Fat Kid Rules the World

tn_fatkidrulestheworldThe only reason I heard of this indie teen movie is because it was filmed in Seattle. That’s kind of novel to us because most Seattle-based movies are really filmed in Vancouver (BATTLE OF SEATTLE, HOLLOW MAN 2, TRUE JUSTICE) or even, in the case of CHRONICLE, Cape Town, South Africa. Kelsey Grammer wanted to film Frasier in Cape Town, but he moved it to protest the end of apartheid. That’s a joke, Kelsey, I’m just busting your balls. Thanks for reading.

Anyway this is good for Seattle people to spot recognizable locations, and it’s not supposed to be Everytown, USA like WORLD’S GREATEST DAD, so they mention or make visual reference to Seattle clubs (Neumo’s, Comet Tavern) and institutions (Seahawks, Sounders, SIFF, Easy Street Records [R.I.P. Queen Anne location]). But the great thing is that it’s also a real movie, a sweet underdog story with real emotion and surprising nuance. And it’s directed by Matthew Lillard of SCREAM and SCOOBY-DOO fame. I’m impressed.

The titleogical fat kid is Troy (Jacob Wysocki), a big shy kid with low self esteem. He’s a nerd but not in any exaggerated way. He just doesn’t have alot of friends, is only really interested in online video games and porn, and is terrible at sports, which disappoints his ex-marine dad (Billy Campbell) and annoys his jock little brother (Dylan Arnold). And he has no mother – we find out later that she died, and obviously that’s been hard on the family. So Troy decides to step in front of a Metro bus.

mp_fatkidrulestheworldBut here’s the thing: a scummy junkie kid named Marcus (Matt O’Leary) pushes him out of the way, says he saved his life, tries to get money out of it. Later Troy runs into Marcus at school. Marcus has been expelled but is still popular there because of his punk band P.O.I. He attaches himself to Troy, starts using him for money and food, and decides that they’re starting a band together and that Troy plays drums. Which, so far, has not ever been the case.

Marcus is an obnoxious character, a terrible friend, a human Beetlejuice. He wears ratty clothes, lies and uses people, steals pills and never stops moving except to nod off. He has kind of a Tyler Durden effect on people though. They love his band, and his pushing is good for Troy. He shows him the joy of punk rock, the thrill of innocent danger, the importance of trying things you’re afraid of, how to meet girls. And luckily Troy is a good kid, grounded and smart enough to not like the drugs or the, uh, restroom prostituting that Marcus is involved in. And he tries to help him with that.

What I really dig is that the dad makes the movie. You can see how he could be the asshole who doesn’t understand his son until a miraculous turnaround at the end, like the douchey principal in STEP UP 2 THE STREETS who’s the villain and then turns nice after he sees them do a dance number in the rain. Instead he’s a father who is strict but obviously cares about his sons and is always trying to do the best for them. He gets that he doesn’t get Troy, and he tries to remedy that. He immediately spots everything that’s wrong with Marcus but also notices the positive effect that having a friend has on Troy, so he lets Marcus insice. (In a great cinematic moment he tells him “You are unacceptably dirty” and makes him take a shower, gives him loaner clothes.)

When Troy tries to be in this punk band you know that dad is supposed to forbid him – instead he encourages him and won’t let him quit when he wants to. As Marcus gets to be mroe of a problem he’ll try to stop Troy from hanging out with him, but will also go out of his way to help Marcus straighten out. And this movie doesn’t pretend like it’s easy.

It’s just such a good-hearted movie, and not just in the underdog triumph sense that the title implies. Although also that.

Campbell is my favorite in this but there are good performances all around. O’Leary seemed familiar, but I wasn’t sure what I’d seen him in before. Turns out it was SPY KIDS 2, FRAILTY, BRICK, DEATH SENTENCE, LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD, SORORITY ROW and MOTHER’S DAY. I’ll try to remember him when I see him in THE LONE RANGER. He’s good. But even with him the whole movie could’ve gone disastrously wrong if they’d cast a bad or only-okay Fat Kid. Wysocki is great, just a nice but self-deprecating guy, funny in a low key way, emotionally repressed except for the occasional FIRST BLOOD style emotional explosion.

