HOW TO EAT FRIED WORMS (Bob Dolman). 98 minutes. Opens Friday (August 25). For venues and times, see Movies, page 105. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
Never having read Thomas Rockwell's 1973 children's book, I walked into director Bob Dolman 's adaptation foolishly assuming the title was a metaphor. I was sadly mistaken. But despite its stomach-churning subject, this comedy is a harmless summertime distraction.
After Billy's ( Luke Benward ) family moves to a new town, the nausea- prone grade five student butts heads with the class bully before reluctantly accepting a dare to eat 10 worms over the course of a Saturday afternoon. As the day progresses, Billy changes the nature of the school's cliques and learns the requisite lessons about friendship and popularity.
The film's credits proclaim that no worms were actually harmed, but some of the scenes (including a worm and spinach milkshake) are disgusting enough to provoke some gags and groans. Fortunately for those with weak stomachs, the pre-adolescent humour is well balanced with charming comic turns by Tom Cavanagh as Billy's affable father and a welcome Clint Howard cameo.
While countless other children's films have dealt with similar "let's-all-be-friends" themes, Dolman's earnest direction and the spirited young cast - especially former Pepsi shill Hallie Kate Eisenberg as the girl next door - give us a family-friendly tale that's easy to swallow.