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Nathan Rabin of the A.V. Club coined the term "Manic Pixie Dream Girl" to describe a female character whose story function is to teach the male protagonist to come out of his shell and live in the moment. In Matthew Lillard's directorial debut, Fat Kid Rules the World, Marcus (Matt O'Leary) is the male equivalent of the MPDG: a flaky, self-absorbed junkie and hustler who inspires the portly, awkward Troy (Jacob Wysocki) to live, man, mostly by getting into Seattle's punk rock scene. The problem is that Marcus is an utter nozzle, as MPD characters tend to be. O'Leary does a fine job with the role, one that director Lillard might have played in the 1990s, but Marcus' basic unpleasantness is distracting. Similarly distracting are Troy's frequent fantasies about the girls in his school, scenes which offer plenty of nubile flesh but don't serve the story or characters — other than to establish that in spite of his budding bromance with Marcus, Troy has what Red Letter Media's Mr. Plinkett would call "a big case of the Not Gays." But the film succeeds thanks to Lillard's clear affection for the material and on the strength of its performances, especially Billy Campbell as Troy's conflicted father. Here's to hoping the R rating won't prevent too many real-life fat kids from seeing Fat Kid Rules the World.
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