How to Eat Fried Worms is a 2006 American children's black comedy film written and directed by Bob Dolman and produced by Mark Johnson and Philip Steuer with music by Mark Mothersbaugh and Robert Mothersbaugh. It is loosely based on Thomas Rockwell's 1973 children's book of the same name. It was also produced by Walden Media, and distributed by New Line Cinema.
Development began in 1998, and the theatrical release for the United States and Canada was August 25, 2006. The film stars Luke Benward, Adam Hicks, Hallie Eisenberg, Austin Rogers, Andrew Gillingham, Alexander Gould, Blake Garrett, and Philip Daniel Bolden. The film received mixed reviews from critics.
A young, naive boy named Billy Forrester (Luke Benward) has a weak stomach and vomits easily. He and his parents, Mitch (Tom Cavanagh), Helen (Kimberly Williams-Paisley), and his little brother, Woody (Ty Panitz), have just moved to a new town. Billy tells his mother that he doesn't want to go to school because he will be "the new kid". She assures him that he will make friends and everything will be okay.
At school, however, he becomes the target of the school bully, Joe Guire (Adam Hicks), his two "toaders" named Plug (Blake Garrett) and Bradley (Philip Daniel Bolden), and the rest of his gang: Benjy (Ryan Malgarini), Techno-Mouth (Andrew Gillingham), Twitch (Alexander Gould), and Donny (Alexander Agate). They rudely stare at him and call him "Billy F." (which is how his name is written on his lunch box). Plug and Bradley steal his lunch box. He sits behind Erika Tansy (Hallie Eisenberg), an unusually tall girl whom people make fun of (calling her "Erk").
At lunch, Billy opens his thermos and pours out a pile of live earthworms. Sickened, he almost vomits before regaining strength. Then, confident, he throws one on Joe's face. A nerd named Adam Simms (Austin Rogers) was sure that Joe was going to smash Billy with his ring ("The Death Ring"), which is rumored that whoever Joe punches it with dies in the eighth grade.
The next day after school, Joe, Plug, and Benjy catch up with Billy as he heads home. Joe proposes a bet: Billy is forced to eat ten worms in one day (the coming Saturday) without throwing up, and the loser has to come to school with worms in his pants and walk down the hall past everybody. Billy knows that he cannot back out of the bet, so he accepts.
The next day, Billy is teamed up with Adam Simms. After eating the first worm, "Le Big Porker," the gang gets caught by a park ranger for using a grill in the park without adult supervision, but they outrun him. Billy becomes more confident with each worm that he swallows.
While cooking the second/third worm, "The Greasy Brown Toad Bloater Special," at Adam's uncle Ed's (Clint Howard) restaurant, the Brown Toad, Ed kicks them out for having the worms in his restaurant. After Billy eats the fourth one, "The Burning Fireball," and burns his mouth, Twitch and Techno-Mouth quit Joe's team and become his new best friends. Billy, Techno-Mouth, Twitch, and Adam then go to a convenience store, and find Adam playing Dance Dance Revolution, but one of the boys spills his drink. This causes the machine to blow up and they get kicked out for making a mess. At the playground, Billy eats the next three worms, "Magni-Fried," "Barfmallo," and "Peanut Butter and Worm Jam Sandwich."
After dinner, the boys go to a bait shop, where Billy eats the next two worms, "The Green Slusher" and "Radioactive Slime Delight," while the owner is out, but her unexpected return leads to her briefly chasing them for breaking into her bait shop. After Joe cheats in an attempt to keep Billy from eating the last worm, "Worm A La Mud," in time, all of his gang joins Billy's team. Billy eats the final worm before the deadline. Nigel Guire (Nick Krause), Joe's brother, who has been watching, tries to bully and humiliate him for losing. Billy and the rest of the gang stand up for him, telling Nigel to leave him alone, and he leaves.
After thinking it over that night, Billy returns to school. He explains to Joe that the second worm was eaten by their principal, Burdock (James Rebhorn) when Adam accidentally put it in his omelet at the Brown Toad. Since they both lost the bet, they both put worms in their pants and the other kids watch them. They are then interrupted by Burdock, who nearly catches them when a worm falls out of Billy's pants, which Joe covers up. After Burdock returns to his office, the kids all run outside and celebrate as Billy and Joe both take the worms out of their pants and throw them into the air.
