Monday, October 24, 2016

Fun Size

Premiered on October 26, 2012.

"Everyone loves Halloween especially in Cleveland.  When you’re known as “the mistake by the lake,” the chance to pretend you’re somebody else for a night sounds pretty good."
-Wren Desantis

Wren Desantis () is getting ready to celebrate Halloween in Cleveland, OH.  She's invited to attend a party by Aaron Riley (), a boy she likes.  Wren's friend April () thinks the party would be great for her popularity. 

But Wren's plans are changed when her mother Joy () tells her she needs to take her younger brother Albert () out trick or treating.   Wren and Albert's father has recently died and this will be their first Halloween without him.  Albert hasn't spoken since their father died.  Joy is busy attending a Halloween party with her new (much younger) boyfriend Keevin (Josh Pence).

All is going well until Wren loses Albert in a "haunted house" attraction.

She drops everything to find Albert.  She gets help from her "nerdy" friends Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau).  Both boys are nursing crushes on Wren and April, respectively. Roosevelt offers to borrow his moms' car to assist in the search for Albert.  That is, if his moms (Ana Gasteyer and Kerri Kenny) give permission.

Joy's Halloween isn't going very well either.  She accompanies Keevin to a party hosted by his friend Brueder (James Pumphrey).   It's very loud and full of drunk people who are much younger than Joy, she feels out of place.

Albert ends up in a local convenience store where he befriends a clerk named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch).  They embark upon adventures, attempting to play Halloween pranks on Fuzzy's ex and her new boyfriend Jorgen (Johnny Knoxville).

Albert and Fuzzy team up!
Will the Halloween misadventures work themselves out?  Will Wren find Albert in time to get to Aaron's party?

Four teenagers in a Volvo on Halloween night.  What could possibly go wrong? 
J.A. Morris says:
Fun Size is not very good, there's no sugarcoating it.  On a positive note, the "romantic leads" Victoria Justice and Thomas Mann are decent (if not great) actors and they seem like nice kids.  Jane Levy is pretty good at making the "stinkface" expression.

I haven't seen Chelsea Handler act before, she's okay too.  And I'm always happy to see Ana Gasteyer (one of my favorite 90s SNL vets),even if her role isn't great. 

Kerri Kenny and Ana Gasteyer as Roosevelt's moms.
Albert meets a woman who's dressed as Galaxy Scout (Riki Lindhome), his favorite comic book character and is smitten.  Their moments of interaction feel sweet and genuine.

However, Fun Size feels like several bits of movies stuck together that don't add up to a whole movie.  We get a speech from Joy about how tough it is to be a single mother.  I'm sure it is and I have lots of respect for single moms.  But Joy's speech feels like it was phoned in from a much more serious movie.

There's also an awkward combination of the sort of humor found in sitcoms aimed at "tweens" and R-rated gross-out comedies.  When Roosevelt backs his car into a chicken restaurant, the car gets..."violated" by a robotic chicken.

At one point, April tells Wren that she accidentally put Nair on her butt.  This "plot point" exists so the Nair can cause Roosevelt's cat to get sick.

Albert and Wren are both placed into great danger when Albert is held captive by Jorgen. I have a pretty good sense of humor and I know this is just a movie, but child-endangerment isn't funny.

Fun Size is available on DVD and Blu-ray and can also be streamed on Amazon.

Unless you're a hardcore fan of any of these actors, there's not a lot to recommend in Fun Size.

J.A. Morris' rating:

1 and a half jack o'lanterns.

Galaxy Scout to the rescue!
RigbyMel says:

I really want to like Fun Size more.  There are not all that many feature-length Halloween movies out there, and in some regards,  Fun Size gives an overview of various ways of celebrating the occasion.
We see a truly massive and impressive trick or treat scene ...

the teen house party ...

Cute boy Aaron serenades Wren
the college (ish) aged dance party ...

Albert and Galaxy Girl tearing up the dance floor
and the man-child house party.

Wren's mom Joy is not as comfortable partying with 20-somethings as she'd hoped.
We get all manner of Halloween pranks, inversion and mayhem and costumes galore.

Albert and Fuzzy attempt to TP someone's abode.
There's even a walk through haunted house attraction AND a visit to a costume store.

The young actors are all appealing in their roles too.

