Fun Size may be the only production from kid-centric studio Nickelodeon to also feature underage drinking (complete with red solo cups) and boob groping. The murky demographic for the movie ends up hurting the well-intentioned Halloween flick — it's not quite suitable for the young ones nor is it funny or wild enough for the Gossip Girl crowd which director Josh Schwartz (creator of the show) knows well. Instead we get a floundering trick or treat adventure that reduces the colorful twisted holiday to a meandering situational comedy.
Nick TV grad Victoria Justice (Victorious) stars as Wren a high school "geek" who finds herself unable to bag the guy of her dreams (who adores her) but finds a glimmer of hope in the big cool kids' Halloween party. Ready for a night out with her best friend April (Jane Levy) Wren thinks life is finally going her way until her Mom (Chelsea Handler) sticks her with her troublemaking little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) for the night. If chaperoning Albert wasn't already the worst thing in the world Wren finds herself in an even bigger dilemma when her brother wanders off into his own night of mischievous debauchery.
The "one crazy night" formula fits perfectly with Halloween but Fun Size struggles to find interesting material for its eclectic ensemble. Unlike many of the young actresses who have previously collaborated with Schwartz Justice seems unable to crack his voice and comedic style. She's too hip to too aware to play someone struggling with high school. The material doesn't serve her or Levy either; off-color jokes and a bizarre sense of entitlement turn them into two people you don't want to see succeed. Luckily for the audience during their sweeping search for Albert Wren and April cross paths with two true nerd-looking boys: Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) who along with feeling like real teenagers actually land a joke or two.
Interwoven into this speedy adventure — Fun Size clocks in at a little over 75 minutes giving little time to flesh out our teenage heroes — is Albert's encounter with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy. The adults of Fun Size see the ten-year-old Albert as a parter-in-crime rather than a lost little boy. Fuzzy recruits him for a raid on his ex-girlfriend's house; after running away he meets a lady who brings him to a nightclub. At one point a sleazebag kidnaps Albert and locks him in his bedroom. If Fun Size were madcap it may all make sense. Instead things just happen — and it's not hilarious scary or even deranged.
Nick's '90s sitcom Pete & Pete created an amazing sense of weirdness and heart in its exploits of two teenage brothers. Anyone could watch and enjoy it. Fun Size has a beautiful look (the colors of Halloween are mesmerizing) and Schwartz as always has impeccable soundtrack tastes but when it comes to telling a story that feels both relatable and wonderfully weird — what Pete & Pete did so well — the movie falls flat. It's stereotype humor (the movie packs many a fat and gay joke) doesn't cut it — when paired to Nick's best efforts the movie lives up to the title: a bite-size portion of a bigger better cinematic sweet.
Stacy (Brittany Murphy) is a greenhorn TV producer for the New Jersey-based syndicated talk show Kippie Kann Do. She is in a seemingly happy relationship with Derek (Ron Livingston) and doesn't seem to mind that her beau never discusses his ex-girlfriends or has never introduced her to his parents-until her co-worker Barb (Holly Hunter) plants the dirty little seed of distrust into her head. So when Derek leaves on a business trip to Detroit and accidentally leaves his Palm Pilot behind Stacy's interest is piqued. "Seconds before opening the metallic case I envisioned all the evil flowing into the world: I was Pandora " our heroine quips. "Then I got over it." Through her snooping Stacy discovers that Derek is still in contact with many of his ex-girlfriends and in the case of Joyce (Julianne Nicholson) seeing her on a regular basis. Using the show as a ruse Stacy decides to interview Derek's exes including Joyce a successful chef but the two become friends in the process. What's worst is someone on Kippie Kann Do decides to turn Stacy's mock interviews into an actual live show for sweeps. But what will Stacy do when confronted by Derek Joyce and the rest about her lies? The most interesting twist of all however is how the conundrum is resolved-and who gets the man.
Murphy who shot to stardom as the homely-turned-cute character Tai in the 1995 hit comedy Clueless is one of those funny comedians you can't help but like on screen. While it was apparent from her performance as a disturbed young woman hiding a valuable secret in the thriller Don't Say a Word that Murphy could handle complex characters comedy seems to be her forte. In Little Black Book a role far better suited for her than her less challenging turn in Just Married Murphy delivers a performance with moxie. Her Stacy is sweet clumsy smart and ambitious-contrasting qualities that are hard to encompass in one believable and likable character. Murphy's infamous "I'll never tell" line from Don't Say a Word may made have made her a recognizable star but this role should elevate her to a hot Hollywood ticket. Whether Murphy has chemistry with her leading man Livingston is irrelevant here which sounds odd considering this is a romantic comedy. But with Livingston's character being out of town for most of the film Murphy has more interaction with Hunter who plays her co-worker Barb. Barb a senior producer with Kippie Kann Do takes on a motherly role here as she takes a naïve Stacy under her wing. Hunter is wonderful as a producer with a chip on her shoulder passively bitter about most of her ideas constantly getting passed up.
Director Nick Hurran who helmed several little-known films including Girls' Night and Remember Me? gets credit for turning out a romantic comedy that defies Hollywood's convention of the genre. What helps is the story written by scribes Melissa Carter and Elisa Bell which is completely unpredictable in its approach. The story's most intriguing aspect is the elusive character Derek who is painted in a positive light at the beginning but then is cast in shadows throughout the film. Could he really be the scoundrel his Palm Pilot is making him out to be? This is precisely the same question that plagues Stacy and the audience gets to go along for the ride. But what's even more surprising is how the story plays out; complete with a denouement that proves happy endings come in all shapes and sizes. Hurran also pays homage to Working Girl which is especially touching if you're a fan of 1988 romantic comedy. Like Melanie Griffith's character Tess Stacy is a New Jersey girl with dreams of one day making it big in the Big Apple. Carly Simon who won an Oscar for Working Girl's title track "Let the River Run " plays an instrumental role here: Stacy turns to her records like her mother did for guidance and inspiration.