It is fair to say that ‘teen comedy’ is not a genre that instantly springs to mind when thinking centred around Halloween. However, it is into this somewhat uncharted territory that Josh Schwartz, the young creator of TV’s The OC and Gossip Girl, enters with his feature film debut Fun Size.
Released in a week where slasher movies and classic horror re-releases understandably dominate the listings, Fun Size is the sugar-coated account of unpopular teenager, Wren (Victoria Justice), and her friends as they spend Halloween frantically searching around town for her little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), before the return of her recently-widowed mother Joy (Chelsea Handler). Albert is misplaced when the teens are distracted by an invitation to the “coolest party in town” by the “most popular boy in school” – a prerequisite for any high-school comedy. This inevitably leads to a number of predictably outrageous events over the course of the night and the reasonably sparing 80-minute running time.
There is an uncredited and essentially confusing appearance from Jackass star Johnny Knoxville in the second half, whose character emerges as a supplement to the uninspiring and exaggerated physical comedy. In addition, the performances provided by all of the leading actors can be simply described as adequate, as they each fulfil their objective of providing the quintessential American caricatures they are presented with. Yet, the one stand-out performance is provided by Thomas Middlemarch as Fuzzy, the quirky sales assistant who Albert meets on his wanderings around the neighbourhood. Seen earlier this month in The Campaign, Middlemarch brings genuine comedy to the role along with a sense of awkward spontaneity that could be easily mouldable to a number of comedic films.
Despite the storyline following this calculable route, Fun Size is still arguably a harmless bit of fun and, on rare occasions, somewhat sweet. Generally, its principal weakness is Schwartz’s apparent inability to provide a defined target audience with his use of humour blurring the boundaries between two different age groups. Produced by Nickelodeon Movies, one would assume that the jokes and use of language would be marketed towards the younger ‘tween’ demographic. This is certainly supported by the forced and (on my part, at least) frankly unappreciated viewing of Carly Rae Jepsens’s new music video in full before its opening. However, with the incorporation of scenes involving casual boob groping and bizarrely a ten-foot mechanical chicken humping a car from behind, it often feels as though it also strives to include the notable features of popular gross-out comedies such as Superbad that are usually aimed at audiences in their late teens. This leads to a very disjointed and at times uncomfortable concoction of suggestive language and toilet humour that doesn’t seem to blend together too successfully.
Nevertheless, and Jepsen aside, Schwartz does succeed in providing an extremely enjoyable soundtrack with the inclusion of songs from artists such as Passion Pit alongside a number of current up-and-coming bands. A characteristic of all his previous television series’, it is refreshing to see that he continues to put music at the forefront of his narrative in this way whilst transitioning onto the big screen.
Despite the concept of the ‘Halloween-based comedy’ appearing to be an interesting one with a market that is hardly saturated, it can be said that in general Fun Size provides more of a trick than a treat. This is chiefly due to Schwartz’s incapability to understand and pinpoint his audience. or essentially provide any original ideas that distance it from other similarly predictable high school films released in recent years.