It’s a small, simple movie that gets so many little things right that it takes you by surprise. Good job, Lillard.

This entry was posted on Monday, February 4th, 2013 at 12:38 am and is filed under Drama, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

35 Responses to “Fat Kid Rules the World”

  1. Well, if you’re comparing it to FIRST BLOOD, I’ll have to see it.

    What role does the Space Needle have in this movie? It’s set & filmed in Seattle; it’s obligated to feature Space Needle.
    All you Seattleites love that thing, it’s where everyone goes everyday to hang out and live and show that they are in Seattle, just like New Yorkers & Times Square, Englanders & Big Ben, Brazilians & statue Jesus.

  2. In England we have a strict rota in place to avoid overcrowding – Big Ben on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Buckingham Palace on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. Everything is closed on Sunday.

  3. p.s. the film sounds great. Looking at the poster though, I am hoping that many parents take their kids to see it / rent it / whatever, mistakenly thinking it is one of them ‘Wimpey Kid Diary’ movies.

  4. I’m going to use the phrase “You are unacceptably dirty” as my go-to put-down from now on.

  5. I think they used the Space Needle correctly, which means it’s seen in the distance occasionally but not (that I can remember) the focus of an establishing shot.

    Yeah, the DVD cover does not accurately convey the type of movie. Note the donut used for the ‘o’ in ‘World.’ But maybe the expectations-lowering cover helped me to appreciate it more.

  6. Happy to hear that Billy Campbell (formerly Bill Campbell) is still turning out great work. I loved him as The Rocketeer when I was a kid, and then it wasn’t until seeing his performance as a mayoral candidate in AMC’s The Killing that he re-appeared on my radar. He’s one of those rare actors who can play straight-arrow heroism without seeming disingenuous. I heard he played J. Lo’s abuser in “Enough,” so he might be also good at playing total bastards, guess I’ll have to see.

  7. I remember reading that when William Friedkin edited The French Connection, he purposefully took out all of the typical “this is New York” shots. He wanted the movie to remain on the streets. Few director know how to shoot a city and not make it look like a goddamn postcard.

    Billy Campbell was almost a major star for a minute there in the early 90s. I’m glad to see that The Rocketeer has become something of a cult classic these days and that he’s been more visible on TV and the big screen.

  8. The Rocketeer is a great movie

    the early 90’s was such a great period for movies that even some of the flops are still great

  9. Yeah, I like THE ROCKETEER too. I guess 90s audiences just weren’t into that sort of corny, old-school blockbuster (see also THE PHANTOM, THE SHADOW). I didn’t think CAPTAIN AMERICA was amazing or anything, but getting Johnston to direct it was a great idea.

  10. Since this is already veering a bit, Vern, why don’t you give The Shadow a proper review? In a couple of your reviews you’ve mentioned it as being pretty awful, lumping it in with Hollywood’s early failed attempts to cash in on superheroes. I have to say, having watched it again a week ago…it’s a pretty good movie! Great atmosphere and period setting filmed beautifully, Alec Baldwin playing Bruce Wayne with just the right hint of self-awareness and memorable, original action moments (the haunted knife, the water tank scene, good guy and bad guy’s bullets smashing into each other, the exploding glass lobotomy). I figure if you could find the charm in something like The Phantom, there’s more than enough worthy cinematics in The Shadow to recommend it to people.

  11. I seem to remember back in the day the reason ROCKETEER bombed was because it was sold as “Indiana Jones” by the studio but really (as Roger Ebert put it best in his review) RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK was inspired by those serials, with dashes of James Bond and 1970s wearyness. ROCKETEER was sincere corny rah rah Americanism and really people going in expected Indiana Jones and instead got his Grandpa. (I mean that scene with mobster Sorvino declaring his patriotism is one of those scenes I both love and hate.)

    Good thing about DVD or video if its not a hit or didn’t do jack: People will accept (or dismiss) movies for what they are instead of what they expected or perceived because of marketing or reviews. I saw ROCKETEER in theatres and quite enjoyed it, I even have a story I’ll share if Vern ever reviews that movie. A story that involves a broken table, and a kid trying to emulate a scene from the movie.

