Screenwriter-director Bob Dolman lets his cast be themselves, and that's what makes How to Eat Fried Worms delicious fun for adults and children. Authentic and energetic performances from the pre-teen stars make for captivating watching, as new kid Billy (Benward) gets wrangled into a bet to eat 10 worms in a day by local bully Joe (Hicks). What he doesn't know is Joe's gang is concocting horrible ways to cook those worms. Liver juice and blended broccoli top the ingredients.
Mixed in with this groovy gag-worthy plot hook are great strands of parents trying to help kids adjust to new situations, girls trying to be friends with gross boys, siblings learning to like each other, and the redemption of bullies who really aren't that bad. Benward does a great job of conveying the terror of a new school and trying to find new friends, while such enemies-turned-friend as the spastic Twitch, the dancing Adam Simms and the theatrical chef Benjy will have all ages in stiches. Helping these on-screen bursts of energy is a wacky score by Devo leader Mark Mothersbaugh.
Kids' movies that don't dumb down the pain of loneliness, bullying and growing up always deserve praise, and Dolman's concocted a winner out of the cute 1953 source material.
DVD Extras: The extras are all kid-friendly and get my adult-approved stamp. A chef shows how he cooks up "worms" for consumption by Benward (cheesecake taste helps). A blooper reel, deleted scenes and a promotional making-of featurette are cute and fast-paced. New Line's DVD-ROM-accessible DVD player lets curious fans search for moments of worm cooking and consumption as well as words in the script and then jump right to those moments in the film.