Title: Fat Kid Rules the World
Director: Matthew Lillard
Starring: Jacob Wysocki (‘Terry’), Matt O’Leary (‘The Lone Ranger,’ ‘Live Free or Die Hard’) and Billy Campbell (TV’s ‘The Killing,’ ‘Once and Again’)
Teenagers often struggle with numerous obstacles throughout high school, from not fitting in with their peers to struggling with their body images and how they perceive themselves. That’s certainly the case with the main character, Troy Billings, in the new comedy ‘Fat Kid Rules the World,’ which is now playing in select theaters in New York and Los Angeles, and is available nationwide on VOD. The independent comedy, which marks the feature film directorial debut of actor Matthew Lillard, bravely and emotionally looks into the mind of a self-perceived outcast who is desperate to turn his life around.
‘Fat Kid Rules the World,’ which is based on the 2003 novel of the same name by KL Going, follows Troy (played by Jacob Wysocki), an overweight and suicidal 17-year-old. Just as he’s ready to end his life by jumping in front of a bus, Marcus (portrayed by Matt O’Leary), a high school dropout and street musician, saves Troy. The two begin an uneasy friendship when Marcus enlists the musically challenged Troy to become the drummer in a new punk rock band. As their friendship begins to grow, Troy’s father (played by Billy Campbell) becomes increasingly concerned about his son’s new relationship. He becomes conflicted over whether to stop Troy from continuing in what he perceives to be a destructive relationship, or allow Marcus to stay in his son’s life, as Troy doesn’t have any other friends.
Most teen outcast stories predictably chronicle the humiliation and embarrassment they regularly face amongst their peers. However, screenwriters Michael M.B. Galvin and Peter Speakman, who penned the script for ‘Fat Kid Rules the World,’ effortlessly and boldly chronicled Troy’s internal struggles with his appearance and life. The comedy intriguingly gives a unique view on how Troy fails to put in any effort to make friends at his school, or earn the respect he craves from his strict, ex-Marine father, as he tells himself he’s not worthy of love.
The film is also cleverly interlaced with unpredictable fantasies Troy has, ranging on ways how he can cause harm to himself to how he can earn the attention of girls he wishes he has the courage to speak to. The fantasies serve as a way for Troy to fully explore and divulge his feelings, without the fear of being ridiculed by his classmates and family, including his thinner younger brother, Dayle (Dylan Arnold). Troy’s fantasies also serve as a natural comedic relief in a thought-provoking story about what teens should do if they feel unappreciated and misunderstood.
Wysocki, who Lillard has said was instrumental in telling Troy’s story, was indeed well cast in the title role of the daring, sentimental comedy. The young actor emotionally matured Troy from being an insecure, reclusive teen who only depended on his multi-player video games for comfort into a confident musician who was ready to showcase his talent to his peers. While Marcus regularly lies to Troy, from having a booked show to not wanting to be his friend, while suffering from withdrawal, Wysocki portrayed Troy as bravely pursuing a genuine friendship with Marcus.
While there are instances in ‘Fat Kid Rules the World’ where other insecure teens would give up on improving their lives, such as when Marcus and his self absorbed friends leave Troy stranded at a concert, he bravely uses the experience to realize there is an exciting life for him to explore. Troy truly refuses to revert back to his withdrawn lifestyle; even though Marcus hasn’t been the most dependable friend, Troy finally realizes that people do care about his well-being.
‘Fat Kid Rules the World’ is a heartfelt, intriguing directorial debut from Lillard, who wisely chose not to focus on the petty arguments and embarrassments outcast teens often face in school. Instead, the comedy courageously shows that teens can cut themselves off from their families and peers because they don’t feel worthy of love, but when the right person shows them genuine attention, their whole outlook on life can radically change. Main actor Wysocki was the perfect choice to show the radical changes in the shy, introverted Troy, who becomes more self confident after being saved by Marcus.
Written by: Karen Benardello