Starring: Victoria Justice, Chelsea Handler, Josh Pence, Johnny Knoxville, Thomas Mann, Jane Levy
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Genres: Comedy, Teen
Running Time: 115 minutes
A teen comedy centered on a sarcastic high school senior, Wren (Victoria Justice), who is eager to distance herself from her dysfunctional family by going off to college. Before that can happen, Wren's mother, Joy, insists that she watch her little brother Albert on Halloween night, so Joy can go to a rager with her much younger boyfriend. When Wren gets distracted by an invitation to the party of the year, Albert disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. Frantic to locate him before their mother discovers he's missing, Wren enlists the help of her sassy best friend April, as well as Peng, an aspiring ladies man and co-captain of the debate team, and Peng's best friend, Roosevelt, a sweet nerd whose crush on Wren clouds his better judgment. This unlikely foursome embarks on a high-stakes, all-night adventure to find Albert, crossing paths with outrageous characters every step of the way.
You know you're in trouble when a madcap comedy is unable to even raise a smile. And it's worse when it strains to include a sentimentally emotional subplot without grounding anything in believable characters or situations. All that's left is a lot of corny toilet humour and eye-rollingly limp schmaltz. Even a decent cast can't rescue this one.
It all happens on one Halloween night in Ohio, when brainy 18-year-old Wren (Justice) and her oversexed pal April (Levy) plan to attend the party of the year hosted by the school hottie. But Wren's mother (Handler) runs off to her own party, leaving Wren in charge of her mischievous 8-year-old brother Albert (Nicoll), who hasn't spoken a word since their father died a year earlier. And Albert quickly ditches Wren, running off for an adventure with a lovelorn convenience store employee (Middleditch). To find him, Wren gets help from the nerdy Roosevelt (Mann), who has a crush on her.
The premise has potential, blending Adventures in Babysitting and Home Alone along with a bit of emotional subtext. But the screenwriters never make anything of it, instead indulging in startlingly unfunny slapstick, jokes about paedophilia and a sappy streak of half-baked sentiment. All of which means that the filmmakers waste their solid cast at every turn. Justice and Levy make an enjoyable if unlikely duo, while Nicholl is full of unpredictable energy. But the filmmakers manage to subdue the usually irrepressible Handler in a badly underdeveloped role that's still the most interesting thing in the film.
Basically, only undemanding audiences will laugh at this. Or people who find precocious, chubby 8-year-olds in peril hysterically funny. Essentially, that limits the film's appeal to young boys who will giggle at the poo jokes or young girls who think a chaste kiss is the height of romance. Fortunately, the cast is good enough that none of them embarrass themselves in this mess. But they probably hope everyone forgets about it soon.