    But point is yes the generation now in their prime saw that movie as kids, and put it another way CAPTAIN AMERICA was basically Marvel’s ROCKETEER remake, except this time it made money and had decent reviews. I do admire that Marvel had faith in that character and basic pitch, and decided yeah lets ROCKETEER this up with Joe Johnston despite that movie being an embarrasing flop for Disney back in the day. (I even remember an UNCLE SCROOGE comic sometime after that making fun of ROCKETEER’s flopping.)

    Or maybe that movie came out many years too soon, perhaps ahead of its time? I seem to remember to not caring that much for THE SHADOW is only because I felt like that movie somehow sold itself short, if that makes any sense. PHANTOM was forgettable for me. But I did like that opening where they followed the comic strip’s tradition of rehashing the Phantom family origin story, usually when the writers/artists want a break or padding out while they’re trying to figure out a new story.

    (I laughed my ass off when RETROCITY RAMPAGE did a scene involving a flying suit and wrecking rampage I thought gee is that a ROCKETEER reference? I mean this was a game full of 80s/early 90s pop culture references, and holy shit Billy Campbell makes a silent cameo in that game. Awesome!)

  12. Patrick N – I second that request. In fact I’m surprised Vern doesn’t like it considering he’s something of a Mulcahy defender at times. I also enjoyed John Lone camping up in what otherwise would be a Fu Manchu part.

  13. I agree Patrick, I rewatched it a while back when I was trying to study the works of Russell Mulcahy, and now there’s alot I like about it. There’s a part that really cracks me up where he casually asks the resurrected Mongol warrior “So, what brings you to the Big Apple?”

  14. Vern, did you find unifying elements to Mulcahy’s work? I love RAZORBACK for it’s distinctive look and feel, and while I’m not a huge HIGHLANDER fan it also has a unique feel to it. Since then he’s done a lot of random forgettable stuff. A couple of times I’ve watched some DTV movie and then realised “Hey, Russell Mulcahy directed this?!”

  15. The one problem that I always had with THE SHADOW, was that it feels like there is a MUCH longer (at least 2 1/2 hours runtime) director’s cut somewhere. The whole movie feels so rushed, like some studio guys cut out half of it at one point.

  16. when you’re a little kid you don’t think about movies “flopping”, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions of The Rocketeer

  17. CJ Holden – Funny I always felt the same way too. I guess my main problem with that movie was that it tried to short cut out of being an origin story while still paying token to it, and it didn’t work for me. I mean a vicious evil man reforming and becoming a pinnacle for the forces of Good? That’s intriguing, and according to that movie he becomes “good” because he got his ass whopped. Nevermind it never made sense to me how such a total psychic ass-kicker could himself get killed by Lone.

    Not a bad movie, but the last time I saw it, I felt it sold itself short. I almost want to blame it on Universal for not knowing what they were doing. Their one role model for these sorts of movies were what, Tim Burton’s BATMAN? It felt too inspired by that if you get my drift, and perhaps even they were worried about not coming off as too much like THE ROCKETEER, which was a big flop of its time.

    Still I love little touches in SHADOW like the seemingly endless army of secret agents and informants who all carry a big heavy, ruby ring that you would think people would notice all these grown men wearing jewelry. Or that the villain’s defeated by a lobotomy.

    Griff – exactly. I think it was us kids who liked that movie and remembered it.

  18. Vern – The Big Apple line was awesome but I think I laughed even harder in the same scene when Khan asks The Shadow, quite seriously –

    “That is a lovely tie, by the way. May I ask where you acquired it?”
    “Brooks Brothers.”
    “Is that…Mid-Town?”
    “45th and Madison.”

    And then later when they meet again in the Mongolian restaurant, Baldwin compliments Khan’s newly-purchased tie! There’s some adorable bro-mancing going on between these two.

    And CJ, RRA – I agree completely about the movie feeling curiously abbreviated in the beginning with Cranston’s origin and then at the end by not giving the characters (or us) any time to breathe after the big, cathartic save-the-city showdown. I, for one, am into this character enough to want to know what led him to this life of vigilantism. In a way it’s even more complex and interesting than Bruce Wayne, because it’s kind of like if Bruce had taken his initial murderous impulses and used them in a negative way (becoming essentially an opium farmer/cartel leader) before yet another major life-changing event puts him back on the straight and narrow. Jonathan Winters casually mentions Cranston’s time in the war in that scene in the nightclub…I’d imagine that the whole business began with wartime atrocities and post-traumatic stress.

