"Fun Size" is more trick than treat, a comedy that may appeal to tweens and teens who think they're too old for "Frankenweenie" or "Hotel Transylvania."
In fact, those animated films are far better Halloween options than this comedy from Nickelodeon Movies that turns, in part, on adventures in baby-sitting gone awry.
Cleveland teenager Wren (Victoria Justice) is forced to take her little brother trick-or-treating when their widowed mother (Chelsea Handler) opts to go to a Halloween party with her new 26-year-old boyfriend. Wren and young Albert's dad died a year earlier, and each member of the family is grieving in her or his own way.
2 stars = Mediocred
- Starring: Victoria Justice, Jane Levy, Chelsea Handler.
- Rating: PG-13 for partying, language and crude and suggestive material.
Wren plans to apply to her father's alma mater of NYU, while oblivious prankster Albert (Jackson Nicoll) has quit talking, a fact that doesn't seem to disturb his mom and sister as much as it should. When Wren loses track of him in a neighborhood haunted house, she and her best friend (Jane Levy from "Suburgatory") enlist two nerdy classmates (Thomas Mann, Osric Chau) in the hunt.
Albert is recruited for some innocent pursuits before encountering a man who steals his plastic pumpkin of candy, for starters. Wren, who had wanted nothing more than to ditch her brother for a party hosted by the most popular boy in school, now is desperate to find him.
"Fun Size," which makes a Cleveland suburb look like the trick-or-treating capital of the world based on the number of costumed characters prowling the streets, could have aired on television with some judicious editing of language and mildly racy moments.
It once again suggests that nerdy guys pining for girls out of their league may have a chance with them -- if the girls would just spend some time with them, even on a night marked by mishaps.
Some of the nods to the adults -- a middle-age man is reading "Fifty Shades of Grey" in bed -- won't make up for the alarm when Albert, dressed as Spidey, willingly goes off with strangers, one who appears to be drinking and driving. The peril proves short-lived, and the movie exacts revenge with such timeless favorites as toilet paper and flaming bags of dog excrement.
Ms. Justice and Ms. Levy do a commendable job with purely routine material that feels recycled from other movies or off-putting, as when the widowed mom dresses like a Britney Spears school girl for an age-inappropriate Halloween.
"Fun Size" is like going trick-or-treating and getting full-size bars of candy you don't like. In this case, though, after you've bought the ticket and tub of popcorn, you can't trade it for something more to your taste.