The popular 1973 kid's book How to Eat Fried Worms
gets a respectful, straightforward translation with this 2006 movie. When bullies put worms in his thermos, Billy fights back--and only gets in deeper trouble when he makes a stomach-churning bet that he can eat ten worms.
Using a variety of cooking schemes, the pack of bullies make a slimy meal even more repulsive, but Billy--to his own surprise--takes on everything they throw at him. As the disgustingness escalates, he discovers that not everyone is what they seem. Though many story elements are changed from the book, How to Eat Fried Worms treats the situation and characters with intelligence and integrity. There are a few cartoonish moments (including some inventive animated sequences), but overall the movie is down-to-earth and sincere, delivering some simple and unforced messages about courage and friendship along with the gross-out humour. The kids--including Luke Benward (Because of Winn-Dixie) as Billy and Hallie Kate Eisenberg (probably best known in the US from a series of popular Pepsi ads) as a too-tall girl who shares Billy's outsider status--aren't overly slick, and the scenes between Billy and his father (Tom Cavanaugh, from the TV show Ed) feel honest and unpatronising. A modest but heartfelt movie. --Bret Fetzer
Family comedy based on the popular children's book by Thomas Rockwell. Billy (Luke Benward) is an 11-year-old boy whose folks have just moved to a new town and is facing the terror of his first day at a new school. It doesn't take long for Billy to run afoul of Joe (Adam Hicks), the school bully, who finds the live bait Billy brought with him and throws it in his face, asking Billy if he eats worms for lunch. Billy tries to gross out Joe by saying yes, he eats worms on a regular basis, and Joe calls his bluff by challenging him to eat ten worms in front of the student body. Billy takes the bet, and suddenly becomes something of a celebrity at school as the first kid to stand up to Joe. Billy also discovers he's caught the eye of Erika (Hallie Kate Eisenberg), a cute girl in his class, but can he actually eat the worms without losing his lunch? With the help of a handful of new friends, Billy prepares for the big contest by learning how to eat as much gross stuff as he can, and he gains an unexpected ally in hot-headed Principal Burdock (James Rebhorn).