So you’ve got tween sitcom princess Victoria Justice in your movie. You’ve got trailers that give off an “Adventures in Babysitting” vibe, complete with (OMG, so annoying!) an Underoos-clad kid as Justice’s Halloween mischief-making little brother. You air those trailers on synergistically connected Nickelodeon, sandwiched between promos for Justice’s “Victorious” and commercials for the Dora & Me Dollhouse. You cutely title the whole enterprise “Fun Size.” And then? Well, naturally, you drop a fried chicken joint’s giant mascot statue on top of your characters’ teenmobile, and let the big bird start humping away.
While its story line is straightforward enough, this PG-13 debut feature from “Gossip Girl” co-creator Josh Schwartz is all over the map in the details it throws at us, and the level of immaturity it aims for. Justice plays Wren, a dorky but clearly fabulous high school senior who gets a very pointed Halloween party invite from the class hunk, only to learn that she’s got to take her odd-duck brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), trick-or-treating. Seems that Mom (Chelsea Handler, go figure) has gone a little wacky since Dad died — back story that’s alternately semi-poignant and ignored — and plans on partying with her studmuffin boyfriend. Wren does what she must, but when she gets separated from Albert after just a few stops, her night really gets a shakeup.
The movie skips between Wren’s search and nonverbal Albert’s misadventures hanging with a dweeby convenience store clerk (Thomas Middleditch, twitchily amusing). Wren worries when it’s narratively convenient, but more of the time just kicks around with the uncool guy who not-so-secretly deserves her (Thomas Mann), her vampy BFF (Jane Levy, “Suburgatory”), and the gang’s horny fourth wheel (Osric Chau). Whatevs — you know they’ll catch up with the kid eventually.
Justice and her gaggle are actually pretty likable, but Schwartz does them no favors by expecting them to carry the movie’s inconsistent tone. John Hughes seems to be the idea, but one minute we’re sidetracking into kiddie potty humor, and the next we’re veering toward Nickelodeon-ized “American Pie.” There are shout-outs to the Beastie Boys and Lil Wayne, jokes about depilatory applications and Ruth Bader Ginsburg, nervous “comic” banter about being mistaken for a pedophile, and fart gags. Yep, just like a Halloween miniatures assortment, something for everyone — or no one, as the case may be.
Tom Russo can be reached at email@example.com.