Fun Size

Victoria Justice is a very pretty, apparently very famous 19-year-old for people who have seen her in Disney Channel programs like Victorious and Lola 101. In this year's tiny teen indie The First Time she played the unattainable hottie crush object of the main character, which turns out to be a much more believable part than the one she takes on in her first lead film role in Fun Size. Her character Wren is intended to be a geeky goofball who dreams of attending NYU and wants to dress as Ruth Bader Ginsberg for Halloween. You can see her in the photo above, in character as Wren. If you buy her as a striving outcast desperate to be cool, then maybe Fun Size really can pull the wool over your eyes.

But for the rest of us, Fun Size is a surprisingly excruciating, tonally nonsensical Halloween "romp" that, at 83 minutes, feels far longer than this weekend's 172-minute Cloud Atlas. Wren and her wannabe sex-kitten pal April (Jane Levy) wind up on your usual one-crazy-night high schooler adventure when Wren's brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) disappears while trick-or-treating. The girls team up with two geeks (Thomas Mann and Osric Chau) to drive around and find the kid, while Albert gets up to some adventures of his own, traveling around town with a lovelorn gas station clerk (Thomas Middleditch) and of course alllllmost crossing paths with his sister several times. Elsewhere Wren and Albert's mom is played by Chelsea Handler and apparently in the film to provide the illusion of star power, since her adventures at a party full of twenty-somethings goes absolutely nowhere.

Fun Size is willing to do pretty much anything for a laugh, starting with poop noises, detouring several times into nonsensical comedy, and even verging on violent with the arrival of Johnny Knoxville as a low-level thug, who's knocked over by a blast of firecrackers. The film is rated PG-13, a rarity for Nickelodeon Films, and something that totally obscures who this film is made for. There are oblique references to teen sex and drinking, a lot of girly concern about the hottest boy in school and sexy Halloween costumes, but there's also childish pratfalls off ladders and gags about eating too much candy. Is Fun Size for girls Wren's age, for boys Albert's age, or somewhere in-between? There's no good answer, and never any sense that Fun Size knows either its audience or its own goals.

Most frustrating of all is that this movie is the directorial debut of Josh Schwartz, who created The O.C.; the show definitely fell apart toward the end, but the first season is a gem of sharp humor and minor teen tragedies, and that tone could have translated perfectly to a movie even as rote as Fun Size. Justice's character Gwen, in fact, is just a few degrees turned from Rachel Bilson's Summer on The O.C.-- a pretty girl who knows how to use that power (as when Wren lightly touches the arm of the boy who's crushing on her to get him to lend out his car), but who also has a soul and less regard for high school social structure than you might think. But Max Werner won't allow Wren any of those layers, and Justice-- promising an actress as she may be-- can't convey them either.

Katey Rich

Staff Writer at CinemaBlend