"This is bad, April!" Wren shouts. "This is very bad!"
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"Fun Size"½ star
Starring: Victoria Justice, Thomas Mann, Jackson Nicoll, Chelsea Handler, Jane Levy, Josh Pence
Directed by: Josh Schwartz
Other: A Paramount Pictures release. Rated PG-13 for crude and suggestive humor, language. 90 minutes
Nickelodeon's Halloween comedy "Fun Size" could have gone one of two ways.
It might have been a charming tweeners' Halloween comedy about a mother and daughter discovering what's important in life.
Or it could have been a crude and puerile adult comedy rife with pedophile references, abnormally stupid teen characters, kids who shout the B-word and tasteless scenes involving a giant mechanical chicken simulating sex with the back end of a Volvo.
What the heck. Director Josh Schwartz, working from Max Werner's schizophrenic screenplay, decided to split the difference and make "Fun Size" a kids' movie stuffed with as much quasi-salacious, age-inappropriate material as a PG-13 rating would allow.
That Nickelodeon pimped itself out to present such crass, lowbrow entertainment as "Fun Size" is something of a surprise, although it's the second time the company has released a PG-13 title (2008's pickup feature "Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging").
"Fun Size" follows the life of Wren (the ever-cute Victoria Justice), a typical teenager who lives with her mother Joy (Chelsea Handler) and her feisty little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll). Since Dad abandoned the family, Joy has been in a free fall, hooking up with a much younger man Keevin (Josh Pence).
Dad's departure has turned Albert into a mute unable to verbalize anything, although he can make himself understood in most circumstances.
On Halloween, Wren gets the invitation of her social lifetime when cool dude Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell) asks her to come to his big party that night. Wren's spunky redheaded pal April (Jane Levy) can't believe how this will bump up their social status.
Oh, oh! Mom has made plans to dress up as Britney Spears from her "Baby One More Time" period and hang out with Keevin. Wren must stay home to watch Albert.
So, Wren and April grab Albert and head out for a night on the Halloween town. Until they lose the poor kid in a fun house and spend the rest of the night searching for the elusive little brother.
Wren receives support from her nerdy classmate Roosevelt (the charismatic Thomas Mann, turning in the film's strongest performance) who obviously has a thing for her.
Meanwhile, in a subplot that defies sense -- common and otherwise -- a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) spots Albert and immediately commandeers him to help carry out some sort of revenge plot against his girlfriend.
He attempts to lure Albert into his car. He shouts to everyone around, "I'm not trying to lure a 7-year-old boy into my car!"
Uh, yes, he is.
The rest of "Fun Size" plays like a monstrously icky homage to Martin Scorsese's "After Hours" with Wren, April and Roosevelt running into oddballs in the night, among them a wig-wearing dude (an uncredited Johnny Knoxville) who actually utters the sentence, "Time to get elbow deep into a little Pepto Bismal!" before he takes Albert hostage and forces Wren to come to his house alone to pay ransom.
Just for fun, "Fun Size" ridicules same-sex parents with Kerri Kenney and Ana Gasteyer playing Roosevelt's overly protective and self-absorbed moms who apparently spend all their time hand-stitching a portrait of Barack Obama in the living room.
An offhand political swipe?
Maybe. If nothing else, "Fun Size" demonstrates why Nickelodeon doesn't receive arts endowment funds and "Sesame Street" does.
After all, Big Bird would never put dog poo and fireworks in a paper sack, then light it on fire.
That's Fuzzy's job.