A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Preaches acceptance of others, acceptance of oneself, and looking beyond appearances. Shows the devastating effects of bullying, name-calling, and mean-spirited behavior. In addition to the social downside of obesity, associated medical issues are described. The upside of failure ("It humbles us and makes us more compassionate"; "Giving up early is easy; getting back up is hard") is stressed.
Positive Role Models
The arc of the film's protagonist is positive. Self-deprecating, hopeless, and almost friendless, he learns the value of actively taking steps to better his life. The behavior of kids, parents, and teachers covers a wide spectrum. The two primary parents are supportive, loving, and proactive when dealing with their obese son. Another boy's parent is cruel and self-destructive. The primary teacher is sensitive and resourceful and values her students highly. Other teachers are portrayed as mean, angry, and uncaring. There's some ethnic diversity.
Violence & Scariness
Bullies push, hit, and physically intimidate the hero in numerous sequences. A parent slaps his son hard.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some smooching at a teen party. The hero lands a couple of sweet kisses on the girl of his dreams. Bullies continually make fun of the obese boy's chest ("boobs").
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Mean-spirited name-calling: "ugly," "stupid," "knucklehead," "fatty." Frequent references to an overweight boy's "boobs." A girl is referred to as being sexy and having a "huge rack." An extensive scene of loud farts.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A teen talks about his alcoholic parents in multiple scenes; the boy's father is seen holding a beer can and being inebriated. A mom drinks wine in her kitchen. A boy smokes cigarettes and offers one to his friend, who declines.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that The Fat Boy Chronicles deals with some harsh truths about teen obesity and bullying. Other issues touched upon are teen "cutting," alcoholic parents, murder, suicide, and depression. The hero is a 14-year-old boy in his first year of high school, so the messages delivered will have meaning to many young teens. However, the execution is weak, and some issues raised are given very little time. As a result, important teen dilemmas end up getting sketchy and one-dimensional treatment. Actual violence (pushing, grabbing an overweight boy's chest, a hard slap) and language issues ("ugly," "stupid," "fatty," "boobs") are relatively mild, but extensive humiliation, cruelty, and heartbreak are the prominent elements that move the story. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
What works in this film is Jimmy. As portrayed by the likable Christian Rivera, the character's dilemma is poignant. Young audiences can't help but empathize with him and, in doing so, take his situation to heart. Their compassion for the underdog and willingness to stand up for kids like Jimmy may be enhanced. However, not certain that the teen's story would stand on its own, or believing that the drama would be heightened by the inclusion of multiple other elements, the filmmakers added much more: teen cutting, parental alcoholism, an unsolved murder, a suicide, a boy's disappearance, and a football player's lack of confidence. All are underdeveloped concepts, relegated to a few scenes or portions of scenes and minimal, if any, resolution. The worst of these is a ludicrous subplot that finds Jimmy and his friend using Jimmy's sister as bait to catch the murderer. It's all scatter-shot, trivialized, badly conceived, and poorly executed. The writers and director could have used a surer hand and more professional help to bring this story, based on a book and "inspired by a true story," to life.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.