As Fun Size drew to a close and the house lights came up, a member of the audience attempted to begin a standing ovation for the film. The enthusiasm with which the person responsible applauded was only matched by the stony silence that it was met with. This silence was pervasive throughout the 90 minutes before it, although a few embarrassed titters of amusement did escape the otherwise glazed and indifferent audience. This was a little more than unfortunate for Fun Size, as the audience consisted primarily of young teenagers on their half term break. The only exception was a hunched figure in the middle row wearing a cardigan and a frown, who sporadically and spasmodically clawed his own forehead in frustration whenever a joke was attempted.
Fun Size takes place entirely over the night of Halloween, when high school student Wren (an inappropriately attractive Victoria Justice) loses track of her 8 year old brother Albert (an oddly charming Jackson Nicoll). Wren runs around town with her best friend April (Suburgatory‘s Jane Levy) and couple of ‘nerds’ and gets into all sorts of hijinks that threaten her very life and, more importantly, her social standing amongst her peers. Meanwhile, little Albert gets into even more hijinks by being abducted thrice (once by a gas station attendant named Fuzzy) and their mother (Chelsea Handler) attempts to grasp hold of her youth by mounting a Taylor Kitsch impersonator and neglecting her children. The perfect family balance.
Before all of that, before even the logo for Paramount and Nickelodeon, the viewer is presented, attacked really, with a music video, This Kiss by Carly Rae Jepsen, featuring many of the stars of the film. Quickly dismissing the possibility that this might be some sort of satire, the cinema patron is forced to watch all 4 minutes of this tripe, which really sets the mood.
The first few minutes of the film packs in as much detail in to main character Wren’s life as possible, with a needless voice over explaining everything that we are shown. A few shallow insights into Wren’s background are mentioned; her father died the previous year, her mother is distant bordering on neglectful, her brother Albert hasn’t spoken in 6 months as part of a grief coping mechanism. Remember these facts, because they play no part in the story whatsoever until the last 15 minutes.
The first needless stumbling point in the film is when we discover that super sexy and, apparently, super intelligent Wren is also, inexplicably, super unpopular. Enter the low point of this film, a solid 2 minutes of Wren and nerdy neighbor Roosevelt (Thomas Mann, famous for fuck all) rapping about legendary American biologist E O Wilson. It is meant to be awkward and charming and funny, and designed to show the latent chemistry between Wren and Roosevelt. It is only painful.
The film goes on in this vein, trying so very hard to elicit even the smallest laugh. Some parts featuring the mute Albert dancing around or staring blankly are sort of sweet, but at no point is it funny. Any gag that the film attempts to pull off is overtly telegraphed, and it takes so damn long to get to the punchline that any payoff is lost in the aether. The film’s centrepiece joke, spoiled in the trailer, is utterly ruined in this fashion. Worse is what they do to Peter Navy Tuiasosopo, last seen not being any good whatsoever as E. Honda in Street Fighter.
For most of the film the characters seem generally likable and believable but the film finally does away with all that around two thirds in when Wren ends up at the popular boy’s party and stops giving a shit about her missing brother. Johnny Knoxville makes a welcome entrance when he, like the pointless but inoffensive Fuzzy, abducts Albert, but his character is completely wasted considering Knoxville’s natural charm. The relationship that forms between Roosevelt and Wren, while utterly phoned in, is blandly nice. The fact that Wren is attracted to Roosevelt seemingly for his personality and kindness makes a refreshing change, since a lot of other films of this ilk require the leading male to be both bohemian and an Adonis.
This feels like two films. One half attempts to be a teen movie along the lines of Mean Girls or Easy A. The other half is a juvenile kid’s adventure with a slightly tubby Dennis the Menace. Time and time again the film struggles in the no-man’s land between the 12 and 15 ratings. Albert’s antics and pranks are set to a musical motif of children chanting “LA LA LA LA LA” slamming the film firmly in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid territory, but a second later you’ll be thrown boob-fondling, allusions to child abduction, lesbian parents and a sexual act performed by a giant mechanical chicken that netted the film its 12A certificate.
The film loses its focus repeatedly and is stubbornly unfunny throughout, but it’s agreeable in a strange way. Too raunchy for children, too juvenile for young adults, there’s no real audience for Fun Size, which almost makes you root for it. It doesn’t really feel like a film – more like a collection of scenes thrown together and stitched up like the laziest Frankenstein‘s monster. Save it for when it’s on TV, it might get a couple of weak smiles from you.