Review–Fat Kid Rules The World (2012)


Genre: Comedy

Director: Matthew Lillard

Writers: Michael M.B. GalvinPeter Speakman

Stars: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, Billy Campbell
Production Co:  Whippany Park ProductionsWhitewater Films


You think being a teenager blows? Try it when you weigh three bills and spend the majority of your time playing Asheron’s Call. Fat Kid makes a John Hughes movie look like a day at the beach by comparison, or in this case a day at an all-you-can-eat buffet.

The eponymous fat kid, Troy (Jacob Wysocki) has had it. He’s fat, unpopular, and his dad’s up his ass like only an ex-marine can be. So he steps in front of a bus. In a great gimmick that is repeated throughout the film, we get a preview of what a proposed course of action would look like in Troy’s mind. In this case it’s pretty damn bloody. Troy is not killed–otherwise we would not have a movie–because he is rescued by Marcus (Matt O’Leary), a fast-talking junkie who could be a reincarnation of Kurt Cobain. Marcus hits Troy up for twenty bucks, since Marcus saved him and all, but Troy only has thirteen. “You owe me seven,” Marcus says. And that sums up their relationship for the entire film.

But Marcus saves Troy from more than the bus. Troy could not be more unpopular. Nonexistent is more like it. The most interaction he has with females is sneaking an upskirt on the high school staircase, or having a Phoebe Cates, Fast Times At Ridgemont High fantasy about a girl in chemistry class.

When the dropout Markus gets dumped out of his band, he insists on starting a punk duo with Troy on the drums. The fact that Troy cannot play drums is irrelevant; they have a gig at Neumo’s in a few weeks, so hop to it, Troy! Troy’s jarring introduction to the seedy,  gritty underbelly of punk rock gives him a new perspective on life. When Markus has an all-too-typical melt down on stage with his old band Troy gushes, ”You punched that guy in the head! And I thought you were going get killed, but you ducked!”  It’s a lot more real than Asheron’s Call, and Troy even talks to a girl he fancies, Isabel, played by Lili Simmons.

Troy’s father (Billy Campbell)  is not having any of this bullshit. He’s an ex-marine, a single father, and a buttoned-down hardass. Nothing gets by this dude. “Markus is just using you to buy drugs, there is no band” he explains to Troy. He’s probably right, of course.  I didn’t like Troy’s father at first, he seemed like that guy, you know, the one-dimensional hardass dad that you get in this type of film. Then Billy Campbell throws a curveball: he’s not that guy. Once you think you’ve got this character figured out he throws something new at you, he’s complicated, and maybe not such a dick after all. It’s some brilliant work by Billy Campbell, and the standout performance. We learn everything we need to know just by looking at Billy’s face.

Speaking of perfomances, Jacob Wysocki makes the film as Troy. Jacob is a great big lump of abject honesty. He just lets the brutality, humiliation, and frustration wash over and through him, like a morbidly obese conduit of misery. I wouldn’t hang out with this kid either, he’s just too damn depressing.

So is there a band? Or is Markus just a junkie hustler?  Played with manic, oxy energy by Matt O’Leary, Markus is charming as hell. I want to jam with this cat. But I wouldn’t let him out of my sight for two seconds. And I’d probably end up having to beat his ass for stealing my pedal board at some point.  Incidentally, Matt wrote and played a lot of the music in the film. In Matthew Lillard’s own words, Matt O’Leary really is Markus (minus the hillbilly heroin).

You know, I really shouldn’t be reviewing this movie. I’m a bargain-basement guy. I love the bottom-of-the-barrel, shite indie scene, with all of the vanity projects, amateurs, first timers, and student films. Those are my people. Fat Kid was directed by an industry professional, Matthew Lillard, so it’s not really a fair contest to review him along with my peeps. Hey, I’m running an exclusive club here, and Lillard’s not invited to the party. Okay, maybe the after party.

Speaking of parties, the premiere was interesting. Everyone was creaming their drawers and giving Lillard a massive, collective blow job from their seats. Now look, I liked this film, and I don’t like a whole lot of shit, but it was like they’d never seen a good Seattle indie film before. Well, ok, there’s a chance they haven’t seen a good Seattle indie film before. Between the premiere night energy and the fact that Fat Kid turned out to be something you would actually want to rent and watch with your teenagers, I can excuse the audience for their effusiveness. In the big bad world of real film Matthew would get a solid three stars out of five, and could possibly join the ranks of indie teen classics, not a shaggy, uh, shabby feat. (You knew I was gonna slip that in there.)

Fat Kid takes an unrefined look at the life of an overweight, misfit teen. Lillard makes no effort to dignify Troy’s obesity, he just shines a spotlight on Troy’s bulging frame and lets us deal with it in all its sweaty realness. There are great little moments, gags, and one-liners galore, but isn’t a perfect combination. There are moments when the tone changes dramatically from comedic to serious and it comes off as maudlin rather than touching. A couple of the scenes with Troy’s father are like this, and despite Billy Campbell’s chops it felt inconsistent here or there, or like we needed to catch up to what the characters were thinking. Personally, I think that’s mostly an editing thing.

That being said, one of my favorite scenes is when Markus and his douche music friends come over to pick Troy up in the most busted-ass car you’ve even seen. Troy’s father gives them “the talk” and insists on seeing their driver’s licenses and proof of insurance. Like they are taking his daughter on a date. “Now I know your addresses,” Troy’s father says. It’s good stuff, and the minor characters in the film are a lot of fun.

The one big problem I had with the film is that we are presented with the notion that taking responsibility for helping a junkie clean up while providing for them in your own home is a viable and noble proposition. The moment that topos reared it’s ugly head I was pulled out of the film entirely. It’s neither a workable plan, nor a morally superior action. I should know, I’ve tried it. And believe me, you’d be better off just lighting your house on fire and walking away. Kind of like that Dave Chappelle sketch where a family takes Tyrone Biggums, a notorious crack head into their nice home to help him get his life in order. Tyrone mortages their home and throws a $400,000 crack party. When confronted Tyrone says apologetically, “Didn’t you get the invite?” That’s what taking a junkie into your home is really like.

But I went with it. I had to know if Troy would rule the world with his drums. Does he? Or does Markus fuck it all up? Does Troy’s father shut it down before we can find out?

This is a film for anyone who’s ever been a fat slob, an outcast, a loner, or a loser. Each of us are just one bloody bus crash away from discovering the one thing that will change our lives forever.  Fat Kid gives us the ending we want, but in a realistic way. It’s more hopeful than tied up in a pretty bow, and lets us know that even if you are an outcast fat kid, or a junkie wearing nothing more than a hospital gown with your ass hanging out, you can still rock the shit out of this world.


P.S. Part of why I like Fat Kid is that Matthew Lillard has waited until he has a product to show to launch a Kickstarter campaign. I feel this is the correct way to use Kickstarter, rather than using it to guilt your fellow film makers into giving you money to make a feature, despite the fact that you’ve never made a film before. Just sayin’. Go chip him a couple bucks to help get Fat Kid distributed. It’s worth it.

Fat Kid Rules The World Kickstarter Campaign

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  1. Weekend Lites

    Frankly I was confused by the Distro Kickstarter campaign. He has a finished film. It appears to be pretty good. Why is it not picked up for distro? Aren’t there entire businesses dedicated to doing just that?

    • dilettante douchebag

      Matt gives an explanation on his kickstarter. There’s a link to it above. He’s got some cool ideas. I’ll be interested to see if it pans out for him. He’s pretty close to his goal already.

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