How to Eat Fried Worms (film)

How to Eat Fried Worms is a 2006 American 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.

How to Eat Fried Worms
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBob Dolman
Screenplay byBob Dolman
Based onHow to Eat Fried Worms
by Thomas Rockwell
Produced by
CinematographyRichard Rutkowski
Edited by
  • Janice Hampton
  • Frederick Wardell
Music by
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • August 25, 2006 (2006-08-25)
Running time
84 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$13.1 million[1]

Development began in 1998, and the theatrical release for the United States and Canada was August 25, 2006. The film stars James Rebhorn, Kimberly Williams-Paisley and Tom Cavanagh. The film received mixed reviews from critics.


Billy Forrester has a weak stomach and vomits easily. He and his parents, Mitch, Helen, and his little brother, Woody, have just moved to a new town. Billy tells his mother he doesn't want to go to school because he will be "the new kid". She assures him he will make friends and everything will be okay.

Billy becomes the target of the school bully, Joe Guire, his two "toaders" Plug and Bradley, and the rest of his gang: Benjy, Techno-Mouth, Twitch, and Donny. Plug and Bradley steal Billy's lunch box. Billy sits behind Erika Tansy, an unusually tall girl whom people make fun of.

At lunch, Billy opens his thermos and pours out a pile of live earthworms. Sickened, he almost vomits. Joe asks Billy if he eats worms. Billy says "I eat them all the time", then throws a worm at Joe's face. A nerd named Adam Simms was sure that Joe was going to punch Billy with "The Death Ring"; it is rumored that whoever Joe punches it with dies in 8th grade.

Joe, Plug, and Benjy catch up with Billy as he heads home. Joe proposes a bet: Billy will eat ten worms on the coming Saturday without throwing up, or he will have to walk around the school with worms in his pants. Billy knows that he cannot back out of the bet, so he accepts.

The next day, Billy is teamed up with Adam. While the boys cook the first worm "Le Big Porker" in the park they are chased by a park ranger for using a grill without adult supervision. Adam then takes them to his uncle Ed's restaurant The Brown Toad, and cooks up the second worm in an omelet. However, his uncle takes the omelet and gives it to their principal who then eats it. Adam then has to cook the second and third worms again, dubbing the creation "The Greasy Brown Toad Bloater Special," (where he dunks the worms in the fryer and smears liver juice on them). When Ed discovers the worms, he kicks the boys out of his restaurant. After Billy eats the fourth worm, "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. They find Adam playing Dance Dance Revolution, and one of the boys spills his drink, causing the machine to blow up and they get kicked out. 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," (where Donny puts the worm in the microwave) while the owner is out, but her unexpected return leads to her briefly chasing them for breaking into her bait shop. Erika is able to use her archery skills to get the final worm needed to Billy. After Joe cheats in an attempt to keep Billy from eating the last worm, "Worm A La Mud," by throwing into a brook, all of his gang turns on him and encourage Billy to go after it. He manages to do so and eats it before the deadline. Nigel Guire, Joe's brother, tries to bully and humiliate Joe; but 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, when Adam accidentally put it in his omelet at the Brown Toad. They come to the conclusion neither of them technically won so they both put a bunch of worms down their pants and walk through the hallway. They are then interrupted by Burdock, who nearly catches them when a worm falls out of Billy's pants, which Joe covers up with his shoe. 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.



The film began development in 1996 after film rights were acquired by Imagine Entertainment. John August was hired to write the screenplay in his first paid screenwriting job and Thomas Schlamme was attached to direct.[2] They went through four different drafts but neither August nor Schlamme had really connected with each other. Eventually, Bob Dolman was brought on for rewrites. Universal Pictures put the film in turnaround, and Nickelodeon Movies bought the film from them.[3] Schlamme was later replaced with Joe Nussbaum.[4] Eventually, Nickelodeon dropped the film and it remained in development hell until Walden Media came in to finance and produce the film. New Line Cinema entered as distributor and Dolman decided to direct his own script. Shooting began in July 2005.[5]

August chose not to acquire a screenwriting credit via WGA rules, as very little of his initial screenplay remained in the finalized product.[6]

Differences from the bookEdit

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.


Box officeEdit

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.[1]

Critical receptionEdit

The film mostly received mixed-to-positive reviews. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 61% of 76 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 6.1/10.[7] The site's consensus reads: "This Fear Factor for kids is good-natured and tasty enough." Metacritic gave the film a score of 56, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[8]

The Filthy Critic gave the film four out of five "fingers" for its realistic portrayal of how children act. ReelViews' James Berardinelli gave a mildly positive review (212 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.[9] 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).[10]

Home media releaseEdit

How to Eat Fried Worms was released on DVD on December 5, 2006, by New Line Home Entertainment.


Award Category Nominee Result
Young Artist Awards 2007Young 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



  1. ^ a b "How to Eat Fried Worms (2006)". Box Office Mojo. Internet Movie Database. October 13, 2006. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  2. ^ Fleming, Michael (December 11, 1996). "'Simple' scribes connect on 2 pitches at U". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  3. ^ Hindes, Andrew (October 8, 1998). "Unearthed 'Worms'". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  4. ^ Hayes, Dade; Brodesser, Claude (June 21, 2000). "Nussbaum to fry 'Worms'". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  5. ^ Fleming, Michael (May 30, 2005). "New Line, Walden dig 'Worms' adaptation". Variety. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  6. ^ "How to Revisit Fried Worms". John August. September 25, 2006. Retrieved May 2, 2022.
  7. ^ "How to Eat Fried Worms". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved October 8, 2021.  
  8. ^ How to Eat Fried Worms at Metacritic  
  9. ^ "Review: How to Eat Fried Worms".
  10. ^ "Boston Entertainment".


External linksEdit