The Fat Boy Chronicles has its heart in the right place. It wants to be a poignant message movie about the tribulations of being an overweight high school kid and the effects bullying has on teenagers - and it succeeds occasionally at this. However, it falls victim to an odd sub-plot involving a murdered girl, some heavy handed preachiness and “pro Church” moments, and the fact they’re trying to stuff a lot into the film’s brief 78 minute run time which just makes everything feel rushed and leaves the script rife with loose hanging plot threads and not a lot of resolution.
Jimmy (Christopher Rivera) isn’t what society would call your “normal” high schooler. Sure, he’s a nice enough kid and he just wants to have friends and be somewhat popular but, seeing as he’s fairly overweight, instead he just becomes the target of various ridicule. Instead of burying his head, he decides he’s going to do something about it, which is fine and dandy until Michael Buchanan and Diane Lang‘s screenplay wants to also focus on Sable (Kelly Washington), the Goth-like girl Jimmy ends up befriending who likes cutting herself and feels like an outcast, the aforementioned (and hopelessly pointless) scenes where Jimmy and his friend Paul (Chris Bert) are trying to catch a local killer, and briefly touched upon moments involving Paul being a victim of parental abuse and the school’s star quarterback realizing Jimmy isn’t half bad when he’s forced to be tutored in math.
Knowing that I’m not really the target audience here, I suppose I’m allowed to be a bit cynical. Perhaps things have changed since I was a wee lad and the (sometimes) target of the school’s more prick-ish students, but most of the treatment Jimmy receives isn’t exactly earth shattering. A lot of these scenes (like running through the gym in his underwear and the “party boobies flash”) would feel right at home in a badly written T&A comedy. It almost feels like it’s glossed over, so as to not show the real vitriol and ruthlessness our younger generation is capable of. This is the vanilla of bullying movies with just enough flavor to appeal to family audiences but not enough extra sprinkles to make serious impact.
Under the direction of debuting Jason Winn, The Fat Boy Chronicles feels like one of those “After School Specials” I used to watch as a kid in the 80’s. If it wasn’t for the fact Winn tries to add in some camera tricks and effects, I’d swear I was watching another bland made-for-TV movie.
That being said, Rivera does a decent enough job in the lead giving off just enough likeability and self-doubt for you to root for him just a bit. The same goes for Washington, who does fine despite being given the thankless task of playing a character who never seems to rise above being a cliché. The remainder of the cast comes across as passable, though Bert does feel like a weak link at times.
Like I said before, the makers of The Fat Boy Chronicles seem sincere, but there’s not enough substance or realism here to make this any better than such similar fare as 1995’s silly teen comedy Angus or even the decent Ricki Lake starring 1989 made-for-television flick Babycakes. Sometimes even the best of intentions can be misguided. (Chris Hartley, 6/18/12)
Directed By: Jason Winn.
Written By: Michael Buchanan, Diane Lang.
Starring: Christopher Rivera, Kelly Washington, Chris Bert, Cole Carson.