TV has proven to be an ideal training ground for two of Hollywood's current blockbuster kings JJ Abrams and Joss Whedon. While that duo have been trekking across space and saving the world from cosmic forces on the big screen, spare a thought for Josh Schwartz, whose directorial debut Fun Size is sorely missing the smart-mouthed, sassy teens that made The OC and Gossip Girl a success.
Here, Schwartz finds himself at the helm of an almost entirely laugh-free comedy, which is produced by Nickelodeon and fronted by its Victorious star Victoria Justice. There are shades of the brain-atrophyingly terrible Fred: The Movie in this sugared-up tween flick, that packs about as much fizz as a week-old bottle of flat Fanta.
Once that shameless plug is out of the way, Fun Size gets down to the job of nabbing its plot from Adventures in Babysitting and Superbad as Justice's Wren loses her younger brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) amidst the town-wide Halloween celebrations and must rescue him before their mother finds out.
There's barely a laugh on the horizon as Fun Size ambles through a series of unremarkable set pieces, tumbleweed one-liners and awkward tonal shifts. There are wacky japes one moment (a giant mechanical chicken humping a car being the highlight) and talk of Wren's dead father the next. Max Werner's script strives to inject some heart and emotion into the caper, but it all feels like so much of an insincere afterthought.
Alongside Justice and Project X's Thomas Mann, comedy vets Johnny Knoxville and Chelsea Handler are given thankless roles as villain and mother respectively. The stand-out cast member is perhaps Suburgatory's Jane Levy, who's able to lend zest and personality to her ditzy one-note character April. She straight away brings to mind Reese Witherspoon and Emma Stone, and could potentially be on the way to bigger things if she makes wiser movie choices.
Fun Size's humour is too crude to register with its target Nickelodeon tween audience, and not naughty enough to find any favour with fans of the raunchier Superbad. This would put the film in some kind of comedic limbo, except to be there at all it would need to at least be consistently funny.