"Fun Size" is not as good as "Gossip Girl" or "The O.C.," but it's still unmistakably the work of Josh Schwartz. You can tell by the catty mean girl with a heart of gold (played by Jane Levy), the hapless and love-lorn nerd who loves comics, video games and sarcasm in equal measure (Thomas Middleditch, who should become a huge star) and, perhaps most telling, by the music cues. Oh, the music cues! They are heavenly: The Beastie Boys, Josh Groban, Passion Pit. The "Fun Size" soundtrack is like the best party mix ever.
Of course, Schwartz aficionados who watched "The O.C.," "Gossip Girl" and "Chuck" expect nothing less. Along with music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas, Schwartz basically reinvented how pop music was used for television. Before "The O.C.," it was uncool for a band to farm out its music to television; now, it's essential. In fact, it's actually hard to imagine Death Cab For Cutie even existing without "The O.C." The Coldplay song "Fix You," which has appeared on no less than two television shows in the last year ("Glee" and "The Newsroom")? Schwartz picked it for "The O.C." before it was even released. (SETH & SUMMER 4EVA.)
"Fun Size" is Schwartz's directorial debut, and he'll get better as he gets more experience. He's got one thing down cold, though: Schwartz has a preternatural sense for finding the right band, the right song and the right scene and putting them all into a blender to create the best moment. He's like Martin Scorsese for the millennial generation. While Wes Anderson, Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Quentin Tarantino have co-opted Scorsese's music-movie aptitude for their own gains (Russell might be the best of the bunch; wait until you see how he uses Led Zeppelin in "Silver Linings Playbook"), Schwartz represents the future. His British invasion was Oasis (or at least a Ryan Adams cover of Oasis); his Rolling Stones are Death Cab.
True story: In college, my friends and I spent a good chunk of freshman year watching "Goodfellas" and looking for every song used in the film. This was pre-Google, so searching for each of the 40-plus music cues required significant effort (and at least five trips to the now-closed Tower Records on Manhattan's Upper West Side). The hardest song to find was "Atlantis" by Donovan, which Scorsese famously used in the Billy Batts scene. ("On board were the 12 ...") After weeks of searching, we finally found it on a double-disc greatest hits CD. "Donovan Troubadour: The Definitive Collection" cost $40. I purchased it, no questions asked. Less than three years later, Napster happened, and I was able to download "Atlantis" in five minutes for free. I regret nothing.
"Fun Size" has its own Billy Batts moment. Wren (Victoria Justice), the film's conflicted heroine, must finally take responsibility for her actions. As she runs toward her destiny, the Passion Pit song "It's Not My Fault, I'm Happy" plays on the soundtrack. It's triumphant and gives the teen comedy a moment of gravitas that is almost jarring.
"Alexandra and I have such a shorthand now," Schwartz told HuffPost Entertainment. "Any time we go into something -- obviously there's the taste that we have and share, but we also want to figure out what's appropriate. It can't just be one size fits all. You want to find the right balance for each project."
So far, so good. I'm just glad that Passion Pit song doesn't cost $40.