Matthew Lillard makes his directorial debut with Fat Kid Rules the World, about a fat kid who takes over the world. Or about a fat kid who is befriended by a junky and finally realizes his place in the world. A comedy-drama without much comedy, Fat Kid Rules the World is like so many directorial debuts from recognizable actors: mildly engaging but insignificant.
Jacob Wysocki (Terri) stars as Troy, who begins the movie with a suicide attempt that is much bloodier in his mind than in reality. In other words, when you’re not actually hit by a bus, not a lot happens. Marcus (Matt O’Leary) becomes an unlikely friend to Troy, but Troy’s father (Billy Campbell) suspects Marcus is hanging around simply to take advantage of his son.
There’s something about a punk rock band, too.
Whatever happens, it isn’t very interesting, which is a shame because deep down there is a story to be told. The movie shows sparks early on, but Lillard and screenwriters Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman don’t give his characters very satisfying arcs. Troy is suicidal in the beginning, but the movie doesn’t explore his depression in a meaningful way, nor really addresses it much at all. Wysocki was very good in Terri, but doesn’t command attention here, instead opting for a very reserved and emotionally flat approach. The character may lack assertiveness, but Wysocki doesn’t add color to what turns out to be a very forgettable character and performance.
O’Leary gets the meatiest role in the movie, but doesn’t do much with it. His character isn’t relatable and often obnoxious. As a drug addict with suspicious motives, the audience should be allowed to want to help him or hate him, but he lives in such a gray and tonally empty zone that it’s near impossible to evoke any opinion about him. Some of this is on O’Learly, but more to blame are the filmmakers, who in their attempts to tell a story forgot to make its characters, and the overall plot, very interesting.
A rare beacon of light is Billy Campbell, who pushes the boundaries of what easily could have been a one-dimensional role. He isn’t given a lot to do, but unlike the other actors in the film, he elevates every scene he’s in.
Fat Kid Rules the World had promise, but is quickly revealed to be yet another indie drama-comedy that contributes very little to the cinematic landscape. By the time the third act rolls around, I didn’t really care what was going on or what happened to the characters. That is inexcusable. This is one fat kid that does not rule the world, let alone 90 minutes of celluloid.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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