'Fun Size': Treat for tweens, tricky for adults
By Glenn Kenny, Special to MSN Movies
There is not a whole lot for adults to actively enjoy in "Fun Size," the new tween comedy from Nickelodeon Movies. There's a good deal of sharp, funny stuff in it, to be sure. Although its high school heroine Wren, played by Victoria Justice, is a fair sight more than just cute, the movie's worldview favors intelligence and quick-wittedness over physical beauty, and the character is both witty and wise. She's kind of holding her family together after the recent death of its patriarch. This tragedy has sent her mom into emotional tailspins: As the movie starts on the day of Halloween, her mom (Chelsea Handler) is dating an inappropriately younger man. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), is not speaking even as he pulls the odd prank. The movie's opening finds pudgy, borderline creepy Albert sitting on the toilet as sister Wren showers: shades of the '80s horror near-classic "The Funhouse."
Did I say there wasn't much for adults in this movie? Maybe not aesthetically, but perhaps sociologically/anthropologically. As the above-described scene implies, Nickelodeon Movies has been taking some calculated risks with its young-person's comedies, content-wise. While never reaching full-on John Hughes levels (and we should recall here that "Sixteen Candles" earned its PG rating three months before the national minimum drinking age was raised to 21), "Fun Size" goes further in depicting how real teens are likely to behave, whether we like it or not, than has been the wont of such essentially wholesome fare. And wholesome it is, essentially.
The plot sees smart Wren torn between the affections of hunky-but-shallow Aaron (Thomas McDonell) and smart-and-sensitive Roosevelt (Thomas Mann, no relation as far as I know) and trying to keep her wildish girlfriend April (Jane Levy) in check. When Mom plops the care of little Albert for the evening in Wren's lap, and then Wren loses Albert, the movie's plot turns into a transposition of "Superbad," with a little "Adventures in Babysitting" thrown in.
It isn't unbearable. Not only is Justice appealing, her character's observations, concocted by screenwriter Max Werner, are frequently funny and apt. "Apparently, dating a 26-year-old is one of the seven stages of grief," she notes of her mom early on. The adult members of the cast, who besides Handler include Abby Elliott, Kerri Kenney-Silver, Ana Gasteyer, Thomas Middleditch and an uncredited Johnny Knoxville, contribute funny stuff. The first Beastie Boys album actually serves as a significant plot point. While these touches ensure that "Fun Size" should not be an unbearable experience for parents taking their kids to see it, they don't add up to the extent that you'd necessarily actually want to pay money to see the movie as an adult unaccompanied by teens or small children. Also, come to think of it, if you did opt to do that, you'd probably get a lot of funny looks from people from the box office on. Your call, I guess.
Glenn Kenny is chief film critic for MSN Movies. He was the chief film
critic for Premiere magazine from 1998 to 2007. He contributes to various
publications and websites, and blogs at http://somecamerunning.typepad.com.
He lives in Brooklyn.