Monday, February 25, 2013

The Cinema File #122: "Fun Size" Review

You know, back in my day, Nickelodeon movies were about wholesome things like pre-pubescent espionage and the relative deliciousness of hamburgers. I don't know what happened since I grew up and started watching more mature films like FDR: American Badass, but evidently at some point that old orange nostalgia factory went and got all dirty on us. Fun Size, the feature film debut of some guy I've never heard of is a hit and miss coming of age tale set amid a wild and crazy Halloween night filled with zany mishaps and hormonal misadventures. Or at least, that's obviously what the movie is trying for, but despite some inspired bits here and there, it never quite makes it.

Fun Size follows a teenage girl, her best friend, and a rapidly expanding group of oddball characters in search of a fun night on the town, connected by their shared interactions with the main protagonist's little brother, a mute little fat kid in a Spiderman costume who has the ability seen only in teen movies to bring adventure wherever he goes. Much like last year's Wreck It Ralph took us to the laughably anachronistic arcade to tell its story, and Rise of the Guardians explored a world where Santa lives by the faith of children in a time of rampant commercialism, Fun Size at first comes off as a bit quaint trying to give us a mad cap romp set amid nighttime trick or treating, a tradition all but disappeared in most parts of the country. In many ways the movie feels like a respectful throwback to the 80's, a modern take on Adventures In Babysitting, but in its attempt to recapture that sensibility, it fails to ever really find its own voice independent of the various homages.

The characters are all relatively engaging, some more than others, but because the main story is so hackneyed and cliche, I found myself gravitating more to the B and C plots which ultimately proved much more entertaining. A teenage girl trying to find her lost brother in time to kiss the man of her dreams, or the nerdy platonic guy seeking a way out of the friend zone are all fine such as they are, but in a movie that is often self aware enough to recognize the tropes being employed, you would expect these character arcs to be subverted for satire more so than they are. For what we get, I would have much preferred to follow Thomas Middleditch's eccentric convenience store clerk in his mission to get back at his ex-girlfriend, especially considering he has a better rapport with the little kid than his big sister has with him.

There are several incidental jokes and set pieces that work in Fun Size, mostly stemming from the cat girl best friend's many failed attempts at avoiding embarrassment. A slow drive through a gauntlet of laughing kids with cheesy music blaring and a sexually suggestive episode with a giant chicken both made me laugh, but these moments are few and far between. I joked at the outset about the mature content of the film, as I guess there was some backlash against it, but its not all that bad, and only maybe goes too far for a kids movie once or twice. Mostly, Fun Size just sort of lays there, rarely insulting me with its badness, or exciting me with its genius.

A major element of the film revolves around the loss of the main character's father, resulting in among other things a subplot with the mom played by Chelsea Handler dating a younger man that seems completely superfluous. I gather that the movie is trying to establish some symmetry between the two generations, one forced to act more mature while the other is regressing in the wake of tragedy, but by the end it just feels like wasted time that would have been better spent on a main story already hurting for consistent comedy. I feel like kind of an ass decrying a film for its attempt to infuse what would otherwise be all shallow humor with a little substantive drama and poignancy, but the sadder moments never work with the rest of the movie.

Fun Size isn't a complete loss, and while I can't outright recommend it as something you should rush out to see, if you get a chance to watch it, there might be just barely enough here to hold your interest. Most of the performances are good and if only for its occasional bursts of nostalgia, it might just be worth your time, even if it could have been so much better.

[Note: Yes, I get how weird it is to review a movie this lighthearted so soon after a movie like Redd Inc., but my schedule is what it is, and also, in case anyone cares, I'll get to my thoughts on the Oscars soon.]

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