There's even an appearance by Aaron Burr -- so to speak -- that would probably play better in this post-Hamilton world.

Peng is not throwing away his ... shot!
Unfortunately,  Fun Size never quite decides what audience it wants to play to -- family fun of the Nickelodeon/Disney Family persuasion or teen gross-out comedy a la American Pie.  Since it can't decide, it tries to cram everything it can into a less than 90 minute feature (that feels like it was originally shot for a television audience -- look at all the shot reverse shot sequences throughout the film).  As a result, the whole thing never quite gels into anything coherent,  which is a shame, because with a little more thought, it could have become a Halloween "classic."

As it is, though, Fun Size feels more like a missed opportunity.  

RigbyMel's rating:

2 jack o'lanterns

Monday, October 17, 2016

Beavis and Butt-Head: "Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest (aka Butt-O-Ween)"

Premiered October 31, 1995.

Beavis: That sucks that we're like, too old to get candy.
Butt-Head: No way Beavis, they're aren't any laws about Halloween.

It's Halloween in Highland and kids are trick or treating.

Beavis and Butt-Head (both voiced by Mike Judge) hadn't realized this. After getting clocked for taking candy from kids, they become angry that they're now too old to get free candy.

Beavis and Butt-Head decide to create make-shift costumes and go trick or treating anyway.  The boys are rebuffed at every house, everyone says they're too old for Halloween.

When they arrive at the home of their neighbor Tom Anderson (Judge again), he's going to turn them away too, but his phone rings.

While Anderson is distracted, Beavis finds a bowl of Halloween candy and consumes every piece of it in seconds.  Beavis is suddenly transformed into his hyperactive alter-ego, the Great Cornholio!

As Cornholio, he continues to roam the streets of Highland, terrorizing children and eating their candy.  (As well as pissing off Butt-Head who still hasn't gotten any candy.)

Beavis & Butt-Head meet ... The Great Pumpkin? 
Beavis and Butt-Head later encounter local tough guy Todd (Rottilio Michieli).  Butt-Head wants to hang out with Todd and his crew, but he ends up being thrown in the trunk of Todd's car.

The night grows late and the trick or treaters are fewer and further between.
Cornholio and Butt-Head find themselves in a deserted field near a graveyard ...

RigbyMel says:

I remember watching this when it first aired.  I always enjoyed Beavis and Butt-Head in small doses (and my younger brothers were HUGE fans).  Having been on the receiving end of the "aren't you too old to be trick or treating?" wheeze from adults, I can understand the duo's frustration.  Their methods, however, are ... questionable.

The Halloween hijinks and mayhem are right in line with what you'd expect from two dim-bulb. miscreants such as Beavis & Butt-Head.  It's a nice touch that they initially didn't even know it was Halloween and mistake trick or treaters coming to their door for salespeople giving out free samples.

The Doofus Duo shows off their "costumes"
Their eventual "costumes" are painfully uninspired  -  Beavis puts his underwear on his head and says he's a "nad" and Butt-Head elects to pour hot melted cheese over his head in order to be nachos. (Ouch!)

Beavis terrorizes the Red Ranger (and his parents)!
We see 90s relic kids out and about dressed as Power Rangers (both Red and White Ranger costumes are seen during this cartoon), which may add a twinge of nostalgia for cartoon viewers of a certain age.

It's also evident that Mike Judge (who created the series and voices the titular morons) had a lot of fun doing the voice-over work for our "heroes" in this episode.   Some of Cornholio's rantings are particularly inspired.

Cornholio strikes fear in the hearts of the hapless Stewart Stevenson and friends
The only issue I have with this special is the ending -- which feels like it flew in out of a (mild SPOILER) slasher movie.   I think it could've ended a minute or two sooner to no ill effect.

If you're a fan of Beavis & Butt-Head and want to revisit the 1990s (or see a Halloween special very much situated in said decade) "Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest" is worth checking out but I cannot quite give it my highest rating.

RigbyMel's rating:

3 jack o'lanterns

J.A. Morris says:

Beavis and Butt-Head was a polarizing series two decades ago.  It's funny to think about that now, since they seem so tame by today's standards.  It might sound simple, but if you enjoyed Beavis and Butt-Head, you'll like this episode, since it's a typical episode with some nice Halloween elements thrown in to the mixture.

