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4 reviews, 5 user ratings

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How to Eat Fried Worms
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Insert "Worms On A Plate" Joke Here"
1 stars

Anyone who has been looking forward to the film adaptation of Thomas Rockwell’s 1973 kid-lit favorite “How to Eat Fried Worms”–whether they are youngsters who have recently been exposed to its icky charms or parents who remember reading it when they were that age–is going to be mighty disappointed with the results. Utilizing the title, the basic conceit and little else, a story that has entertained readers for nearly 35 years has been “improved” into a mixture of repellent imagery, unappealing characters and sticky sentiment so off-putting that it makes the odious “Barnyard” look like a Pixar classic by comparison.

Billy (Luke Benward) is a ten-year-old boy cursed with a weak stomach (an affliction endlessly chronicled in the animated opening credits that should serve as a signal for most parents to get up and see if “Monster House” is still playing on one of the other multiplex screens), a overly cute three-year-old brother (Ty Panitz) who gets to do “adorable things like say the word “penis” and smear an entire burrito on his face (needless to say, neither the character nor the incidents appear in the original book) and the stigma of being the new kid in school after Dad (Tom Cavanagh) gets a new job. Billy has barely been at school for five minutes when he becomes the target of bully Joe (Adam Hicks), a well-scrubbed thug who holds the fifth grade in fear because of the so-called Death Ring that he wears (one touch will kill a person–however, it doesn’t kill them until the eighth grade so that he can’t be blamed). One of their tricks is to empty Billy’s thermos, fill it with worms and claim it to be his lunch. In an uncharactersitc fit of bravado, Billy says that yeah, he eats worms all the time and disdainfully flings one in Joe’s face.

Of course, this will not stand and Joe forces Billy into a bet where he has to eat 10 specially prepared worms over the course of one long Saturday–the loser has to walk through the school hallway with worms stuffed in his pants. Billy agrees and with the help of a couple of equally awkward kids, tall girl Erica (Hallie Kate Eisenberg) and kvetch-in-training Adam (Austin Rogers), goes about trying to save face and regain his pride by swallowing more worms than Sammy Hagar on a bender. At first, Joe figures he can win by preparing them in the most disgusting manner possible–one is deep-fried in lard, another winds up in an omlette while a third is liquified with broccoli (I kept waiting for the joke that the kid didn’t mind the worm but objected to the broccoli)–but as Billy keeps on keeping them down, he begins to invoke more direct means to ensure that he will win the bet.

On the page, “How to Eat Fried Worms” was an amusing little trifle that cannily exploited the fascination that kids have with disgusting things–anyone who ever shouted lustily about great green gobs of grimy, greasy gopher guts knows exactly what I am talking about. The problem with the film is that while visualizing a kid eating worms in your mind is one thing, actually watching it is another thing entirely and certainly not a good thing. Yes, I know that no worms were harmed or consumed during the making of the film–not even the one that was blown up in the microwave–but even the faked sight of such a thing is disturbing enough to make it seem more like pre-teen week on “Fear Factor.” At a certain point, cheerful grotesquerie changes into outright grotesquerie and “How to Eat Fried Worms” trips over that line early on and never recovers.

At the same time that he is trying to turn our stomachs, writer-director Bob Dolman is also trying to warm our hearts and the results are, if possible, even more bile-inducing than the icky stuff. The film wants to tell us that Bullying is Bad and that if you pick on someone, they are likely to pick on someone else themselves. This is a nice enough sentiment, I suppose, but it is one that doesn’t really fit together too comfortably within the context of a film that also seems to suggest that a kid should go through a bet, no matter how stupid or foolhardy, because he gave his word. Even if Dolman figured out a way to make these two elements somehow jibe, we are still left with the inescapable problem that they are being enacted by some of the most stridently annoying juvenile actors to come along in a while. Instead of conveying the infectuous fun of kids at play, this group always feels as if they are exactly what they are–a group of little adults who go through the motions of spontaneity while wondering in the back of their mind if they were able to book that “According to Jim” episode.

While it may not go down as the worst cinematic bastardization of a classic children’s book (that prize is still shared by “The Cat in the Hat” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”), “How to Eat Fried Worms” is still a useless exercise made by people who understood that the book was a success but not the reasons why it was a success. If you are a parent, do yourself and your kids a big favor by giving this junk a pass and using the money to buy them a copy of the book instead. I assure you that it will provide far more entertainment in any one of its 128 pages than you find in all 98 minutes of the film.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=15075&reviewer=389
originally posted: 08/25/06 01:43:14
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User Comments

12/04/08 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 3 stars
11/17/06 Tiffany Faye Hawthorne Geez -- still another gross-out that Eric D likes better than mere farts! 1 stars
10/16/06 William Goss Reasonable kids' flick gets off to slow start, but knows its audiences w/o pandering much. 3 stars
8/25/06 michael dont let the title scare you away 3 stars
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  25-Aug-2006 (PG)
  DVD: 05-Dec-2006



Directed by
  Bob Dolman

Written by
  Bob Dolman

  Luke Benwald
  Tom Cavanaugh
  Kimberly Williams
  Hallie Kate Eisenberg
  Adam Hicks

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