When I heard they'd made a movie out of Thomas Rockwell's popular 1973 juvenile fiction book How to Eat Fried Worms, I fondly remembered a genre of stories I read in elementary school, including such classics as Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and Fudge by Judy Blume, and the Ramona books (Ramona the Pest, Ramona the Brave, etc.) by Beverly Cleary. These were books with lovable, relatable characters who won our hearts and turned us on to reading. I lumped How to Eat Fried Worms in with the rest with a great big nostalgic awww.
Well, it should have been an ewww.
In the book version of Fried Worms, warring factions of 11-year-old male friends dare young Billy Forrester to eat 15 worms in 15 days for 50 bucks. It's a winning battle of wits and stomachs, a classic tale of friendship and boyhood fights. Well, when you cram that story into 83 minutes in the age of Fear Factor, that translates into ten worms on one gastronomically insane Saturday (with no puking). And the loser has to walk down the main hallway at school with a handful of worms in his pants. In other words, the movie version is all about the worms.
Luke Benward as Billy … and it's all about the worms
At the start of the film, Billy (Luke Benward) has moved to a new town with his mostly clueless parents (Tom Cavanagh and Kimberly Williams-Paisley) and his annoyingly cute little brother, Woody (Ty Panitz). Why have they moved? We don't know. Remember, it's all about the worms. When Billy braves the first day at his new school, he becomes the latest target for the campus bully, Joe, and his band of fifth-grade thugs. Why is he the source of such instant derision? We don't know. Remember, it's all about the worms.
At lunch that first day, Joe and crew sneak a fistful ...