Bob Dolman sets dull-as-dishwater images to a straightforward adaptation of Thomas Rockwell’s prize-winning kid-lit classic How to Eat Fried Worms, failing to alter the new-kid-on-the-block formula of tweener films like Max Keeble’s Big Move. When Billy (Luke Benward) incurs the wrath of the school bully during a lunchroom spat, tensions escalate between the boys until Joe (Adam Hicks) dares Billy to eat 10 worms in one day. Over the course of the film, these creepy crawlies will be deep fried in lard, boiled in an assortment of hot substances, spread atop a peanut butter sandwich, and dumped into a broccoli-spinach smoothie—super-gross attempts by Joe’s cronies to get the weak-stomached Billy to upchuck. But to their surprise, the kid summons superhuman powers of resistance, and in the process siphons friends away from Joe. Good for Billy, except this battle will have adverse effects on his ego: After jumping on the bandwagon and teasing his friend Erika (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), the boy becomes an example of how bullies are made. It’s an innocuous message trotted out with half-assed conviction, dorkily intercut with the trials of Billy’s father adjusting to a new job and playing tennis with a limber co-worker with an unfortunate resemblance to John M. Karr. The film’s children are probably too old to believe in Santa Claus, yet they believe the ring on one of the punchy Joe’s hands can infect them with an ulcer that will kill them in the eighth grade. Dolman’s Saturday-morning vision is neither sweet nor complicated enough to credibly evince the mysteries and challenges of growing up.
- Bob Dolman
- Bob Dolman
- Luke Benward, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Adam Hicks, Austin Rogers, Alexander Gould, Ryan Malgarini, Philip Daniel Bolden, Clint Howard, Ty Panitz, James Rebhorn, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Tom Cavanagh
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