DVD Review - Fat Kid Rules the World

Jacob Wysocki in
"Fat Kid Rules the World"
This movie is based on the book of the same name by KL Going. It's reminiscent in tone to Todd Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse (1995). Matthew Lillard, the actor best known from Scream (1996) and Scooby-Doo (2002) but who had a memorable moment in the Oscar-winning The Descendants (2011), directed the movie. It focuses on a high school student who's overweight and slightly depressed and his classmate who was actually expelled and who spends his time trying to be a part of a rock band.

Jacob Wysocki (Terri and Pitch Perfect) stars as Troy, a somewhat obese teenager in Seattle who doesn't have any friends. He instead plays online video games. His father Mr. Billings, played by Billy Campbell (Once and Again and The Killing), and his brother Dayle, played by Dylan Arnold, try to get him to do things like join them in a basketball game, but Troy is either incapable or unwilling. Troy used to have friends like Manoj, played by Tyler Trerise, but now Troy watches his former friends from afar. His self-esteem is so low that he can also only watch girls he likes from afar.

Matt O'Leary (Domestic Disturbance and Brick) co-stars as Marcus McCrae who is a bit more twitchy Kurt Cobain. He chases after Troy and latches onto him, practically insinuating himself into Troy's life, for various reasons. Some of those reasons are good. Most of those reasons might be exploitative. He's a free spirit who floats in and out, which is good because it allows him to be artistic and fun but it's bad because it untethers him from responsibilities or obligations. Considering his family life, it's no wonder.

Some might say that Marcus is using Troy, which he is, but Troy goes along with it for two possible reasons. One obvious reason is because Marcus is part of a punk band that Isabel likes and Isabel is the girl that Troy loves, again from afar. Marcus teases Troy with the idea of being in the band too, so Troy thinks if Isabel likes the band, then being in the band would mean Isabel would like him too.

The other reason is more complex and more akin to Solondz's Welcome to the Dollhouse. If Troy is basically Dawn Weiner, then Marcus is Brandon McCarthy. Marcus may not be the bully that Brandon was, but there's a dynamic that's similar. Marcus is just as damaged and as disconnected as Brandon. There's a reversal of the drug element between the two, but Marcus pushes Troy much like Brandon pushed Dawn.

The goals and motivations are different, but the parallel is never more evident than in the scene where Troy is in school and is told to meet Marcus at a certain time. Director Matthew Lillard cuts back-and-forth to a clock in the classroom that is analogous to the cutting back-and-forth to a clock that Solondz did in Welcome to the Dollhouse. Troy is almost as anxious as Dawn in that sequence.

The key difference between Solondz and Lillard is that Solondz has more tragic endings to his comedies and the tragic endings in themselves are often punchlines, but Lillard doesn't revel in that kind of misery. Lillard's asides or fantasy sequences by Troy are evidence of this. The asides show that Lillard is a bit more wacky and slapstick than Solondz, a tad goofy.

What I love is the relationship that writers Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman build between Troy and Marcus. It goes farther than Dawn and Brandon's relationship, which is purposeful. Fat Kid Rules the World is about lifting its character's spirit, not destroying it, which was Solondz's intention. To that end, Troy's relationship between his father and brother take nice turns, if not surprising ones. As such, it's funny and sweet.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for sexual and drug content, and brief violent images.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.


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