FUN SIZE – The Review
A teen comedy alive with the spirit of John Hughes, FUN SIZE is one of the funniest and most surprisingly satisfying films I’ve seen this year. Imagine if Hughes had directed SUPERBAD and you might get a decent approximation of the appeal and high-spirit of FUN SIZE. Advertised as a ‘tween’ comedy and starring actors from Nickelodeon and other TV shows, this PG-13 film is good for all ages and like Hughes’ films, it’s a great movie not just for those who are teenagers but also for those who remember what it was like to be one.
FUN SIZE centers on bright high school senior Wren (Victoria Justice), who has recently lost her father. She is eager to distance herself from her mother Joy (Chelsea Handler) and plump annoying little brother Albert by ditching Cleveland and heading off to college in New York. Joy insists that she watch the Spiderman-clad Albert (Jackson Nicoll) on Halloween night so Joy can go out with her much younger boyfriend Keevan (Josh Pence). Wren balks but the stakes are laid out clearly: Joy lets her know she needs to start acting more mature and if she comes home without her brother, chances are her NYU dream is kaput. When Wren gets distracted by an invitation to a party hosted by Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell), the school’s most popular boy, Albert disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. Frantic to locate him before their mother discovers he’s missing, Wren enlists the help of her sassy best friend April (Jane Levy), as well as Peng (Osric Chao), an aspiring ladies man and co-captain of the debate team, and Peng’s best friend, Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), a sweet nerd with a crush on Wren. This unlikely foursome embarks on a high-stakes, all-night adventure to find Albert, encountering a whole host of obstacles and quirky characters along the way.
Following a bunch of connected people around during the craziness of one Halloween night is a great concept to center a plot around because it’s so inherently theatrical as everyone’s dressed up and they’re all acting like somebody they’re not. FUN SIZE is often hilarious and has an energy to it that few films have. First time director Josh Schwartz (a TV vet who created THE GILMORE GIRLS among others) wisely avoids reducing the protagonists to caricatures. Part of this is due to the smartness of the zippy screenplay by Max Werner rife with satire, knowing one-liners and just the right amount of preachy moralism (very little). One thing that Werner has going for him is dialogue. When Wren, who’s always heard Roosevelt talk about his “moms,” realizes when she finally meets them that he actually has 2 moms, she’s shocked and observes, “I thought he was just talking like Ludacris.” Roosevelt plays the flute for fun and his two lesbian mothers (scene stealers Kerry Kenney and Anna Gastmeyer) force him to speak Latin and are shown knitting an Obama tapestry. They loan Roosevelt their Volvo which at one point is humped by a giant mechanical chicken, a corporate symbol of a Chick-fil-A-style fast food chain, a nod to the recent gay rights dust-up.
Teen comedies have always found it more interesting to focus on social outsiders than members of the in-crowd and FUN SIZE is no exception. Victoria Justice exhibits likeability (though it’s hard to swallow that, with her looks, she’s need to worry about being invited to the cool-kid party) and big screen charisma. The real discovery in FUN SIZE is Chelsea Handler as Wren’s mother, who stars in her own subplot as a 40-ish widow carrying on with a 28-year old boy toy who drags her to a wild party in the basement pad of one of his friend’s parents’ house. There’s a scene where she stumbles into the host’s parents’ bedroom where they offer her a cup of tea. She then gives a speech assessing her life and her widowhood and her children that’s a real show-stopper. Ms Handler has a TV talk show my wife talks about but I’d never seen her before (and have to confess I thought I was watching the actress Maria Bello until the closing credits!) I was taken with her work in FUN SIZE and hope to see her in more movies. A weak link is Johnny Knoxville, obnoxious as some kind of angry fighter guy who kidnaps Albert and spews the naughty dialog that gives the film its PG-13 rating.
I have daughters age 8 and 13 who I often drag along to these kid movie screenings and they loved FUN SIZE and I appreciated that the film didn’t talk down to them. Nobody’s going to give this one an Oscar and it is a bit predictable and silly, but this well-written and acted all-night teen comedy is an unexpected fun time at the movies.
4 of 5 Stars