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The First Annual TIFF Next Wave Film Festival

Fat Kid Rules the World
Directed by Matthew Lillard
USA/98 MINUTES

Directed by Matthew Lillard, Fat Kid Rules the World follows overweight teenager Troy Billings (Jacob Wysocki) as he strikes up an unlikely friendship with an energetic high-school dropout named Marcus (Matt O'Leary) - with the film subsequently detailing the turmoil that ensues for both characters as they attempt to start a band (eg Troy's ongoing encounters with his tough but fair father, Marcus' struggles with drug abuse, etc, etc). It's an undeniably familiar premise that's employed to passable effect by Lillard, as the first-time filmmaker has infused the proceedings with a punk-rock, high-energy feel that often compensates for its less-than-innovative narrative. Wysocki's stirring turn as the beleaguered protagonist certainly goes a long way towards perpetuating the movie's consistently watchable atmosphere, with the actor's striking performance heightened by the capable work of his various costars (and as good as O'Leary is here, it's Billy Campbell, cast as Troy's concerned pop, who ultimately walks away with the title of MVP). It's only as Fat Kid Rules the World staggers into its increasingly meandering midsection that one's interest begins to flag, as the progressively downbeat trajectory of the narrative ensures that the film fizzles out long before it arrives at its upbeat finale - with Lillard's decision to employ an almost incongruously deliberate pace only exacerbating the movie's lamentable downfall. Still, Fat Kid Rules the World is a fine debut that benefits substantially from its honest, truthful sensibilities - which should inevitably allow certain viewers (ie teenagers) to overlook its few deficiencies.

out of


17 Girls
Directed by Muriel Coulin and Delphine Coulin
FRANCE/87 MINUTES

Inspired by a true story, 17 Girls follows a pregnant high schooler (Louise Grinberg's Camille) as she successfully convinces several of her friends to also have babies - with the idea being that they'll help each other raise their respective children and live happily ever after in a utopian commune of young mothers. It's a fairly compelling premise that's hopelessly squandered by directors Muriel and Delphine Coulin, with the filmmakers' decision to employ an oppressively deliberate pace eventually (and firmly) canceling out the movie's positive attributes. The film, which runs out of steam almost immediately, has consequently been suffused with a whole host of time-wasting elements, as the Coulins attempt to pad out the running time by offering up one palpably needless sequence after another. (There is, for example, an interminable interlude in which the girls attend a raucous party on the beach.) The ongoing, pervasive emphasis on the central characters' debates and arguments does, as a result, grow tiresome and tedious far sooner than one might've hoped, and although the film admittedly does boast a believable, naturalistic feel, it's ultimately clear that there just isn't enough story here to sustain a full-length feature (ie this might have worked as a 10-minute short).

out of