How to Eat Fried Worms (2006) / Comedy-Adventure
MPAA Rated: PG for some crude humor
Running Time: 98 min.
Cast: Luke Benward, Adam Hicks, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Thomas Cavanagh, Austin Rogers, Ty Panitz, Alexander Gould, Ryan Malgarini, Philip Bolden, Blake Garrett, Andrew Gillingham, James Rebhorn, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Andrea Martin, Clint Howard (cameo)
Director: Bob Dolman
Screenplay: Bob Dolman (based on the novel by Thomas Rockwell)
Review published September 5, 2006
How to Eat Fried Worms is based on the Thomas Rockwell juvenile novel of the same name, originally published in 1973, which might explain the rather old-fashioned sense of children's fare, similar to the kinds of TV films aimed at youths you could find on television many days of the week. There are some notable changes from the book, such as the length of the bet, the amount of worms involved, and the end prize, but the gist of it remains the same -- the consumption of worms in a variety of increasingly disgusting ways.
Billy (Benward, Because of Winn-Dixie) is the new boy in school, and the new target of the group of bullies in it, led by hothead Joe (Hicks, The 12 Dogs of Christmas). After the Joe and the boys play a prank of putting worms in his lunch, Billy earns the nickname of "worm boy", which he tries to throw back in their face by claiming to enjoy eating them. Joe calls his bluff by challenging him to a bet -- eat 10 worms served up any way they like in one day, and the loser has to walk down the school hall with a pocket full of worms while everyone watches. The trouble is that Billy gets very nauseous easily, and just the thought of eating one disgusting worm is enough to turn his stomach, much less ten.
Target demographics are the real key to enjoying this film, as the younger you are, the more likely you will probably enjoy the stingy pleasures offered. Despite the original premise, this is the same "new kid in school vs. the bullies" formula you've seen many times before, where you know that the young protagonist will somehow find the inner courage to turn the tables on his tormentors and become the hero. The ratio of people that will enjoy Fried Worms for what it is dips for every year past the age of 10, although if you are an adult that simply loves juvenile fare because it is cute and relatively inoffensive compared to standard movies, perhaps you'll find it a worthwhile distraction.
How to Eat Fried Worms benefits from good casting and an innocuous delivery, and it isn't as obnoxious to adults as some kids' fare. Along with Hoot, it's another one of those children's movies that feel like they belong more on television than the big screen (TV execs, please bring back the "After School Special"!), where it would have made an adequate Disney Channel Original Movie, which is precisely where I suspect this film will eventually find its audience, and where I'd wait for it to appear shortly after its debut on video.
©2006 Vince Leo