No, How to Eat Fried Worms is not
the title of a New Age survivalist
cookbook highlighting its signature
protein dish. Instead, it’s a new
children’s film guaranteed to curb your
The film – which is not animated –
should come with a warning: We recommend
you avoid viewing this film immediately
after lunch or dinner, or while fishing.
Written and directed by Bob Dolman, the
story is based on an 11-year-old boy’s
first day at a new school and the
consequences of a confrontation he has
with the schoolyard bully.
Immediately upon his arrival at school,
Billy (Luke Benward), apprehensive and
sullen from having to leave all his
friends from his old school, is greeted
with hostility by everyone he meets,
including the principal and his
And, he receives an unwelcome gift in
the cafeteria from the local
freckle-faced bully Joe Guire (Adam
Hicks) and Joe’s loyal followers in the
form of a Thermos full of live worms.
However, Billy surprises the kids by
instinctively flinging one of the
creepy-crawlys into Joe's face to the
delight of Erika (Hallie Kate
Eisenberg), a tall lanky girl pleased
that someone has finally stood up to
In turn, Joe insults Billy by calling
him “Worm Boy” and, in an effort to save
face and deflect the name-calling, Billy
inadvertently agrees to eat 10 worms in
one day. Joe bets Billy can’t do it. The
loser has to go to school with his pants
full of live worms. Simple enough plot.
Yet, there’s one catch. Billy has an
ultra-sensitive stomach and can’t keep
down ordinary food.
To our utter astonishment, Billy musters
his inner strength and manages to eat
his first live worm without his stomach
rejecting it. This does not bode well
for bully Joe.
So Joe decides to prepare the worms in
the most disgusting methods he can dream
up and enlists his loyal gang of
followers to assist him in the effort.
This is the point in the film where I’ll
admit I had to close my eyes a few
times. The large dangling earth worms
are not just fried; they are boiled,
stewed, pureed in a blender and
Yet, in spite of a weak stomach and the
visibly disgusting concoctions, Billy
doesn’t try to worm out of the bet. We
are witnesses to Billy’s determination
in facing adversity with increasingly
more unpleasant scenes of worms a la
carte at a variety of venues, including
a witchy character’s bait shop, the
family kitchen and a restaurant.
During the course of this progressive
and segmented dine out, Joe’s team
members slowly shift alliances as more
of them admire Billy’s spunk for eating
worm after worm no matter how awful the
How to Eat Fried Worms
is essentially a pre-teen’s version of
Fear Factor with an underlying
theme of courage and doing the right
What’s missing from this playground
double-dare story is a dramatic finish.
I’ll admit I was expecting more. But,
that’s an adult’s perspective. My
11-year-old son is mystified by my
criticism. He liked the movie.
Critics have labeled this an
old-fashioned family film too quaint for
the modern youth audience raised on a
steady diet of bathroom humor flicks. I
Although How to Eat Fried Worms
was released as a book in 1973, it sold
3 million copies and continues to sell
briskly. Clearly, boys don’t change that
much from generation to generation. They
still like to see and talk about gross
things. They still dare each other, and
they still confront bullies on the
Simple stories, simply said, still sell.
General Audiences: B
Coming-of-age story. Target audience is
adolescent boys. Gross-out humor not for
everyone. No violence, objectionable
language or unsuitable subject matter.
Family Audiences: B
This is a quintessential family film
based on the popular 1973 Thomas
Rockwell book by the same name. Rated
PG: Mild bullying and crude humor.