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'Fun Size' an outsized flop

10:28 PM, Oct. 25, 2012
Victoria Justice as Wren, left, and Jane Levy as April in a scene from 'Fun Size.'
Victoria Justice as Wren, left, and Jane Levy as April in a scene from 'Fun Size.' / Jaimie Trueblood/Paramount Pictures

‘Fun Size’

Star rating:
Rated: PG-13 for crude and suggestive material, partying and language.

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There is something admirable about “Fun Size.”

Not in how it succeeds, because it doesn’t. Whoo, boy, it doesn’t. Rather, in how bad it is on so many levels, in how it will offend and disappoint different segments of its audience for different reasons. It’s an equal-opportunity bad movie. Something to hate for everyone!

Except. â€1/8 Maybe ‘tweens will embrace it as a sort of JV “Superbad,” a first dip into the toe of grown-up-seeming movies, that delicious first taste of something that feels forbidden. To which the only proper response is to tell them to sneak out and rent a movie like “Say Anything … “ instead.

Victoria Justice stars as Wren, a senior in high school. That she is the star is no great surprise; Nickelodeon is one of the studios responsible for “Fun Size,” and Justice stars on the Nickelodeon show “Victorious.” Like its rival the Disney Channel, Nickelodeon leaves no stone unturned in promoting its stars.

What may come as a surprise, however, is Justice starring in a movie in which characters pantomime sex, a chicken statue humps a car (long story), a character strips and runs from the police and several characters, including small kids, utter profanities. Well now. That’s going to raise some parental eyebrows.

(Justice does none of this. She’s the good girl.)

This is not a moral judgment. It would probably be fun to observe a sample group of parents watching with their kids, to see at which point they reach out and cover their eyes or ears.

But it is a quality judgment. If the movie was at all clever or funny, much could be forgiven. It’s not.

Wren is invited to a Halloween party hosted by the school stud, Aaron Riley (Thomas McDowell), who appears to have a crush on her. But there’s a problem: Wren’s mom, Joy (Chelsea Handler), has a date with the boy toy she’s been dating (Josh Pence) since her husband died, so she wants Wren to babysit her little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll). This will mean passing on the party of the year, something Wren’s repellant, social-climbing best friend April (Jane Levy) isn’t going to let happen.

But as April schemes to get to the party while she and Wren take Albert trick-or-treating, another complication arises: They lose Albert. They enlist the aid of the nerdy Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), who is nursing a long-time crush on Wren, to look for him. Meanwhile, a nice loser (Thomas Middleditch) does find Albert and adopts him for the night, using him to help get revenge on his ex-girlfriend. Throw in a creepy performance by Johnny Knoxville as a crazy mixed martial arts fighter and you’ve got quite a night.

Director Josh Schwartz goes from TV (“The O.C.,” “Gossip Girl”) to feature films, and occasionally tries for some emotional resonance. He doesn’t succeed.

There is nothing wrong with Justice wanting to grow up. No one wants to be trapped in a kid show forever. But with “Fun Size” and a smaller role in the recent “The First Time,” she’s making some questionable decisions as she moves forward with her career. She deserves better. So do the rest of us.

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