pubescent self that I'm not qualified to declare Victoria Justice a second-rate Molly Ringwald. She may be a first-rate Molly Ringwald for kids who grew up thinking the QWERTY keyboard is just a puzzle from which emoticons are formed. Most of her big-screen vehicle was familiar to me, but not offensively, boringly so. The cast treats the material as if it were revolutionary (even Johnny Knoxville, who appears to be on his ninetieth farewell tour of pop culture), and the dialogue is just edgy enough to make me feel uncomfortable as a parent because the word "bitch" is so brazenly used by children.

It's untrue to say that the film did nothing for me. Towards the end, when Wren takes Albert to their father's grave on the way home from their wild night out, I got a bit misty-eyed. Yeah, I gave in to a movie that wears its heart on its too-borrowed sleeve. Fun Size isn't original, but it's a solid tribute to the earnest high school movies of years past, made for a generation of teens who might see The Breakfast Club as people my age saw Leave it to Beaver. In a perfect world, filmmakers and studios would serve up more to mainstream audiences than decades-old storylines, but it's unfair to make this movie a target. I could say the same about romantic comedies, slasher movies, and most of what still passes for big-screen science fiction.

For now, I'm happy to have seen and written about Fun Size, a movie that's not nearly as interesting as razor blades in a candied apple or as troubling as candy corn. It's a small, easily digested treat that, come November first, will be completely out of my system.

*For the record, this does not violate my "I'll Watch Anything" rule. I simply have priorities--and all the patience of a hundreds-deep Netflix queue.

**It's okay, guys. She's totally legal.