Fat Kid Rules the World has been a project for first-time director, long-time actor, Matthew Lillard for nine years. The film is based on the young adult novel of the same name by K.L. Going, published in 2003. The film centers on the Fat Kid, Troy (Jacob Wysocki), who is an outcast in school and things at home are not going too well, either. While attempting suicide by stepping in front of a bus, Marcus (Matt O’Leary) saves him from this fate. Marcus has been expelled from school, does not get along with his parents, and he is basically homeless. Marcus is the polar opposite of Troy. He is popular with the other kids and plays in a band. Oddly enough, a friendship develops between Troy and Marcus, mostly at Marcus’s behest. This friendship leads to major changes in both of their lives for the better.
The film has some really hilarious moments, but it should not be categorized as a comedy. It does have some dramatic moments that deal with some serious issues that have plagued teenagers for decades. Kids are not always accepted into high school society. It is hard to make friends and even harder to get a boyfriend or girlfriend. The film deals with acceptance, both of yourself and by those around you. It also touches on homelessness, drugs, and other challenges. The film does this all very well, which I appreciated as an adult and hope teenagers do as well. Both Marcus and Troy have issues, but they help each other in their own way and bring the best out of each other.
The actors and their performances are the best thing about Fat Kid Rules the World. All of the actors were perfectly cast for their roles. Jacob Wysocki effortlessly filled the shoes of Troy. Jacob transforms his character from this shy, depressed, almost reclusive boy into someone who takes a chance and is able to perform in front of a crowd. Matt O’Leary seemed to be on a Red Bull high the entire film. He has crazy energy that is constantly present. While Troy is supposed to be the main focus of the film, Marcus enters the picture and is in the majority of it. Towards the end, he becomes more of the focus of the film than Troy. I do agree that both boys helped each other out, bringing out the good parts in each other.
Billy Campbell plays Troy’s dad, Mr. Billings, who is an ex-Marine who is now a single father. Even though he is a strict father, Billy plays the role with no anger. He is certainly not liked by the audience at the beginning of the film as he forces Troy to get some exercise. He is perceived as judgmental and shows favoritism for the younger, more fit son. Through meeting Marcus, his true character starts to shine through. There is some guilt in him about how he has treated Troy. Billy plays the role with this undertone of compassion for his sons and others. I might say that Mr. Billings becomes a changed man by the end, but I believe that the qualities revealed were always there, just hidden.
Fat Kid Rules the World is a story that will resonate with many teens today that can relate to both Marcus and Troy’s stories. While it is entertaining, there is a serious issue at hand about how hard high school and life can be for teenagers. It is hard to find an identity in a world where you just want to fit in and be like everyone else. It sometimes just takes that one friend to bring you out of your shell and make you a better person for it. Director Matthew Lillard believed in this project from the very beginning, knowing the kind of message it would send to teens. He has produced a film that has accomplished all he set out to do and more.
I give Fat Kid Rules the World 4 “The Tectonics” out of 5.