Fat Kid Rules the World

(Reviewed at the 2012 South By Southwest Film Festival.) I hope whichever distributor is savvy enough to pick up the irresistibly funny and honest teen comedy “Fat Kid Rules the World” is also smart enough to market it correctly. They’ll want to downplay the fact that it’s actor Matthew Lillard’s directorial debut — the man best known as Freddie Prinze Jr.’s pal and the portrayer of Shaggy in the Scooby-Doo movies carries too much baggage — and emphasize the film’s sympathy for misfit kids and affection for punk rock.

Based on K.L. Going’s 2003 novel, “Fat Kid” stars Jacob Wysocki (“Terri”) as Troy Billings, an obese Seattle high-schooler who’s rescued from a half-hearted suicide attempt by Marcus (Matt O’Leary), a semi-homeless drug addict and rock guitarist who was expelled from Troy’s school and remains a legend in some circles. With his easygoing charm and an addict’s gift for quick thinking (i.e., lying), Marcus insinuates himself into Troy’s life, to the chagrin of his ex-Marine father (Billy Campbell) and favored younger brother (Dylan Arnold). But the unlikely friendship also helps Troy to find new passions in life as he decides he’d like to be a drummer in Marcus’ possibly non-existent band. The scenario sounds cliched, but it’s brought to life by authentic characters, solid laughs, and surprisingly honest emotions. This heartfelt, hard-rockin’ comedy was the hidden gem of the festival.

A- (1 hr., 38 min.; R, some harsh profanity, a little sexuality.)