I have in my hands a DVD of FUN SIZE, a PG-13-rated comedy aimed at the younger demographic that is presented by Nickelodeon Movies, an offshoot of the Nickelodeon cable television network, which produces programming for a teen and pre-teen audience.
The film stars Victoria Justice, who is featured on several Nickelodeon TV shows. She plays Wren, a cute high school senior with a widowed mother and a mischievous, outrageously out-of-control kid brother. The plot of FUN SIZE is simple enough. Wren is thrilled to have been invited to an upcoming Halloween party. For one thing, it’s the social event of the year. For another, she has a major crush on the boy who is throwing the party. But at the last minute, her mother orders her to babysit her brother. Ever the dutiful daughter, Wren obeys-- and trouble comes when her brother wanders off and disappears into the night.
It is not so much that FUN SIZE is a comedy that fails to generate laughs. It is, in fact, little more than a mindless trifle, and plenty of so-called comedies fit this category. This was true eighty years ago, and it is true today. What is alarming is the manner in which FUN SIZE is being marketed. On the DVD packaging are two critics’ quotes. In the first, FUN SIZE is described as “the perfect family film! You’ll laugh until it hurts.” In the second, the film is labeled “an adventure the whole family will love.”
So clearly, FUN SIZE is being sold as a film that mom and pop and all the kiddies can share. Yet what is so ironic is that FUN SIZE is loaded with humor that may be best-described as tasteless, and not “family”-friendly. Some of the gags have sexual overtones. Others involve passing gas. Now granted, if you are progressively inclined, you might want to applaud the fact that one of the teens in the film has been raised by lesbian mothers. But these “parents” are presented as little more than simpleminded stereotypes.
Family fun indeed!
Also, while watching FUN SIZE, a question kept entering my mind. Plenty of teens and adults notice the little boy meandering about all by himself, with no caregiver in sight. Some even mix with him for intended comic effect, but no one-- and I do mean no one-- thinks to call the authorities and report the missing child. But I guess that if someone actually did, there would not have been much of a storyline-- and we would not have wanted that, would we?
There is an irony here. FUN SIZE is set in Cleveland, of all places, and Cleveland is the site of the recent headline-making news story that involved the ten-year forced imprisonment of several young women-- two of whom were not all that older than this little boy when they were abducted.
Rob Edelman teaches film history at the University at Albany. He has written several books on film and television, and is an associate editor of Leonard Maltin’s Movie and Video Guide.
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