How To Eat Fried Worms
2006, PG, 98 min. Directed by Bob Dolman. Starring Luke Benward, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Adam Hicks, Clint Howard, Ty Panitz, James Rebhorn, Thomas Cavanagh, Kimberly Williams, Andrea Martin.
REVIEWED By Toddy Burton, Fri., Aug. 25, 2006
Doubtless the idea of watching people eat worms for more than an hour will likely entice any conscious 10-year-old, but I can't deny more than a little reticence about the possibilities for an enjoyable moviegoing experience. Fortunately, the result was a pleasant surprise. While the film version of this hugely popular book lacks the complexity and wit to achieve the status of a classic, How to Eat Fried Worms, which was filmed in Austin, delivers heart and humor in a simple and straightforward manner. It's charming, funny, and even has a few good jokes for the over-18 set. The film tells the story of 11-year-old Billy (Benward), the new kid in a school suffering under the reign of the villainous bully Joe (Hicks). Every student bows in terror at the thought of young Joe and his "death ring." Upon puncturing the skin of its victim, the ring inserts a poison, which lays dormant until the recipient dies in the eighth grade. On his first day at school, Billy inadvertently and publicly humiliates said bully, thus opening the door for incessant retribution via Joe and his small army of devoted followers. In attempt to end the taunting, Billy agrees to a bet demanding that he eat 10 worms in one day. As a result, Billy must contend with his notoriously weak stomach, his annoyingly adorable brother, and Joe's cadre of ragtag supporters. The dynamics among the young boys (reminiscent of, though not as good as, the excellent Holes) is repeatedly entertaining while the parade of fifth-graders runs around town concocting new and crazier ways to prepare a worm. Additional highlights include Cavanaugh (TV's Love Monkey and Ed) as Billy's father, also struggling to fit in and contend with an overly eager new co-worker. Panitz is also very funny as Billy's younger brother and the perpetual center of attention. Ultimately, the film displays mature storytelling techniques, while never steering from the wide-eyed perspective of a kid who has to eat worms to prove his worth. Though Fried Worms is not a kids' movie that adults should run out and see, it is a kids' movie that adults should run out and take their kids to. The sweetness of spirit and rapidly moving story will keep parents entertained while blessing the kids with a mildly raunchy good time.