Template:Div col start
- Luke Benward as Billy "Wormboy" Forrester
- Hallie Kate Eisenberg as Erika "Erk" Tansy
- Adam Hicks as Joe Guire
- Tom Cavanagh as Mitch Forrester
- Kimberly Williams-Paisley as Helen Forrester
- Austin Rogers as Adam
- Alexander Gould as Twitch
- Ryan Malgarini as Benjamin "Benjy" Renfro
- Philip Daniel Bolden as Bradley
- Clint Howard as Uncle Ed
- Ty Panitz as Woody Forrester
- James Rebhorn as Principal Nelson "Boilerhead" Burdock
- Andrew Gillingham as Techno Mouth
- Blake Garrett as Plug
- Alexander Agate as Donny
- Nick Krause as Nigel Guire
- Andrea Martin as Mrs. Bommley
- David Bewley as Rob Simon
- Karen Wacker as Mrs. Simon
- Simone White as Woody's teacher
Differences from the book
Though the film and the book share the concept about a bet between boys to eat earthworms, the nature of the situation differs significantly. In the book, the characters consist of four boys who are friends hanging around during the summertime. Billy has to eat fifteen worms in fifteen days, and the terms of the bet are fifty dollars, which he intends to use to buy a dirt bike.
Many of the film's subplots, that he is new in school, that Joe is a bully, that Billy has a weak stomach, and that Joe threatens him with a Death Ring, do not appear in the book. Unlike in the film, his parents eventually find out about the bet, which he ultimately wins instead of tying. All the worms he eats in the book are Nightcrawlers, and Erika, the girl who helps him in the film, is not introduced until the book's sequel, How to Fight a Girl.
The film debuted at #11, with $4,003,537 in the United States and Canada. It closed seven weeks later, with a total of $13,040,527 domestically, and $55,787 overseas, for a worldwide total of $13,096,314.
The film mostly received mixed reviews. Rotten Tomatoes shows the film as being rotten with a 59% rating. The site's consensus reads: "This Fear Factor for kids is good-natured and tasty enough." Metacritic gave the film a metascore of 56 (mixed or average reviews).
The Filthy Critic gave the film four out of five "fingers" for its realistic portrayal of how children really act. ReelViews' James Berardinelli gave a mildly positive review (2½ stars out of 4) but thought the potential audience too narrow: "It's aimed at pre-teen males and doesn't make many concessions to members of other demographics." He went on to say:
How to Eat Fried Worms belongs to a vanishing breed – live action family films. Even the best of the genre (like Holes and The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants) don't draw large audiences, so mediocre productions like this one face an uphill struggle.
The Boston Globe's reviewer – Ty Burr – gave it a 2 stars out of 4 and said when comparing the book to the film:
There's a kid named Billy, and he eats worms on a dare, and that's about all the movie has in common with its source. Truth to tell, that's all the movie needs to have in common with its source. "This is really disgusting," my 9-year-old's friend whispered to her during the screening. Then he added, "But I like it."
From a parent's viewpoint, two feet higher off the ground, How to Eat Fried Worms is lackadaisical stuff, easily the least of the unpretentious children's book adaptations produced by family-oriented Walden Media (Because of Winn-Dixie, Hoot, Holes).
Home media release
How to Eat Fried Worms was released on DVD on December 5, 2006, by Warner Home Video through subsidiary New Line Home Entertainment.
|Young Artist Awards 2007 – Young Artist Award||Best Young Ensemble in a Feature Film||Luke Benward, Hallie Kate Eisenberg, Alexander Gould, Adam Hicks, Ryan Malgarini, Ty Panitz, Philip Bolden, Blake Garrett, Andrew Gillingham, Austin Rogers, Nick Krause, Stephan Bender and Alexander Agate||Won|
|Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actress – Best Family Feature Film (Comedy or Musical)||Hallie Kate Eisenberg||Nominated|
- The Tide Is High – Performed by Matthew Sweet
- Gone – Performed by All Too Much
- Baby Beluga – Performed by Ty Panitz
- Human Hands – Written and Performed by Joe Mannix, Chris Peck, Bob Bruchu and Ed Fingerling
- Get Ready for This – Performed by 2 Unlimited
- 3 Little Bird – Performed by Hallie Kate Eisenberg and Ty Panitz
- Rocket Full of Power – Performed by The Wipeouters
- Move Your Feet – Performed by Junior Senior
- Jungle Boogie – Performed by Kool & The Gang
- Yum Yum Yum – Performed by Mark Mothersbaugh, Robert Mothersbaugh (as Bob Mothersbaugh) and Bob Casale
- celebritywonder.com Accessed June 18, 2008.