Fun Size (Paramount Pictures, PG-13)

funsize 75It’s balanced on the tightrope between interesting-train-wreck bad and boring-and-stupid bad.

 

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As it turns out, there’s a category of quality between so-bad-it’s-good and just plain bad-bad; I don’t recall ever coming across it before. This is the rating that the new “family” Halloween movie Fun Size fits into—it’s absolutely heinous but weirdly amusing (for the wrong reasons) and, in the end, hard to recommend or condemn because it’s balanced on the tightrope between interesting-train-wreck bad and boring-and-stupid bad.

Fun Size is a quick story about a young girl named Wren (Victoria Justice) who loses her mute and mischievous baby brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) on Halloween, and instead of going to a big party at a cute guy’s house, she and her awful friend April (Jane Levy, looking like a poor man’s Emma Stone) were hoping to attend, they have to track down crazy old Albert. However, that description makes Wren sound worse than she actually is, what with being motivated exclusively by parties and cute boys and all, which is one of the confusing things about the movie: It often feels like the writer actually maybe wrote a halfway decent script originally, and somewhere along the line, a lot of idiotic producers came in and forced them to dumb it up really bad.

But anyway, Wren is actually pretty smart and respectable, first wanting to dress as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Halloween (a feminist whom Wren admires), and then settling to at least just not dress revealingly, as most other girls her age tend to on Halloween (April’s dressed as a “sexy kitten,” by way of contrast). Wren finally settles on dressing as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz. Meanwhile, to get back to the production designer thing, one can’t help but notice odd treasures in her bedroom. For example, she has the modern classic Please Kill Me, Legs McNeil’s seminal oral history of the punk movement, prominently on her bookshelf, and she plays Dark Side of the Moon on vinyl. Her character’s supposed to be 17 or 18—those are interesting cultural references for a teenage girl in a Nickelodeon movie.

Which brings me to another point: Who the hell is the target audience for this thing?  It’s a Nickelodeon movie and Justice is a Nickelodeon star, but it’s rated PG-13 and contains some surprisingly questionable material.  To name a few examples, there’s your run-of-the-mill cussing (some “shit”s and a “bitch” or two), but there’s also a supposed “good guy” who has a loaded gun as part of his costume that he likes to play with. And April’s a bad influence all over the place. We find out that she’s Naired her butt in anticipation of the party (they leave it to you to deduce why), and also at one point, she’s being detained against her will in a car by some male “friends,” and bargains with them to let her get out by offering to let them touch her boob. (She eventually accepts a counter offer to touch it for 15 seconds on a cold day.)  Good luck explaining all of this stuff you your young ones when they ask. Meanwhile, though, the movie seems pitched pretty squarely at people too young for that kind of stuff. The humor by and large is incredibly juvenile and stupid, to the point that anyone over 13 or so probably wouldn’t want to see it because the whole thing seems too kiddie.

On the upside, though, most of the cast is good. The only other thing I’ve seen Justice in is The First Time, which opened in limited release (though not in St. Louis) last weekend, and that movie is strong, as is she in it. As such, I’m willing to give her a pass on this. Chelsea Handler pops up as her mom, which I’m okay with, though she couldn’t look less like someone who could ever be related to Victoria Justice. And the main reason I wanted to see the movie in the first place is the presence of Johnny Knoxville as Jorgen, the bad guy who is dressed as Dog the Bounty Hunter for Halloween, which is really funny to me for some reason. In the end, though, the most memorable thing about the movie (if you’re being optimistic, anyway) is young Jackson Nicoll, who has a very expressive face and does a lot with the dumb stuff he has to work with here.  His presence, along with the plot, make me think of what could have been if Jonah Hill had starred in Labyrinth, but that the end result was closer in quality to Hill’s The Sitter. | Pete Timmermann

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