Fat Kid Rules The World (2012)

Starring: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, Billy Campbell, Dylan Arnold, Lili Simmons, Brian Sutherland, Tyler Trerise, Russell Hodgkinson, Jeffrey Doombos.

Director: Matthew Lillard
Rating: PG (for sexual and drug content, and brief violent images.)
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Release Date: October 5, 2012
Home Video Release Date: TBD
North American Box Office: $TBD

Whippany Park Productions, Whitewater Films, and ARC Entertainment.

Written by: Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman; adapted from the novel of the same name by KL Going.
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(out of 5 stars)

Obese, depressed, and socially awkward high schooler Troy (Jacob Wysocki) is rescued at the very last second from stepping in front of a bus in the opening minutes of Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut Fat Kid Rules The World.  While this may appear to be one of the more unappealing ways to open a story, Fat Kid Rules The World is an interesting look into the minds of the outcast kids in every high school, those who are marginalized and bullied, yet absorb their pain and try to find any good they can.

Troy has ballooned in weight since experiencing a recent family tragedy and his former military dad (Billy Campbell) is cold and emotionally uninviting to Troy’s emotional state.  He has a decent relationship with his brother, but has next to nothing in common with him.  In his room a lot, Troy plays interactive videogames and slides his mind into fantasies surrounding sex and violence.  He likes girls but never thinks anyone could like him back.  His perceived embarrassments affect him about as subtly as a knife gutting out his insides.

Saving him from the suicide is Marcus (Matt O’Leary),who is intriguing to Troy but soon presents with a lot of unstable emotions and personality quirks.  Hyper and impulsive, Marcus is a drug addict and a hustler, recently expelled from Troy’s high school, and feels that for saving his life, Troy owes him a favor.  Marcus has been kicked out of a rock band he helped create and now wants Troy to play drums in his new band.  Unfortunately, Troy cannot play drums but Marcus cares less about that and more about using Troy to get back at his former band.  Marcus integrates himself into Troy’s family and soon, Troy’s dad is trying to support his son gaining a new friend, but also protect his family from the unpredictable Marcus’ possible motives.

Based on the 2003 book of the same name by KL Going, Matthew Lillard has tried to bring Fat Kid Rules The World to the big screen for nearly a decade, feeling drawn to the themes of the story and relating to the emotional disturbances in Troy.  With Jacob Wysocki, Lillard has a selected a charismatic young actor who drew raves in a similar performance in the 2011 indie Terri.  Wysocki is good, but the real gem comes with Matt O’Leary’s performance as the troubled and addiction sick Marcus.  O’Leary, all grown up and unrecognizable from his supporting work as Gary Giggles in Robert Rodriguez’s Spy Kids films, is an unbundled mess of energies, a manipulative soul who takes great joy in creating chaos so he can dip and dart around, angling to get what he wants.  While O’Leary verges on overkill at times, he shows here, as he did in the comedy/drama Natural Selection earlier in 2012, he is a talent worth keeping an eye on.

Fat Kid Rules The World stumbles around aimlessly at times, especially when Troy delves into his fantasies and the screenplay forces an awkward and poorly written love interest for Troy in the form of the rebellious Isabel (Lili Simmons).  Despite being weighted down with the indie movie anchor of well intentioned but obvious singer/songwriter music cues (by Pearl Jam guitarist Mike McCready) and scenes that are replicated from other like-minded indie productions, I still found Fat Kid Rules The World a worthwhile endeavor.

For Matthew Lillard, it will be interesting to see how he moves forward as a filmmaker and this ensemble of young actors are all good actors who may start popping up in different projects in the future.  Far from perfect, Fat Kid Rules The World has a good heart and a winning attitude, allowing its missteps to be minor and its ultimate message of acceptance to be one that is easy to embrace and consider.

SHOULD I SEE IT?
YES
  • A good film, if the film finds an audience, this could be a film lots of teenagers and young adults watch time and time again.
  • Remember Matt O’Leary.  He is a really good actor.
  • Matthew Lillard exhibits good potential and wherewithal behind the camera.  Curious as to his next venture.
NO
  • The cliches become obvious and may exceed a tipping point for viewers who watch a fair amount of teen-based dramedies.
  • A fair amount of people may not care in the least about any of this.
  • The pace is rather measured, which may frustrate people who want the story to move at a more enticing and engaging clip.
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