Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Penny Thoughts ‘13—Fat Kids Rule the World (2012) **½

R, 94 min.
Director: Matthew Lillard
Writers: Michael M.B. Galvin, Peter Speakman, K.L. Going (novel)
Starring: Jacob Wysocki, Matt O’Leary, Billy Campbell, Dylan Arnold, Lili Simmons, Tyler Trerise

“Fat Kids Rule the World” is an interesting look at the teenage mindset, if not entirely original. It involves an obese high school kid who is suicidal after gaining a great deal of weight upon the death of his mother. He fantasizes about killing himself and other things. One day when he finally gets up the gumption to step in front of a city bus on a steep San Francisco hill, he finds himself saved by a scattered junkie who has delusions about starting a band together.  Suddenly the fat kid has a friend in the junkie and a purpose in trying to keep the junkie from inadvertently killing himself. It’s a unique set up to a not so unique story.

There is a lot to admire in this movie. Jacob Wysocki, who was so good as another high school loner in the wonderful film “Terri”, plays the fat kid. That film had much more drive than this one. Although his is an original character, the film meanders a little too much from development to development, and the pattern these two unlikely friends play through repeat a few too many times. That prevents me from giving the film a wholehearted recommendation, but there are many good aspects to be found here.

Perhaps my favorite detail of the film is the father, played by Billy Campbell. He’s a retired Marine who takes pride in his peak physical condition. The brother is also a good athlete, highlighting the hero’s shortcomings. At first you think this dynamic of the overbearing father being disappointed in his fat kid is going to be the primary reason for the kid’s low self-esteem. It turns out that the father isn’t as overbearing as you’d think. He’s actually a really good dad. He recognizes that his kids are two different people and different people from him. He’s not as good at expressing his feelings as he’d like to be. And the hero doesn’t blame his dad for his problems.

It is so rare that fathers are given full character treatments in a movie about their kids. The father in this movie is so well depicted as doing the best that he can for his boys that I’d like to recommend the movie on that aspect alone. In fact, I’d like to see much more of the father in this film and much less of the junkie. The father’s positive aspects wouldn’t shine through as well without the junkie, but he’s much more interesting. 

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