    That’s my point, the movie is good enough to be thought of twice. And I’m sorry Vern for bringing Batman into this but I couldn’t stop my hands from typing.

  19. It’s unconscionable that The Rocketeer was treated as poorly as it was. Do you know what beat it at the box office that weekend? ROBIN HOOD: PRINCE OF THIEVES. I’m sure that movie has it’s supporters, most of them middle aged women who still like to watch those Costner skinny-dipping scenes, but I think we can all agree that The Rocketeer is a better embodiment of that adventurous, fun-for-the-whole-family summer movie spirit.

    I admit that Alan Rickman was a great Sheriff of Nottingham. But then again he’s a great everything.

  20. One last thing…I spent this morning reading the comments thread for Vern’s Prometheus review and it’s insane! Makes me want to be more of a part of these forums. In hindsight, Asimov’s ceaseless ranting did manage to perpetuate the conversation for much longer than usual, and kept some of you guys talking. Which is ultimately a good thing.

    I thought of Asimov when I read the AV Club article, “You Won’t Have Damon Lindelof to Kick Around on your Prometheus Sequel,” and wondered if he was also reading your thread, Vern.

  21. I donĀ“t think its unconscionable that THE ROCKETEER failed. Bland and unmemorable movies should be treated with the utmost ignorance.

  22. I think a few of us here still remember it.

  23. I’m surprised THE ROCKETEER has become such a cult movie. I always wanted to like it (jetpacks, Jennifer Connoly, etc.) but it just felt pretty bland to me, like all of Joe Johnston’s work. He gets all the right elements together but doesn’t have the necessary spark to bring them to life.

    Speaking of old-fashioned derring-do, I watched Paul W.S. Anderson’s THE THREE MUSKETEERS last night and was surprised how much I liked it. It’s one of the better light action-adventure special effects swashbucklers I’ve seen in a while, and probably Anderson’s best movie. I like the cast, the script had some wit and class, the action was clean and fun, and the steampunk gadgetry and production design were cool. Plus Milla doing kung fu in petticoats. Breezy fun all around. I dug it.

  24. Patrick N – I remember catching PRINCE OF THIEVES on TV some years back and yeah it hasn’t aged well for me. Rickman is good and in retrospect after 9/11, Freeman’s character really shines well. But the rest is….meh. Meh. MEH!

    But ROCKETEER, it still works I’ll admit.

    I even appreciate in retrospect that Nazi propaganda cartoon of taking over America and burning the capital and American flag…which in real life was total nonsense but in the early 40s before America went into the war, FDR really pushed repeatedly the idea that the Nazis had plans to invade South America from Morocco/Algeria, even trotted out a map showing Berlin’s planned carving of SA into colonies. Of course turns out that map was a forgery made by British Intelligence. Historians debate whether he was deceived or knew it was fake but used it anyway for psychological effect. (He was former Assistant Secretary to the Navy, not a military amateur. I’m sure logistically he knew it was bullshit but hey considering what happened in ’39/’40/’41, the American public bought it.)

    Mr. Majestyk – I like Johnston, he seems to make or try to make old fashioned adventure films. Funny I caught HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS on TV the other day while working off a hangover and I found myself engaged and entertained. Not a great filmmaker, not really a remarkable one but for the most part I seem to eat up his pictures. (But I haven’t seen JURASSIC PARK 3 in years so I might give that a rewatch and see if my decent review holds up.)

    Yes I’ll admit it: I’m the only one at Vern’s comments community who liked JUMANJI, despite Robin Williams being Robin Williams doing his best to try to derail the movie.

  25. Mr. Majestyk – oh and I know to take your recommendations seriously and all, but I’ll wait on THREE MUSKETEERS for awhile to say the least. Why? Because I’m sorry, but Anderson has burned me too many times when I’ve tried to give him a chance. He’s a hack, and really 2 more hours does not appeal to me.

    But I’ll probably give it a shot eventually because you don’t bullshit on your picks. But do understand my reluctance to give it a chance.

