Tony tries to get Craig to get involved in carving a Halloween pumpkin.
Grow Up, Tony Phillips investigates the classic case of the high school underdog. While his classmates revel in typical teen behavior, Tony (Tony Vespe) is consumed with one last piece of childhood: Halloween. With eyes on winning the school contest, Tony spends his time crafting the perfect costume—much to the dismay of his closest friends, Elle (Katie Folger) and Craig (Devin Bonnee). Once Tony’s older cousin Pete (A.J. Bowen) resurfaces in town, a bandwagon of people are ready to challenge Tony to grow up.
Tony talking with his parents.
The triangle of Tony, Elle, and Craig exemplifies the high school growing pains that all old friends feel. Craig and Elle grew into the more popular crowd, with heightened social standards that intensify their embarrassment of Tony. Tony’s behavior shows a clear maturity lapse that Elle and Craig try to mend, which stems further from just his Halloween fascination. Tony spends the majority of his time babysitting his middle-school-aged neighbor, Mikey (Caleb Barwick). When Tony isn’t at the arcade with Mikey, he’s with Pete, whose lack of independence and responsibility doesn’t help pull Tony out of his rut—even though Pete thinks he’s helping.
Out trick or treating with Mikey on Halloween.
While Tony is the main character expected to be the one “coming-of-age,” he truly doesn’t go through a drastic change. More so, it’s the characters around him that change by understanding him on a newer, more thoughtful level. Tony ends up being the person to look up to. He babysits Mikey not for the money, but for a genuine care for his wellbeing. Tony nurtures Mikey’s strength in the face of bullies, and fosters for his imagination—hence, Halloween costumes.
Tony and Elle trick or treating.
The film is delightfully laidback with a steady plotline, but it tackles a serious modern issue. Bullying is shown at three separate ages with Mikey, Tony, and Pete, and all with immediate impact. This impact is much due to the likeability of the actors, namely Tony Vespe. Vespe didn’t exaggerate the “nerd” aspect of his character, and his natural, effortless portrayal transforms him to a boy you’d would find in any high school. So when viewers see him bullied, they’re gripped by the realism of the situation. Perhaps this realism will urge change, and shine a light on the pains of social conformity. This is not to suggest a heavy plot—this film will make you laugh—but rather to applaud the subtle hints by young writer and director, Emily Hagins.
Close up 1 of Tony’s black high top Halloween print chucks.
Tony Vespe is enthralled with Halloween in the film, and what better way to express that than wearing a pair of black high top chucks with a Halloween seasonal print on the uppers.
Close up 2 of Tony’s black high top Halloween print chucks.
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