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How to Eat Fried Worms

As yet another children"s novel-turned-big-screen flick, Fried Worms has all the wholesome goodness of tomato soup, while the side of crispy larva gives it an extra kick.


So, exactly how DO you eat fried worms? Very carefully. Or, if you"re the gaggle of pre-teen boys in How to Eat Fried Worms, in as many inventive and repulsive ways as possible. Based on the hugely popular novel by Thomas Rockwell, the story focuses on Billy (Luke Benward), a new kid at school who, on his first day, is immediately harassed by bully Joe (Adam Hicks) and his crew. But Billy isn"t the type to just roll over. He decides to stand up for himself and excepts a bet to eat 10 worms in one day. Of course, he"s secretly horrified, but by god, he"s going to go through it—eating one disgusting worm concoction mixed up by Joe"s gang after another. Of course, the kids eventually learn some important lessons, giving us that certain warm and fuzzy feeling. Right after the queasiness passes.


The child actors are all appropriately scrubbed fresh and generally act like regular kids, without being too hammy. Benward (Because of Winn-Dixie) does a fine job as the hapless Billy. You definitely have to admire him for sticking to his guns and plowing through those worms, no matter how revolting. Hicks (Disney's The Shaggy Dog) is actually refreshing as a bully in the fact he doesn"t exactly look like one, besides being slightly taller than the rest of the boys. He"s skinny with red hair and freckles but he throws his weight around effectively. Some of the other boys you might recognize: Alexander Gould (Weeds) plays Twitch, aptly named for his spastic behavior; Ryan Malgarini (Freaky Friday) as Benjy, the chef du jour; and the most veteran of the kids, Hallie Kate Eisenberg (Bicentennial Man, TV"s The Miracle Worker), as the lone girl in the group who proclaims regularly, "Boys are so weird." As for the adults, Ed"s Tom Cavanagh and According to Jim"s Kimberly Williams stand out as Billy"s parents.


Production company Walden Media"s mission to bring wholesome family movies based on kid novels to the big screen is actually a smart move because there is definitely a market for good, clean entertainment combined with popular children"s literature. They"ve already had tremendous success with The Chronicles of Narnia, as well as with modest hits Because of Winn-Dixie and Holes. Of course, these movies (besides maybe the fantastical Narnia) are still glorified after-school TV specials, but I suppose with a little more money behind the idea, feature films work. How to Eat Fried Worms has been a pre-teen staple on the bookshelves since it was first published in 1973, and writer/director Bob Dolman (The Banger Sisters) certainly captures the novel"s spirit. It"s down to earth, has a message we can all relate to—and the worm shenanigans should tickle your youngster"s fancy.

Bottom Line rated this film 2 1/2 stars.