Review of Fun Size

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A teen comedy centered on a sarcastic high school senior, Wren (Victoria Justice), who's eager to distance herself from her dysfunctional family by going off to college. Before that can happen, however, her mother Joy insists that she watch her little brother Albert on Halloween night so that she can go out with her much younger boyfriend.
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Movie Review: "Fun Size"

-- Rating: PG-13 (partying, language, crude and suggestive material)
Length: 86 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 26, 2012
Directed by: Josh Schwartz
Genre: Comedy

"Fun Size" is the rare Halloween-themed movie that doesn't have a single murder in it and is suitable for most children. There are few frights, with the scares replaced by laughs and a madcap adventure that will likely garner some comparisons to "Adventures in Babysitting," the underrated 80s film starring Elisabeth Shue.

The film begins with the family of Wren (Victoria Justice), who has recently suffered the loss of her dad. Her mom, Joy (Chelsea Handler), has an ironic name because she has little joy in her life lately, especially since son Albert (Jackson Nicoll) has turned into an eight-year-old version of Lucifer. He has also become mute since his dad's death, which means that not only is he acting out, but it is hard to hold him accountable because he refuses to talk. In addition, Joy has yet to really deal with her grief, instead of trying to bury it by beginning to date again. She becomes something of a cougar, only dating men who are younger than her as a coping mechanism.

Wren finds solace in her friends, particularly April (Jane Levy) and Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), who would love to be more than a friend to Wren, but she is oblivious to his feelings. With Halloween quickly approaching, the three friends strike up a plan to dress up and have some fun to blow off the everyday stress of being a teenager. Unfortunately, Joy has other plans for them, as she hoists Albert onto Wren at the last minute so that she can attend a party with her boyfriend.

Wren really does love her brother but is disappointed that she has to take him trick-or-treating, particularly because he wants to misbehave as much as he wants to collect candy. She keeps an eye on him, but he is tricky and manages to disappear among the myriad of costumed kids. Wren panics, of course, and sets off on an all-night adventure to find Albert, who has taken up with convenience store clerk Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch). Albert's new acquaintance convinces him to go find his ex-girlfriend, who has cheated on him with an MMA fighter (Johnny Knoxville).

All of this goes on while Joy finally begins to release her grief over her dead husband, which, in turn, makes her see that she has been a somewhat lousy mom. The family is headed for an inevitable but necessary talk that is heartfelt and might just make the audience a bit misty, even as they are laughing at the potty humor and occasionally crazy situations the characters find themselves in as the search for Albert continues.

Everyone in "Fun Size" is well cast, but the real standout is Levy as April. On her television series "Suburgatory," Levy shows a penchant for comic timing and smart dialogue that she can fire rapidly at unsuspecting victims. April is similar in some ways, allowing Levy to really showcase her comic timing. Her scenes with Justice show real best-friends chemistry, which isn't always easy to do with two actresses who have never worked together before.

Writer Max Werner usually works on "The Colbert Report," which is a political satire that has absolutely no resemblance to "Fun Size." Despite this, Werner shows a knack for dialogue that isn't being delivered by a host. He clearly knows how to script conversations and family dysfunction, which should serve him well in the future should he decide to leave "The Colbert Report" and pursue a full-time career in screenwriting.

Director Josh Schwartz made his mark as one of the co-creators of "Chuck," which helped bring nerd and geek culture to the forefront. Though few people in "Fun Size" are nerds, several are just as whip smart as other characters Schwartz has created. In particular, it is nice to see Justice and Levy portray smart teenage girls who clearly have more goals in life than just trying to find a boyfriend or deciding what dress to wear to prom. It really is a breath of fresh air.

"Fun Size" strikes the right balance between comedy, adventure, and coping with grief. It is suitable for children while still being just edgy enough to keep older teenagers and adults fully entertained as well. It might just be the perfect family Halloween movie, because the only blood seen is the fake blood on costumes.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars