Victoria Justice has made a rather respectable name for herself on Nickelodeon. From her early days as the resident goth on “Zoey 101,” Justice emerged as the network’s new darling with her successful stint on “Victorious.” It’s easy to see Justice’s appeal: She’s beautiful, affable and actually has a talented singing voice. She’s likable without being grating, unlike some of her peers (looking at you, Miranda Cosgrove), making her the perfect choice to star in the new teen comedy “Fun Size.”
Josh Schwartz’s “Fun Size” is a Halloween-centered film focused on Justice’s character, Wren. A plucky girl who harbors a desire to be popular, Wren is a typical teenager with a fixation on the Beastie Boys and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Wren has ambitions to go to school in New York, but those reveries are squandered by her mother (wonderfully portrayed by comedienne Chelsea Handler) who’s been afraid to let go of Wren since her father’s death. When the popular Aaron Riley extends an invitation to his infamous Halloween party, Wren and her sarcastic BFF April (Jane Levy of “Suburgatory” fame) are beside themselves with glee. The only issue that comes between these two girls and their dreams of popularity lies with Wren’s odd little brother, Albert (newcomer Jackson Nicoll), who Wren must take trick-or-treating while their mother goes out.
While hatching a plan to get to Aaron’s party, Wren and April lose track of Albert and their night becomes consumed with the daunting task of finding him. Levy hilariously depicts the annoyed best friend and acts as a good foil to Justice, whose character shows genuine concern for her missing brother. Wren and April enlist the help of geeky fellow classmates Peng and Roosevelt; the latter of the two who desperately pines for Wren.
Their shenanigans consist of wild car chases and a duel involving a musket and a piece of chicken. This is not to be outdone by the mischievous Albert – his adventures include attending a rave with his costumed crush and vandalism with the lovelorn Fuzzy, a convenience store clerk who seeks revenge on his ex-girlfriend. Fuzzy, played by Thomas Middleditch, proves to be one of the funniest characters in the entire movie with his witty one-liners and deadpan delivery.
Cameos from Johnny Knoxville and Abby Elliot help to make the film feel much less like a typical Nickelodeon product. With its PG-13 rating, the movie is able to elicit abundant sexual references as well as some off-color humor, although it doesn’t always seem to work in the context of the movie. At less than 90 minutes in length, the pace is sporadic and rushed at times. While Wren and Albert’s stories intertwine, the audience will be much more responsive to Albert’s monkeyshines since Wren’s situation is more predictable.
“Fun Size” isn’t a terrible film by any means, but the plot leaves something to be desired. However, there is some surprising poignancy to the movie: Albert is mute for most of the film due to his inability to cope with his father’s death. In addition, Wren’s mother Joy comes to the realization that she’s been slacking in her parental duties while trying to control her grief for her deceased husband. On a different note, Clevelanders should be especially interested in this movie, as it was filmed there during Summer 2011. Familiar locations (Coventry and Lakewood) are heavily featured and are interesting to see as a movie setting.
For her first foray into the world of feature films, Justice is to be commended. She acts as a decent lead throughout the movie, even when parts of the story seem scrambled. “Fun Size” is one of those pictures that could have gone straight to DVD – not necessarily bad, but not so gripping that we’d drop Halloween candy and rush to the theater for it.
Speakeasy Rating: C+
Starring Victoria Justice, Chelsea Handler, Jackson Nicoll, Thomas Mann
Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive material, partying, and language