A consistently intelligent (or at least bright), coherently constructed comedy that is on occasion a rather pointed critique of the American education system in the…
"Fat Kid Rules the World" is a movie with a title that might be misleading: It's a lot better than it sounds like it has any right to be.
Here is the story of a suicidal high school outsider that generates great sympathy for the character, and miraculously supplies him with a loving and supportive father, a reckless new friend who turns out to be good for him, and even a sexy classmate who likes his T-shirt. That has to be the first time a girl has ever told him anything like that.
"Fat Kid Rules the World" isn't either of the things that we might fear: It's not a smarmy feel-good movie, and it's not another dumb teenage comedy. It's smart and observant, and when its laughs come, they're of the dark humor variety.
Much of its success comes from a fresh 21-year-old actor named Jacob Wysocki, who was inspired in his leading debut opposite John C. Reilly in "Terri" (2011), which I invited to Ebertfest this year. Knowing him to be outgoing and personable, I was struck by how convincing he is in this film's early scenes, as Troy Billings, a trudging, listless mouth-breather who exudes a deep sense of defeat. The fat kid he played in "Terri" was more transgressive (he wore his pajamas to high school because they were a "better fit"). Here he's a boy with such low self-regard that he seems frozen in his tracks.