Movie Review: Fat Kid Rules the World
Starring: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, and Billy Campbell
Plot: Troy, an unhappy fat high schooler, starts a punk band with Marcus, a junkie dropout.
Troy (Jacob Wysocki) is a fat teenager. He is also really unhappy. Most people don’t even notice him at school. He lost his mother at a young age leaving him with a military father (Billy Campbell) and a motivated go-getter little brother, who usually just makes him look bad. One day, Troy was so unhappy that he jumped in front of a bus tickled at the idea of splashing on the pavement. This is when Marcus (Matt O’Leary) jumps in. He saves Troy and cons some money out of him. Seeing an easy target, he finds Troy and befriends him. His intentions seem to be to take advantage of Troy’s naivety, but they have really great chemistry and become quick friends.
Marcus is essentially the “manic pixie best friend” (just like the “manic pixie dream girl). Like Tyler Durden and Hesher, he is almost completely characterized by his negative quirks and eccentricities and how good of an influence he impossibly is on Troy. O’Leary introduces a frantic pacing and keeps it up throughout the movie. Wysocki is like the complete opposite. He is a man of few words, but his priceless facial expressions and perfectly timed deadpan sense of humor creates a really great protagonist, no matter how passive he may be. Billy Campbell is really great as the father as well. His military background is always present. He is ill-humored and runs a tight ship. This shouldn’t be misunderstood as being a jerk. Campbell seems very sympathetic and caring to Troy. He is just unable to really express himself. These character under different circumstances might seem flat and undefined, but the director moves them around in such a surprisingly complex way that their seemingly skin deep development is constantly challenged.
First time director, Matthew Lillard is best known for his roles in Scream and Scooby Doo, but his best performance in my opinion was in the counter-culture indie drama SLC Punk. Despite saying he has zero background in the punk scene, he has a very astute understanding of its tenets (lack of a better word). While most use the tenets to accidentally become trendy elitists (blue mohawks and patched up leather jackets become a uniform for those who like to throw around “sell-out”), Lillard uses them to inform a coming of age drama about not living up to anyone’s standards but your own. It becomes a little foggy since Troy applies his own standards to Marcus, but it is in the context of helping Marcus put the pieces of his life together after drugs tear it apart. It is Troy’s chance to return the life-saving favor, and it is incredibly sincere.
I was an overweight high schooler, so I totally empathize with Troy’s mishaps. It is so easy to play into people’s expectations and have your identity shaped for you. Or worse, have your identity inaccurately defined by others. That can be a near-impossible prison to escape. When I was in high school the way I escaped this possibility was due to SLC Punk. It was pretty inspirational to me. I was getting into the punk scene seeing it as a way to say, ” screw you” to the world. It has come a long way since the days of The Ramones and The Sex Pistols. Like so many other counter-cultures, it became victim of fundamentalists and hypocrites. I learned being different isn’t the same as being an individual. It isn’t about what you do, but why you do it. As long as it is because you want to, you will remain a better rebel. It is a simple lesson, but an important on in the world of peer pressure (ie high school). I hope that this movie can do the same for a new generation. Despite the similarities, Fat Kid… is a much more natural and understated film than SLC Punk and puts much more focus on strong peer support in light of peer pressure.
Fat Kid… is a great debut feature for Lillard who brings a little Gen-X to the Gen-Y. It is a refreshing version of the coming of age story which has been done to death in every story-telling medium.