If your kids scream for this Halloween romp, you may want to dress them up as … smarter kids.
Wren needs to go to college. She really needs to. It's not simply because she lives in a hapless place everybody calls the "Mistake Beside the Lake"—otherwise known as Cleveland. And it's not just because her dad always said you don't really find out who you are until you hit college. And it's not merely because Dad recently passed away and she feels like something's missing in her life. And it's not only because her odd little brother, Albert, stopped talking after their dad died, and her late-thirtysomething mom started dating a 26-year-old moron.
It's not just because of any of that. Wren needs to go to college because of all of that.
Unfortunately, right now her mom (Joy) is holding her hostage. She's dragging her feet about signing the college applications. And, of course, if Mom wants something in the meantime—like, say, to go to an adult Halloween rager with her sleepover "guy"—then Wren will need to throw aside her plans to help make it happen. And so the pretty teen and her BFF April take Albert trick-or-treating instead of going to the only teen party worth attending in town.
Oh, but that's not the worst of it. While lamenting their shared hideous fate, the girls somehow lose track of Wren's little Spiderman suit-clad sibling. And now they've got to convince somebody with a car to help them patrol the streets.
They end up getting a nerdy guy named Roosevelt to help out. He's always had a crush on Wren, so it isn't that tough a job. Of course Roosevelt's best bud, Peng, needs to tag along too. And he won't stop staring at and drooling over April's chest.
Sigh. A lost brother. An embarrassing ride around town in a nerdmobile. And an ogling sidekick. Could this night possibly get any worse?
Oh, yeah. It can.
At the heart of things, Wren is a pretty well-grounded girl. Her dad passed away within the last year, and it hit the family hard. Her mom's become a complete flake, and her brother's an extremely strange little kid. So Wren seems to be the one family member left who's willing to hold everything together. And she runs around all night trying to do just that.
Despite the fact that Roosevelt is seen by everyone as a complete loser, it's pretty obvious that he and Wren are made for each other. They have the same interests in everything from books to famous historical figures. When they're thrown together in the "brother hunt," Wren comes to see their connection and just how kind Roosevelt really is.
Then, in the end, even Wren's mom seems to realize that her sleep-around, party-like-an-idiot reaction to the family's tragedy was foolish. She makes a (tagged-on) effort to reconnect with her kids.
Roosevelt's lesbian moms talk in worshipful terms over a President Obama tapestry they're weaving.
There are quite a few sexual gags and situations floated throughout the film. And skimpy Halloween costumes abound.
Early on, Joy's young boyfriend Keevin staggers out of the bedroom in nothing but a pair of boxer shorts while Wren and Albert are having breakfast. He hoists Mom up on the counter in front of them and starts making out with her as she gigglingly lifts her knees around his waist. Later that evening Joy is dressed in a suggestive-looking school girl costume for the party—where almost every woman on the scene sports a cleavage- and/or midriff-baring costume. Several couples make out while standing around the room. And as the party drones on, Joy slips away into a bedroom to find some space alone … and finds instead an older couple reading in bed together. One of them is reading the book Fifty Shades of Grey.
April talks of trying to decide between being a "sexy kitten" or a "sexy mouse" for Halloween. To which Wren wonders aloud why it always has to be something "sexy." She was considering going as Judge Ruth Bader Ginsberg—and we're shown a Photoshopped picture of the elderly judge with an open robe and ample cleavage.
Wren kisses Roosevelt. She yells out something about her "boobs." And while she bends over, a teen guy (and the camera) takes time to ogle her backside. Peng makes several references to—along with hip-thrusting movements—the sexual conquests he hopes to have by night's end. He openly lusts over April's chest and makes a deal with her to let him feel her breast in exchange for some help. She later pays up, and we watch them both revel in the experience for a prolonged moment. After the crazy Halloween night's events, Peng and April climb up out of each other's embrace on a couch somewhere. It's plain from their disheveled clothes and smeared makeup what they've been doing. They then dive back in for another kiss.
A guy strips and streaks down the street to attract the police's attention. (We see his naked body with blurred backside from the rear.) A giant mechanical chicken tumbles off the roof of a restaurant and appears to be "violating" Roosevelt's car. There's a visual gag that evokes the image of a pedophile. Jokes are made about lesbians, a guy's scrotum, prostitution, breasts, bras and luring children into cars. A guy asks a group of girls at a party which one would like to make out with him. All of them, and even a boy in the corner, raise their hands.
Two guys climb out of their car and threaten Roosevelt when his car stalls in traffic. One of them faces off with Peng, and Peng aims an old musket at the guy, blowing a chicken leg out of his hand.
Exploding fireworks throw Yorgan, a thirtysomething tattooed mug, backwards through his screen door. He gets up and manhandles Albert, the young prankster responsible, into his house. Albert responds by punching the guy in the crotch. Joy slams Roosevelt to the floor of her porch.
A guy throws a roll of toilet paper through a window, setting an apartment on fire when it knocks over a candle. The owners, a large Hawaiian man dressed in a towel and his rotund wife, pummel the guy, throwing him to the ground and smashing him through a door. While wearing a pumpkin on his head, Albert runs into a light pole.
Crude or Profane Language
Three s-words along with a handful of uses each of "a‑‑," "h‑‑‑," "d‑‑n" and "b‑‑ch" (some delivered by adolescents). There's one misuse of "Christ," one "jeez" and 10 or so exclamations of "oh my god!"
Drug and Alcohol Content
At various Halloween parties, teens and twentysomethings raucously drink beer and hard liquor. They toss back Jell-O shots. Joy has a Jell-O shot shoved in her mouth by a young girl. Yorgan climbs out of his car swigging from a bottle of booze, and we spot several discarded empties in his house.
Other Negative Elements
Yorgan holds Albert for $400 in ransom. April talks about her mother's three marriages, stating, "That's how love works." Albert wanders around the town, getting into all kinds of trouble as he goes.
April admits to accidentally putting Nair on her backside, repeatedly joking about the results. Kids TP a cop's car. Gags revolve around urination, defecation and flatulence. Albert sits naked on the toilet while his unsuspecting sister showers. He purposely takes too much candy while trick-or-treating and crams his face full of the stuff.
Let's face it, comedy in the movie house has never shied away from pushing boundaries. And today's contemporary Hollywood laughers—with their penchant for mining raw, off-center giggles from "real" experiences—have made the genre even bolder and more controversial than ever.
It's apparently with that mindset that this "kids out romping on Halloween night" flick was shaped. And the end result is something of a Superbad for the young Nickelodeon set.
The gag harvesting here ranges from a newly widowed mom parading a not-really-dressed 26-year-old sexual boy toy in front of her kids; to a pair of quirky, hyper-intellectual lesbians handing out parental advice; to an Asian sidekick who mentally "humps" any passing female leg; to a creepy thirtysomething tattooed slug who guzzles booze, "dates" teen girls and holds a 10-year-old prankster for ransom. And, yep, that's supposed to be a "fun" little holiday draw for the kids.
In truth, star Victoria Justice—recognizable to all Nick fans from the current series Victorious and the past hit Zoey 101—is one of this movie's only redeeming elements. The young actress brings with her a certain sweetness that flies in the face of most of the obnoxious silliness on hand. And it's pretty obvious that the film's creators at Nickelodeon Movies are hoping she'll bring in an audience of young fans.
If those fans bite into this candy apple matinee pic, though, they'll find a whole lot more worms inside than caramel outside.