Josh Schwartz's Fun Size feels like two different movies. On the one hand, it's a PG-rated, Home Alone-inspired comedy about an eight-year-old kid having a wild Halloween night out on the town, and on the other, it's a teen-party film in the vein of Can't Hardly Wait. While it does a decent job with the first scenario, there's enough of what the MPAA refers to as "crude and suggestive material" that its PG-13 rating will keep parents from taking their younger kids. At the same time, it focuses so much on a little tyke that teens won't want to be caught dead at it.
Fun Size stars Victoria Justice as Wren, a Cleveland high-school senior who wants her mother Joy (Chelsea Handler) to sign her application for NYU. Mom is dragging her feet, mostly because she's still mourning the death of her husband -- and Wren's dad -- and doesn't want to lose her daughter as well. Joy is invited to a Halloween party by her much younger boyfriend, and in order to go, she agrees to finally sign the papers if Wren will take her little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) trick-or-treating. Unfortunately, that means Wren will have to skip the party she was planning to attend with her best friend, the brash, status-seeking April (Jane Levy).
Clad in a Spider-Man costume with a mask that covers his head, Albert, who has not spoken since his father died, starts hitting the local houses with his sister. But soon the little troublemaker slips away, befriends a convenience-store clerk, and gets kidnapped by a total jerk (Johnny Knoxville). Wren searches for him while catching constant flack from April that they just need to go to the party, where the hottest guy in school has a surprise planned.
The two different storylines have vastly different tones, which makes the whole project feel like a Frankenstein-like corporate exercise. It's easy to picture someone at Nickelodeon (which produced the film) having the idea for the slapsticky, youngster-on-the-town comedy, while another executive thought this project would be ideal for launching the movie career of Victoria Justice, already a tween star thanks to the Nick sitcom Victorious. The end result is something nobody really wants to see: low-level bawdiness grafted onto an inherently sweet-natured romp.
The actors don't embarrass themselves. Levy, best known for her work on the sitcom Suburgatory, gives the film an edge that is simultaneously welcome and wholly inappropriate, and Thomas Middleditch, who plays the cashier who befriends Albert, has very appealing chemistry with his diminutive co-star. That said, Schwartz's direction is uninspired; this is the first feature from the creator of The O.C., and it shows. The whole film plays like a made-for-cable holiday event -- it belongs on the small screen, not in a theater.