By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Early on, the film’s setting, Cleveland, is described as the “mistake by the lake.” So let’s dub this dreadful comedy a “mistake in every take.”

The huge difference between fun size and fun is vividly demonstrated by Fun Size, a bargain-basement teen comedy that’s short on size and fun.

Wait, did I say teen comedy?  Yes, because that’s what it turns out to be.

But although the script is aimed at teens and is consumed with particular teenage concerns (even though  it lives at the far edge of its PG-13 border where R beckons and renders much of its humor inappropriate), it reaches out to children and is being sold as a family film.

(1½ stars out of 4)

It’s not.

The PG-13 is for “crude and suggestive material, partying, and language.” And yet it’s being marketed as a Halloween-night comedy:  of course tweens and young children will want to see it.

That’s why so much of the profanity and sexual references, however mild, seem inappropriate for the target audience. The disconnect between content and marketing is gaping.

It’s set throughout Halloween night, as teens party and youngsters go out trick-or-treating.

Victoria Justice plays Wren, a sardonic high school senior who narrates and is looking forward to going off to college –- NYU, her recently deceased father’s alma mater, is where she’s headed — so that she can get away from her dysfunctional family.

When she’s invited to a Halloween party by Aaron, the guy she has a crush on (Thomas McDonell), she is understandably upset when her mother (Chelsea Handler) tells her to take her little brother, Albert (Jackson Nicoll), trick-or-treating while she goes out with her much younger boyfriend.

Wren goes to the party instead, where she promptly loses track of Albert, who disappears among the many costumed trick-or-treaters out on the street.

So she borrows a car and heads out along with her best friend, April (Jane Levy), as well as two guys, Peng (Osric Chau) and Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), the latter a debate captain who has a huge crush on her, to find her younger brother.

What this movie is doing on theatre screens is mystifying: it plays like an episode of a middling television series that doesn’t even exist.

Josh Schwartz, the debuting director who created such TV series as “Gossip Girl” and “The O.C.,” also served as one of the producers, working from a script by Max Werner that’s strained and unfunny from the get-go and burdened with a severe case of the cutes.

If there is a moment of recognizable reality in character or circumstance, I missed it.  To take one glaring example among many: when a child goes missing, just about everyone reacts as if it were a misplaced utensil.

Some teens may relate to the situation, but most will recognize that something about the whole enterprise is just out of whack.

So we’ll wear a costume of 1½ stars out of 4 for the misadventure-in-babysitting misfire, Fun Size, a wrongheaded trick and a tasteless treat.

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