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Wren's (Victoria Justice) Halloween plans go awry when she's made to babysit her brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll), who disappears into a sea of trick-or-treaters. With her best friend April (Jane Levy) and two nerds Roosevelt (Thomas Mann) and Peng (Osric Chau) at her side, she needs to find her brother before her mom Joy (Chelsea Handler) finds out he's missing.

Review by Louise Keller:
The incongruous, colourful and bizarre are jumbled together in a Halloween size pumpkin in this occasionally puerile, at times endearing and often silly comedy in which a giant fake chicken violates the rear of a yellow Volvo as its ultimate low point. The scene might have been funny, had first time director Josh Schwartz not lingered too long and overplayed the joke, especially as the car's passengers comprised a motley crew dressed as Dorothy from Oz, a sex kitten in animal-print, an explorer and a civil war soldier with judge's powdered wig. Outside the car, an assortment of characters, including a crazed Viking and ultra-green Incredible Hulk with purple shorts is watching animatedly; the culmination is a battle between a musket and chicken drumstick.

It's Halloween and the establishment shots of Cleveland in late autumn show off the glorious reds, oranges and ochres of the trees, harmonising with the large decorative pumpkins strewn everywhere in anticipation of the celebrations. Harmony is in short supply though, especially through the eyes of Wren (Victoria Justice), the film's protagonist, who is fed up with having to look after her 8 year old brother Albert (Jackson Nicoll) and equally fed up with her mother Joy's (Chelsea Handler) antics with toyboy Keevin (Josh Pence).

Justice, a talented singer, songwriter, actress and dancer with good looks and a pleasant personality to boot, is a likeable presence as the book-smart Wren, spending most of the film searching for chubby, brattish, uncharismatic Albert, who might be mute since his father died, but is not backward in making other bodily noises.

The trouble starts when Joy, dressed in a Britney Speers costume and pigtails disappears with Keevin and other 26 year olds, leaving Wren (in Dorothy costume) to mind Albert, who is dressed in a Spiderman outfit with the added embellishment of an attached fake torn-off-arm. Instead of going to gorgeous Aaron's (Thomas McDonell) party, Wren is stuck with Albert, who goes missing after a series of unlikely events involving a nerd called Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) and an uncredited, tattooed, blond-wigged Johnny Knoxville, who flaunts his excesses as Jörgen.

Wren's adventures in search of Albert are spent with her smug bestie April (Jane Levy), Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), who has a crush on Wren and his tag-along pal Peng (Osric Chau). The scene involving Roosevelt's two 'Mums', who are a vision of old-fashioned extremism, weaving a tapestry of Barrack Obama and who speak to their son in ancient Greek or Aramaic - when he simply wants to borrow the car, is quite wonderful. That is the film's high point. The add-on story strand involving an allergy prone cat who becomes affected by the hair-removing cream that April has liberally applied to her private parts is less successful.

It's all rather mad and stupid and a better director might have managed to squeeze more juice from the material. After all, there is plenty of colour and potential. With the exception of the youngster, who is decidedly underwhelming, the other performances are excellent, especially Justice and Mann, whose sincerity shines through and makes the journey fun - at least in part.

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(US, 2012)

CAST: Victoria Justice, Chelsea Handler, Ana Gasteyer, Jackson Nicoll, Josh Pence, Jane Levy, Thomas Mann, Thomas McDonnell

PRODUCER: Josh Schwartz, Brad Dorros, David Kanter, Stephanie Savage,

DIRECTOR: Josh Schwartz

SCRIPT: Max Werner


EDITOR: Michael L. Sale

MUSIC: Deborah Lurie


RUNNING TIME: 86 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 29, 2012

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