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All Hallow's Cleve 

Fun Size shows an idealized Cleveland

At the same time Hollywood was filming The Avengers in Cleveland, the city was also being used as the setting of Fun Size, a more modestly budgeted Halloween-themed movie from Nickelodeon. In Fun Size, shot in various Greater Cleveland locations, Cleveland isn't posing as Detroit or Stuttgart—it looks like Cleveland, albeit a slightly idealized version. The set designers transformed two abandoned fast food joints on Euclid Avenue into shiny, colorful restaurants (Captain Chicken, with its giant pirate rooster effigy, was my favorite) and hung colored lights across Coventry Road, transforming it into a bustling thoroughfare called "The Strip." In a sense, the makers of Fun Size have better ideas about what Cleveland could look like than Cleveland does.

It was sad when Captain Chicken flew its roost and the crews departed, but that's how it always is when you let Hollywood have its way with you. The resulting movie is a slight and mildly charming comedy, more for 'tweens than kids (hence the PG-13 rating) with winning performances and a moderately clever script by Max Werner, a Colbert Report writer.

The standard-issue story centers on high school senior Wren (Victoria Justice), who can't wait to leave Cleveland and attend NYU. Her widowed mom, Joy (Chelsea Handler) is dating a 24-year-old airhead. Wren and April (Jane Levy), her obligatory sidekick, want desperately to attend a Halloween party hosted by the Porsche-driving class idol Aaron Riley (Thomas McDonell). Though quite beautiful, Wren has nerdish tendencies that horrify the socially obsessed April — for instance, Wren wants to dress as Ruth Bader Ginsburg for Halloween. Wren's interests make her a natural ally of bookish classmate Roosevelt (Thomas Mann), who has two moms and a massive crush on Wren, who has eyes only for Aaron.

Wren's party plans are foiled when her mom requires her to babysit her eight-year-old brother, the pudgy, mischievous Albert (Jackson Nicoll). Wren takes Albert along to the party, but he gets lost, hooking up with a convenience store clerk named Fuzzy (Thomas Middleditch) on a mission of vengeance against an ex-girlfriend. Misadventures ensue as panicked Wren and her pals look for Albert on a chaotic—and improbably balmy— Halloween night. A fracas erupts involving a musket, a chicken drumstick, and the giant automated Captain Chicken humping a Volvo.

Meanwhile, Joy, dressed as pigtailed Britney Spears, is attending a raucous house party and discovers she has more in common with her date's friend's parents than with her young boyfriend. As she shares a cup of tea with the adults, Joy realizes how much she misses her husband.

Despite occasional silliness, the movie contains some nicely observed satire — Roosevelt's moms, weaving a rug bearing Barack Obama's image, are the epitome of Cleveland Heights New Age crunchiness — and unexpected pathos, as when Joy reunites with her children at their father's grave and begins to come to terms with her grief.

As for Cleveland, well, she never looked so good.

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