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'Fun Size' review: That's pushing it

*1/2 (out of four)

Some nights get off to a bad start and never recover. So it goes with “Fun Size,” a Halloween comedy to which laughs are not invited.

Victoria Justice (“Victorious”) makes for a pretty and pretty bland presence as Wren, who would totally have like the best night ever at Aaron Riley's (Thomas McDonell) party if she weren't saddled with babysitting her 8-year-old brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll). He hasn't spoken in nearly a year since their father died; instead he wreaks havoc by, among other things, introducing Wren's sweaters to a pair of scissors. His behavior is an unsettling cry for help. Like most of its poorly delivered jokes, though, “Fun Size” uses it to aim at funny and misses by a lot.

“The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl” creator Josh Schwartz makes his feature directorial debut from a script by “The Colbert Report” writer Max Werner (his first film effort). Both men should keep their day jobs. “Fun Size” lacks even a hint of the spark needed to keep a one-raucous-night comedy going. (For comparison see the far raunchier, far more fun “Project X,” whose Thomas Mann co-stars in “Fun Size” as a quiet kid with a crush on Wren.)

The stabs at humor in “Fun Size” disintegrate mid-punchline, whether Wren's best pal April (Jane Levy) talks about putting Nair on her butt or a local sleaze (an uncredited Johnny Knoxville) laments, “I have a yeast infection.”

Surprisingly, minimal sass comes from Chelsea Handler, who's actually decent in portraying the aimlessness that's taken over Wren's mom's life since her husband passed away. When “Fun Size” returns from chaos to reality, it's a bruised story about people who could use a one-night escape from their unhappiness.

Mostly though, it's stuff like a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) being chased by angry, overweight Samoans and, as you may have seen in the trailer, a fast-food chain’s giant mechanical chicken humping a Volvo—feeble gags in desperate need of a Colbert kicker.

Watch Matt on “You & Me This Morning,” Friday at 6:55 a.m. on WCIU, the U

mpais@tribune.com

 

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