Fun Size Josh Schwartz

Fun Size Josh Schwartz
Like a Halloween-themed Adventures in Babysitting for the 21st century, Fun Size, the directorial debut of Josh Schwartz (writer/producer of The O.C., Gossip Girl, etc.), has no special tricks and just a few sugary treats.

High school senior Wren (Victoria Justice) is invited to her crush's costume party, only to find herself stuck taking her annoying, electively mute little brother Albert out trick-or-treating instead. Early into the night, Albert disappears and Wren enlists her sassy best friend and two awkward guys to help her find him before her mother gets home. Wren's expectedly dull night soon becomes one filled with adventure, antics and discovery.

Heavily relying on the usual teen comedy-adventure shtick (confrontation between dumb jocks and sweet geeks, petting as collateral, etc.), the movie rarely does the unexpected. In theory, this isn't a terrible idea. If a movie formula is perfectly executed, it usually manages to get enough laughs and pull enough heartstrings to draw an adequate crowd and become a genre staple.

Unfortunately, Fun Size is too scattered in focus and conventional in execution to achieve this goal ― the best formulas are embedded with just the right amount of original quirk. And while this movie might appeal to its young audience for one viewing, it's incapable of satisfying older viewers or achieving evergreen status.

After a tonally inconsistent and awkward start ― most characters are two-dimensional, the jokes fall flat, the set-ups are illogical or frustrating ― Fun Size picks up halfway through and offers the audience more of what it wants: humour, heart and resolution.

There are a few amusing bits, including a Josh Groban song, a couple of new-age-y lesbian moms (Kerri Kenney and former SNL-er Ana Gasteyer) and a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy (played with quirky aplomb by Thomas Middleditch).

Fun Size does accomplish one feat for a generic teen flick: it presents a female protagonist with appropriate priorities and an ability to recognize what is valuable versus what appears to be. Wren isn't a particularly memorable character ― she's no Ferris Bueller or Lloyd Dobler ― but she is at least a reasonably realized average teenager.

While the movie improves as it progresses to its heart-warming, expected end, Fun Size lacks the delightful charm, compassion and confidence of, say, Easy A ― a far superior teen flick that featured a ballsy and bright protagonist.

Had Fun Size taken greater risks with its humour, subverted expectations more pointedly and better respected its characters (Jane Levy and Chelsea Handler have little to do with their mostly one-note roles), it's possible that this story could have become a perennial seasonal go-to for adolescents and adults alike.

As it stands, Fun Size is a watchable, if forgettable, teen movie. (Paramount)