Fun Size marks the feature directing debut of Josh Schwartz, but he's hardly a neophyte, being the muscle behind (and for the most part a writer/creator of) The O.C., Gossip Girl, Chuck and Hart of Dixie. He certainly knows his way around teen and young adult comedy-drama, which raises the question of why Fun Size is so puzzlingly terrible. The script is by Max Werner (a Colbert Report writer of all things), but whatever its merits may have been on the page, surely Schwartz was calling all the shots on this project, so how did it become or remain so bad?
The movie's DNA is firmly rooted in other comedies, specifically the teen subgenre of One Crazy Night, familiar from such fondly remembered pictures as Adventures in Babysitting and Can't Hardly Wait, and more recently seen in Superbad and Project X (sometimes it even pops up in movies for older audiences like Date Night). There's also a John Hughesian sensitive teen girl at the center of the action, who we might call the Ringwald. Fun Size's Ringwald is Cleveland teen Wren DeSentiz (Victoria Justice), not quite college age and not quite popular. Her father died a year ago, and mom Joy (Chelsea Handler, for no clear reason) has since become an irresponsible cougar, who heads out with her much-younger boyfriend Keevin (Josh Pence)--that's not a typo--to a Halloween party, leaving Wren in charge of her younger brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll), who's been mute since their father's death. This all sounds like it could be the basis for a movie that actually cared about its characters, but Wren loses Albert at the local haunted house, and the One Crazy Night hijinks begin.
Schwartz's love for nerd heroes is evident in what follows--there are no less than three of them here, and each ends up with a beautiful girl--but mostly Fun Size is witless and silly without being funny. Wren is a dull Ringwald, blandly pretty and with little personality and no particular point of view, and we have to wait, figuratively tapping our feet and (not so figuratively) glancing at our watches while she inevitably realizes that she'd be better off with Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), so dorky he dresses for Halloween as an obscure scientist, than hot-car-driving Aaron (Thomas McDonell). Similarly, Joy has some humiliation to endure before understanding that banging 20-year olds and ignoring her kids won't earn her a badge for good motherhood. Things liven up a bit when Wren's BFF April (Jane Levy) is around, although it's odd to see Levy, queen bee of her own TV Suburgatory, relegated to a sidekick role. (The girl may need a better agent.) Ana Gasteyer (another Suburgatory crossover, and she doesn't even get any scenes with Levy!) redoes her old NPR talk-show host schtick from SNL as one of Roosevelt's lesbian moms, but that gag, like so many others, doesn't go anywhere.
Paramount's marketing focus on Fun Size is best shown by the fact that the movie is preceded in theatres by a music video for Carly Rae Jepsen's new song, but even her fans deserve better than this. The picture limps through its 90-minute running time without any sense of accelerating pace or visual style. It's hard to believe Schwartz would let one of his own TV shows hit the air with this kind of sloppy inanity, and even harder to understand why he thought this would be a good way to segue to the big screen. Just about any Halloween-themed episode of a TV sitcom this week (OK, maybe not Animal Practice) would be better than Fun Size.