The boys' hippie teacher Mr. Van Driessen sports a Nixon mask--the scariest thing he can think of!
I enjoyed "Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest" and laughed out loud more than I expected.  Beavis' talking into the mirror, rehearsing his "How's it goin'...I'm a nad" introduction is particularly funny.

I agree with RigbyMel about the joy on display when Mike Judge is voicing Cornholio.  I would guess that lots of Cornholio's rants were ad-libbed on the spot by Judge.

I also share my co-blogger's disappointment with the ending.  It seems like Judge and company just ran out of ideas.  But that's not enough to ruin what comes before.

This episode can be streamed on Amazon  and has been released on dvd.

"Bungholio: Lord of the Harvest" is a very funny Halloween episode.  If you were in high school or college (like I was) during Beavis and Butt-Head's heyday, this will be a nice way to get reacquainted with the boys, and newcomers will also likely enjoy it.  The lackluster ending means "Bungholio" gets slightly less than my highest rating.

J.A. Morris' rating:

3 and a half jack o'lanterns

Monday, October 10, 2016

Popeye: "Fright To The Finish"

Premiered August 27, 1954.

"So beware this Halloween Eve, when the Earth will be haunted by spooks, ghosts, and hobgoblins."
-Olive Oyl

It's Halloween night and Olive Oyl (Mae Questel) is reading a book of spooky stories.  This sets Olive on edge and she is afraid that ghosts and hobgoblins will haunt her.

Popeye the sailor (Jack Mercer) and Bluto (Jackson Beck), Popeye's rival for Olive's affections, are bored by Olive's frightful tales.  Bluto wishes Popeye would leave so he can be alone with Olive, Popeye wonders why Bluto hasn't gone home already.

Bluto gets a fiendish idea.  He will scare Olive Oyl out of her wits and blame Popeye, which will send her into his arms.  Bluto perpetrates several Halloween tricks to further his plan.

Will Bluto succeed?

J.A. Morris says:
I grew up watching various Popeye cartoons and I've long been a fan of the spinach-eating sailor. Fright To The Finish was produced by Famous Studios.  Hardcore Popeye fans prefer the Fleischer Brothers shorts, but this Halloween toon is pretty good.  Fright To The Finish has great animation and is packed with sight-gags from start to finish.

It's full of great Halloween imagery like skeletons and jack o'lanterns.  The voice cast is also excellent.  Jack Mercer (who is also credited with writing Fright To The Finish) voiced Popeye for nearly five decades and he does a great job here.  Mae Questel (the definitive Olive Oyl voice actress) and Jackson Beck are also very good.

(A mild SPOILER below)

Fright To The Finish is a rare Popeye cartoon where the sailor man does not save the day by eating spinach.  I watched it several times before I noticed this departure from the formula.

This short can be found on a dvd called Popeye:The Sailor Man (75th Anniversary Collection) and it can also be streamed on Amazon.

Fright To The Finish is a very enjoyable Halloween cartoon and is highly recommended.

J.A. Morris' rating:

4 Jack O'Lanterns!

RigbyMel says:

This is quite an enjoyable animated short.  

There is definitely an emphasis on the "trick" aspect of "trick or treat" on full display here,  as well as some rather wonderful sight gags -- particularly involving poor Olive Oyl's reactions to the appearance of various Bluto-created ghosties and beasties.    One almost has to admire Bluto's Halloween prank ingenuity.  

There were several bits of this short that reminded me a bit of the Brom Bones/Ichabod Crane rivalry as depicted in the 1949 Disney incarnation of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow", but the dynamic is different enough not to detract from the fun.  

Popeye plans to get his own back with a little help from some of Olive's vanishing cream
I also love that we get a series of "vanishing cream" gags in this. I've always enjoyed the way cartoons will play with this notion since it's totally what little kids think of when they hear the term "vanishing cream."  

I  find it interesting to see the way that different signs and signifiers of the spooky season are deployed in this short -- we don't see children trick or treating, but we do get ghost story telling, pranks, skeletons, jack o'lanterns and even ghostly manifestations, after a fashion.   Halloween is not quite as strictly codified as other holidays and this makes for intriguingly varied pop cultural takes on the spooky season.

RigbyMel's rating:

4 Jack O'Lanterns!