Heavyweights (1995)

27 Feb


Smith’s Verdict: **1/2

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

In the film “Heavyweights,” an eleven-year-old overweight kid named Gerry believe his summer is ruined when his parents toss him into a summer camp for fat kids. At first, he feels like he’s just been made fun of and is not very serious about losing weight. But then he sees that none of the other kids are interested in losing weight, and in their home cabin they keep a treasure trove of goodies.

However, the fun ends after a few hours into the first day when the friendly owners of the camp announce their retirement, and taking their place is a fitness guru named Tony Perkis, who wants these kids to lose weight and fast so he can make an infomercial about a fat camp that actually succeeds in its original purpose. So he makes life at camp hell for these kids.

OK, that’s the setup for “Heavyweights,” a family movie about summer camp that is surprisingly funny and appealing…right up until the overly predictable final half. This is a movie in which the kids get their victory, but not by conquering the crazed fitness guru’s dictation. No, they get their victory by beating the more athletic campers of a sports camp in an obstacle course and go-cart race. Why? Did the writer run out of ideas? Could the filmmakers have come up with anything but the overly predictable, unnecessary “big game” ending? Why did this have to happen?

I was having fun with a lot of the material before that ending. The kids are good comic actors—especially Aaron Schwartz as the central character Gerry, Shaun Weiss as the cooler fat kid Josh, and Kenan Thompson as their friend Roy. The adult cast has fun with their roles—especially Tom McGowen as camp veteran Pat, Tom Hodges as a Schwarzenegger-type named Lars, and Paul Feig as a skinny counselor named Tim. And there are multiple one-liners that made me laugh out loud, even when there are summer-camp clichés in the script, such as when the kids go to a dance. I also liked that these kids were not portrayed in a condescending way at all—they’re just regular kids who want to have fun but are sidetracked by Tony Perkis.

Oh, I can’t believe I almost forgot to mention the actor who plays Perkis. As Perkis, Ben Stiller is phenomenally entertaining. This performance has to be seen to be believed. Perkis has a mocking attitude that is part-Fonzie and part-Wayne from “Wayne’s World” and just plain silly. He is also psychotically energetic. But it should be no surprise that Ben Stiller has comedy in his genes. His parents are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, a husband-and-wife comedy team who also make an appearance as the original camp owners. (I mentioned there are great one-liners in the script, one of which is when Jerry Stiller says one final piece of advice to the kids: “Never let anyone sign your checks!”)

But then the film sinks when it reaches up to the sentimental, feel-good “big game” ending that did not work at all, not in the slightest bit. Maybe it was to be expected, since we learn from the ads that the film was created “from the creator of ‘The Mighty Ducks.’” But I still can’t figure out why the creator wanted this movie—which had fun leading up to it—to end with such a clichéd scene with nothing new or original at all. This ending to “Heavyweights” forces me not to recommend it.

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