How To Eat Fried Worms

on August 25, 2006 by Bridget Byrne
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Largely free of the calculated mannerisms of many young actors, the kids in "How to Eat Fried Worms" have a natural charm that director Bob Dolman allows to flourish. But the adults here are much more stilted, popped into the picture in a way that pushes it back to the conventional just when you are hoping it will achieve the unusual. And the anti-bullying message, which is the heart of the story, is too insistent, as the concocting and consuming of the ghastly worm-based snacks very quickly begins to point to a too-obvious conclusion.

Luke Benward is spot-on as Billy, a seemingly average child with his own unique emotions and ideas, who would like life to be good. When he's not treated at all kindly by a small gang of 'tweens at his new school, he rashly takes on their dare to swallow 10 worms in a day to save his pride. His situation is paralleled by his dad's experiences at a new job, though saving face there only involves a hopeless game of tennis. Tom Cavanagh has some sweet moments as the dad, but the inclusion of the adult world is too minimal to give him real scope to create a viable character.

Meanwhile, Adam Hicks doesn't overplay his role as the class bully, and the insight provided into his behavior helps to keep him sympathetic, which suits the overall tone of the story. Hallie Kate Eisenberg gives the role of the token girl wry style.

As the unwilling villains of the piece the worms get the worst of it -- broiled, baked, barbecued, microwaved, minced, pulped, fricasseed, etc. -- although, of course, we are assured that no worms were hurt during production. Ultimately, though, the worms simply aren't icky enough. It's understandable that to have made them truly gross might have audiences gagging in the theater aisles, but perhaps that might have given this cute tale real punch. Starring Luke Benward, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Adam Hicks, Tom Cavanagh and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Directed by Bob Dolman and written by Bob Dolman. Produced by Mark Johnson and Philip Steuer. A New Line release. Family comedy. Rated PG for mild bullying and some crude humor. Running time: 83 min
Tags: Starring Luke Benward, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Adam Hicks, Tom Cavanagh and Kimberly Williams-Paisley. Directed by Bob Dolman and written by Bob Dolman. Produced by Mark Johnson and Philip Steuer, A New Line, Family comedy
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