Fun Size (PG-13) ★½

Review Date: October 25th, 2012

Fun Size may be the only production from kid-centric studio Nickelodeon to also feature underage drinking (complete with red solo cups) and boob groping. The murky demographic for the movie ends up hurting the well-intentioned Halloween flick — it's not quite suitable for the young ones, nor is it funny or wild enough for the Gossip Girl crowd, which director Josh Schwartz (creator of the show) knows well. Instead, we get a floundering trick or treat adventure that reduces the colorful, twisted holiday to a meandering situational comedy.

Nick TV grad Victoria Justice (Victorious) stars as Wren, a high school ''geek'' who finds herself unable to bag the guy of her dreams (who adores her) but finds a glimmer of hope in the big, cool kids' Halloween party. Ready for a night out with her best friend April (Jane Levy), Wren thinks life is finally going her way, until her Mom (Chelsea Handler) sticks her with her troublemaking little brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) for the night. If chaperoning Albert wasn't already the worst thing in the world, Wren finds herself in an even bigger dilemma when her brother wanders off into his own night of mischievous debauchery.

The ''one crazy night'' formula fits perfectly with Halloween, but Fun Size struggles to find interesting material for its eclectic ensemble. Unlike many of the young actresses who have previously collaborated with Schwartz, Justice seems unable to crack his voice and comedic style. She's too hip to, too aware to play someone struggling with high school. The material doesn't serve her or Levy either; off-color jokes and a bizarre sense of entitlement turn them into two people you don't want to see succeed. Luckily for the audience, during their sweeping search for Albert, Wren and April cross paths with two true nerd-looking boys: Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau), who along with feeling like real teenagers, actually land a joke or two.

Interwoven into this speedy adventure — Fun Size clocks in at a little over 75 minutes, giving little time to flesh out our teenage heroes — is Albert's encounter with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy. The adults of Fun Size see the ten-year-old Albert as a parter-in-crime rather than a lost little boy. Fuzzy recruits him for a raid on his ex-girlfriend's house; after running away, he meets a lady who brings him to a nightclub. At one point, a sleazebag kidnaps Albert and locks him in his bedroom. If Fun Size were madcap, it may all make sense. Instead, things just happen — and it's not hilarious, scary, or even deranged.

Nick's '90s sitcom Pete & Pete created an amazing sense of weirdness and heart in its exploits of two teenage brothers. Anyone could watch and enjoy it. Fun Size has a beautiful look (the colors of Halloween are mesmerizing) and Schwartz, as always, has impeccable soundtrack tastes, but when it comes to telling a story that feels both relatable and wonderfully weird — what Pete & Pete did so well — the movie falls flat. It's stereotype humor (the movie packs many a fat and gay joke) doesn't cut it — when paired to Nick's best efforts, the movie lives up to the title: a bite-size portion of a bigger, better cinematic sweet. rated this film 1 1/2 stars.