Published Nov 13, 2012In setup, Matthew Lillard's directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World resembles the genre format and tonal structure of the films he used to act in more than a decade ago. It has the hyper-realized adjacent reality that teen issue comedy's are known for, where character archetypes flip and show their tender side at the drop of a hat, as well as a narrative that rests on broad moral issues—suicide attempts, drug abuse, etc.—as instigator for change.
Similarly, it takes the road of familiarity in developing its obese protagonist, Troy (Jacob Wysocki), as an outsider, approaching the world diffidently and begrudgingly while manic fantasy visualisations—such as visions of suicide ideation and the sexualisation of female classmates—make external his every hollow whim. But, just as Troy envisions his ideal suicide, stepping out in front of a moving bus, his inevitable peer bond with the homeless, musician drug addict—Marcus (Matt O'Leary)—who saves him, takes the film in a slightly different, more thoughtful, direction.
Though Troy is unable to interpret social phenomena outside of defence, Marcus' persistent, irreverent and extroverted nature works as a force of nature in helping him step outside of his comfort zone. Similarly, Troy's grounded maturity works simultaneously as an anchor and a crux for Marcus, enabling his drug addiction but giving him motivation to make strides in the straight world.
This focus on character, which is expressly evident in the relationship between Troy and his rigidly-defined father (Billy Campbell), as well as his relationship to food, substituting it for the affections of his long-deceased mother, is what aids Fat Kid in being slightly more than the sum of its parts. While visually bland and lacking in any sort of pacing structure, the guileless sensibility and even twee nature of it all make it difficult to mock, or dismiss, the somewhat cartoonish depictions of teen life and musician dynamics.
While dated and clumsy, this examination of relationship imbalances and the actualization of ego validated externally, has an abundance of heart that almost compensates for its limited technical and narrative aptitude.
Fat Kid Rules the World screens at Workman Arts on Saturday, November 17th, 2012, at 7pm. (Arc)