“Sorry. I’m nervous and sweating.”
Why are so many high school movies reliant on stock types? You know the ones—the popular kids, the nerds, the jocks, the burnouts, the class clown, and so on. It’s because we all remember—or were—those stock types when we were teens. Add to this the stock type of the fat kid. Sure, he’s there in most teen comedies, often sadly as the butt of jokes, either as a klutz or as a glutton. Now, though, the fat kid is the star in Fat Kid Rules the World.
Troy (Jacob Wysocki) is an overweight teen, feeling the teen malaise big time. He would rather play online video games than exercise, he turns to food for comfort when he’s feeling down, and he fantasizes about suicide. His life changes when he meets Marcus (Matt O’Leary). Marcus is a dropout and clearly trouble, but he represents genuine friendship missing in Troy’s life. When Marcus offers Troy a role in his band as drummer, this causes a rift between Troy and his straightlaced dad (Billy Campbell, The Rocketeer).
It’s hard to know how to classify Fat Kid Rules the World. There are moments of low-key humor, but you can’t really call it a comedy, but it’s a little too light and quirky to be considered a full-on drama. Mostly, it’s a “slice of life” coming-of-age story. The creators made a smart choice by not focusing the entire on Troy’s weight problems. His size is only one part of who he is, but not the sole reason for his misery and his outsider status. There are times the movie is in danger of going overboard by piling personal tragedy onto personal tragedy just to make the character miserable. Fortunately, they also know when to pull back so Fat Kid Rules the World never strays too far from its grounded reality.
Check out who directed this: Matthew Lillard. You know, that goofball idiot who stunk up a bunch of ’90s movies with his goofballish idiocy? It’s a confident feature directing debut, as he wisely sticks to the story and character, with only a few unnecessarily artsy scenes that often plague first-time directors. One scene involving a swimming pool stands out as a big visual flourish, but beyond that, Lillard puts a lot of trust in his story and his actors, which pays off nicely. It could be argued, though, that even at 99 minutes, the movie feels a little too long, and some trims in the editing room might have gone a long way.
Just like the direction, the acting is not show-offy. Instead, it too remains low key. Wysocki is able to say a lot with just a look, saving any big emotional outbursts for moments that truly deserve them. O’Leary gets to have some more fun as the troublemaking Marcus, so much that he keeps you guessing whether he is genuine or just using Troy for his own means. At first, Billy Campbell comes off like a typical jerk dad, acting more like a gym coach instead of a parent, but then he too gets to show some real humanity as the story progresses.
Video and audio are adequate, with a clean picture and some nicely-booming punk tunes on the soundtrack. Extras include a series of behind-the-scenes featurettes and the theatrical trailer.
There we have it. If you’re looking for a slice-of-life indie drama, you could do a lot worse.