Review of Fat Kid Rules the World


Movie Review: "Fat Kid Rules the World"

-- Rating: R (sexual content, drug content, brief violent images)
Length: 94 minutes
Release Date: Oct. 5, 2012
Directed by: Matthew Lillard
Genre: Comedy

"Fat Kid Rules the World" centers on an obese teenager named Troy (Jacob Wysocki), who lives in Seattle with his dad Mr. Billings (Billy Campbell) and his younger brother Dayle (Dylan Arnold), who is heavily favored by Mr. Billings. His school life is no better than his home life, as he is virtually ignored there as well. He can't seem to make any friends and lives a very lonely and downcast existence, causing him to contemplate suicide.

During a halfhearted attempt to take his life, Troy is saved by a former student from his high school, Marcus (Matt O'Leary). Marcus is a teen dropout who wanders from place to place, not always having a place to live but always trying to make the best of things. He strikes up a quick friendship with Troy, who he sees as something of a loner like him. The two quickly become inseparable, which quite literally saves Troy's life in more ways than one. With Troy happier than he has ever been, Mr. Billings chooses this inopportune time to start paying attention to his neglected son, disapproving of his new friendship.

Anyone who has ever felt like it was them against the world will find themselves rooting for Troy. His friendship with Marcus is completely believable because they both feel alone in the world, which is a powerful thing to have in common. It is a part of human nature to want to love and feel loved, and the new bond between the two teens provides that without veering into romantic territory at all.

The relationship between Troy and Mr. Billings could have been very simplistic, but screenwriters Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman flesh it out and make it realistic. The concern that Mr. Billings has now that a homeless kid is sleeping on his son's floor is believable and not just there to provide a problem for Troy to overcome. He has enough problems to tackle without adding unnecessary drama. Galvin and Speakman seem to understand this, and that is a big reason why the film works.

The script was adapted from the novel by K.L. Going, who wrote a powerful book about having to come of age through adversity. Sure, the teenage years are already troubled with challenges, but Going created a character who has more than most to deal with. He does an excellent job of imbuing the character with soul and just enough grit to get back on his feet after his failed suicide attempt. The adaptation by Galvin and Speakman stays close to the source material, which is a good thing.

The audience should put aside any preconceived notions about director Matthew Lillard, who makes his feature film directorial debut here. He is arguably best known for his portrayal of stoner-like characters in films like the "Scooby Doo" series and "Hackers." In recent years he has begun to take on more adult roles, like as the cheating husband in "The Descendents" opposite George Clooney. His maturation in front of the camera is obvious now that he is behind the camera. "Fat Kid Rules the World" is packed with believable emotions and three-dimensional characters that are relatable. The mix of bitter and sweet is not always easy to achieve in movies, but Lillard manages to get it right. If viewers didn't know that this was his first directorial effort, they would never guess by watching it.

Wysocki turns in a nuanced performance as Troy, a portrayal that just might break the heart of viewers. Particularly poignant are scenes where Troy fantasizes about things that are out of his reach, like a relationship with a girl. Over the course of the film, he goes from using fantasies to using music to cope with life, with the help of Marcus, who makes him the drummer in his punk band.

The soundtrack is punctured with tracks from punk bands, which gives the film an almost rebellious spirit. Lillard inserts the songs at just the right time, which lends each scene a little more emotional heft. The music in "Fat Kid Rules the World" is not just for background filler-it actually means something and helps the plot along, which almost makes the punk music another character in the film. Yet it doesn't overshadow the excellent layered performances from a very capable cast.

Rating: 4 out of 5