    (I still haven’t washed the last worthless RESIDENT EVIL movie out of my mouth.)

  26. I’m no Anderson fan by any stretch. I haven’t liked a RESIDENT EVIL movie yet, and I thought DEATH RACE was good in spite of him, not because of him. But he does a good job with MUSKETEERS. It’s very classically shot, no shakycam or Avid farts at all, and removed from the dated technohorror trappings of a lot of his work, it has a lighter touch. No masterpiece by any means, but perfect lazy Sunday afternoon viewing. The only downsides are some broad humor (not too much, though) and a sorta milquetoast D’Artagnan, but that’s par for the course. I’d definitely watch a sequel.

  27. Mr. M – again I appreciate the recommendation.

  28. RRA – what do you mean, “In retrospect after 9/11?” Something about Freeman playing a Muslim? And yeah he was another winning aspect of that movie. My major beef with it is that it fails to evoke that sense of adventure from the Errol Flynn era, but also fails to comfortably adapt the Robin Hood legend into something dark and gritty, like it seemed to be intending. And Costner just doesn’t sell the counterculture, rebellious aspect of Robin Hood at all. As with Colin Farrell in “Alexander”, I just don’t buy it that hardened warriors would follow this man into battle.

  29. Patrick – Oh I agree with your criticisms. Costner doing an English accent was infamously bad (notice Flynn never bothered because who cares?)

    I think that movie is odd in that in one hand it wanted to revive that swashbuckling spirit, yet at the same time be hardened and cynical. Ebert at the time dismissed it as “Che’s Robin Hood” or something like that. I don’t think it works on either level honestly.

    But yes that 9/11 comment alludes to Freeman playing not just a Muslim, but the smartest/most cultured guy in the cast. Personally I loved how he’s baffled by the English. How many Hollywood movies have gone that far? (If that movie was made now with that same basic story, that character would have a scene showing how religious extremism is evil, blah blah. Different times, different expectations.)

    If the movie was that inspired and successful, it wouldn’t be forgotten like it has become.

    On the other hand, I still remember that Rickman line about having to explain a metaphor of his to his less-than-intelligent subordinate. That was funny.


  30. I’d take PRINCE OF THIEVES, Costner’s dodgy accent and all, over that dreary Ridley Scott ROBIN HOOD reboot. Talk about dark and gritty; that movie had all the fun and adventure surgically extracted and replaced with desaturated colours and carefully applied dirt-smears.

    Mr Majestyk: Was it Tarantino’s seal of approval that got you curious? I had no desire to see it whatsoever until I saw it on his Best of the Year list. I figure there must be something interesting about it, although QT has some weird picks sometimes.

  31. That and the fact that they had it at the library. Slim pickins and all.

  32. In this age of multimedia e-streaming webvideos, it’s nice to see someone cheaping out the old fashioned way.

  33. CrustaceanHate – I have to agree with you there. I think what annoys me the most about Ridley’s movie was that he took a damn good script in NOTTINGHAM with an inspired pitch (Sheriff of Nottingham is the good guy, Robin Hood the terrorist) and solid execution, and somehow rewrote himself into uninspired banality.

  34. The best parts of Prince of Thieves have Lways been those that involve Rickman’s Sherriff. My personal favorite is when he gets into a frustrated if and starts scheduling his concubines, telling the last one to bring a friend. I also love that he insists on a proper marriage to Marian as he begins to rape her. Classy.

    I think Vern could go on a little thread of reviews with movies like The Phantom, The Rocketeer, and The Shadow. (Superhero movies set around the 30’s or movies with “The” in the title.) I loved The Shadow so much that I actually read and still may own the novelization of the film. Like others, I was sure there was more to the story than was shown. Sadly, not much more in the book except maybe a little more info about how the cabbie became part of the ring club.

    My husband cannot stand The Shadow but loves The Phantom, so I’ll keep him for now. He also quotes from Johnny Dangerously at random, so that helps, too.

  35. This movie is on Netflix Instant now- it’s sweet and charming and even though I do like abrupt endings, I wish this one went on for a few minutes longer. And yes, Billy Campbell is the standout in this movie, he’s got the authoritative screen presence and quiet cool down pat. I can totally see The Rock playing roles like this in a few years.

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