Mar 13, 2012 01:52 PM EST
Fat Kids Rule The World, South by Southwest Film Festival 2012
Following the World Premiere of Matthew Lillard's directorial debut Fat Kid Rules the World, a Q&A with Matthew and most of the cast was held. Matthew Lillard's emotional response during the Q&A can best sum up the power this movie has. Holding back tears several times Matthew explained how this movie was a labor of love regarding how it affected him and how it wants it to affect others. "It's the story of a lost kid" he explained to me later. But it really much deeper than that.
The title character is Troy (played by Jacob Wysocki: Terri), a "fat kid". We are introduced to Troy as he is standing by the street. We don't know much about him, but he imagines himself being hit by an oncoming bus graphically. After waking up from his daydream he steps into the street. No words or other explanation is given but the audience can realize that Troy has some serious issues. Before the bus can hit him however, he is pushed out of the way by Marcus (played by Matt O'Leary: Spy Kids 2 & 3), another teenager, who also appears to have his own issues. The amazing subtlety of the movie hasn't stopped yet. Matt O'Leary's wonderful little quirks as Marcus were enough to pass along to you that Marcus has issues with drugs. After saving Troy's life, Marcus asks for money, which Troy obliges. Marcus disappears and Troy goes home where we fill in most of his story. He is being raised by his father (played by Billy Campbell: The Rocketeer, Melrose Place) and has a brother, Dayle (played by relative newcomer Dylan Arnold). Troy loves eating and playing MMORPGs. His father tries to get him to get some exercise but Troy just isn't into it. He really is a lost kid, and Matthew Lillard did a wonderful job of getting that point across in this movie without having to verbally tell you like so many movies today. It is a testament to Lillard's passion over this movie and perhaps his desire to continue telling stories in the future.
The story doesn't end there. Troy tries to forget about what he did, but at school Marcus recognizes him and chases him down. While at times it seems that we can't believe Marcus because of his issues, he informs Troy that he is part of a band and is an incredible guitar player. After persuading Troy to help him with something that appears to be illegal, he asks Troy to join his band, even though Troy doesn't know how to play an instrument. For the remainder of the movie we follow Troy and Marcus along that journey.
What helps make this movie special is the sometimes overt but usually subtle character development. Troy's dad appears to be the über-strict overbearing father, but Billy Campbell's acting hints at something else that is lying beneath the surface; you will find exactly what later in the film. You can tell that everything he does is because of his love for his sons. Dayle begins with being the athletic brother who doesn't like Marcus one bit, and perhaps for good reason. And while his fears are justified, that doesn't prevent him from changing his mind down the road. Another character, Isabel (played by Lili Simmons: Geek Charming), actually does not appear in the book from which this movie is based (written by K.L. Going). Isabel knows Marcus and she too is in a band. Isabel becomes the object of Troy's affection, which isn't what this movie is about. However, the inclusion of her character doesn't seem out of place, and actually helps Troy's development during the film. Isabel herself doesn't want to be associated with Troy at the beginning of the movie, and you'll see where she is by the end.
Fat Kid Rules the World is a sometimes gritty, often funny, and emotional film that will make you feel good about the human condition by the end. While Lillard described the film as being about a lost kid, it's really two stories rolled into one; one is the lost kid finding his place in the world and the other is about the true meaning of friendship and how you need to stand up for your friends through thick and thin. Because that's what friends are for.
Fat Kid Rules the World held its' World Premiere at SXSW 2012. This review is part of FlickDirect's coverage of SXSW 2012.
-- Roger Longenbach
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