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Plump kids are lured into joining a posh fat camp with the promise of quick weight loss and good times, only to find that the facility is a woodland hellhole run by a psycho ex-fitness instructor.
For more about Heavyweights and the Heavyweights Blu-ray release, see Heavyweights Blu-ray Review published by Brian Orndorf on December 12, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Ben Stiller, Allen Covert, Tim Blake Nelson, Kenan Thompson, Paul Feig, Jeffrey Tambor
Director: Steven Brill
» See full cast & crew
Heavyweights Blu-ray Review
Before they were stars, they went to fat camp.
Reviewed by Brian Orndorf, December 12, 2012
When �Heavyweights� opened in 1995, it bombed. It was an unsurprising fate for the feature, which was cursed with a ridiculous poster, a flaccid trailer, and a February release date, keeping the summer camp adventure away from more appreciative summer audiences. I caught the film during its initial theatrical release and was left a tad puzzled by the effort, watching the production stitch together a traditional Disney-style family film experience with an edgier comedic aim, keeping what should�ve been a forgettable matinee distraction interesting, dusted with a few sizable laughs. In the time since the multiplex release of �Heavyweights,� the picture has developed a cult following, with years of home video rentals and basic cable showings allowing younger viewers multiple opportunities to figure out the mechanics of the bizarre picture, embracing the details of the work. Of course, �Heavyweights� also has the benefit of being a Judd Apatow production before he was the mighty JUDD APATOW, while �Bridesmaids� director Paul Feig claims a supporting role, and Ben Stiller stars as the villain. In 1995, these ingredients were a little too difficult to properly identify and value. However, time has been kind to the discarded fat camp movie, finding �Heavyweights� more digestible these days, after years spent processing the askew sense of humor shared by Apatow and Company.
A bullied kid struggling with his weight, Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) is shocked to discover his parents (including Jeffrey Tambor) have signed him up for a summertime stay at Camp Hope, a weight loss facility run by loving couple, Harvey (Jerry Stiller) and Alice Bushkin (Anne Meara). At first unwilling to take the plunge, Gerry soon finds a legion of kids just like him at the camp, befriending Josh (Shaun Weiss) and Roy (Kenan Thompson), while counselors Tim (Paul Feig) and lifer Pat (Tom McGowan) hope to comfort the boy in his new surroundings. However, before the season kicks off, Harvey and Alice announce they�ve sold the camp to Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller), a determined businessman hoping to turn the success stories of Camp Hope into a weight loss infomercial empire. Using extreme methods of motivation and training, Tony turns the camp into a prison for the staff, including Nurse Julie (Leah Lail), and kids, forcing the boys to figure out a way to disrupt the crippling, humiliating daily grind before it kills them.
Making a fat camp movie isn�t an easy endeavor, especially when sensitivities surrounding such a subject are volatile. The screenplay for �Heavyweights,� by Apatow and director Steven Brill, largely avoids the high-wire act of compassion, turning the obesity woes of the Camp Hope Kids into a celebration of consumption, without the drag of personal responsibility. Actually, the fat camp concept is rarely confronted beyond comedic intentions, with any genuine inspection of weight loss and medical challenges avoided to throw a sleepaway party, trying to match �Meatballs� in terms of anarchic merriment, staff tomfoolery, and activity participation. Not that anyone wants to see a movie where beefy kids slowly kill themselves with relentless snacking, but I have to wonder how the movie made it all the way to the screen (especially under the watchful eyes of Disney) without any real confrontation of the issue. The film�s mandate is to have fun and celebrate outsider heroism, and that�s all there is, keeping reality in the rear-view as the supersized campers declare war on their overzealous, highly tanned warden.
Shedding any inclinations to preach, �Heavyweights� manages to produce a great number of laughs with the oddity of Tony Perkis and his plans to infomercial himself into a multimillionaire, with help from cameraman Kenny (Alan Covert) and enforcer Lars (Tom Hodges), who�s vaguely European origin adds a Nazi-ish touch to the prison camp setting. While the child stars are agreeably animated, with extremes of personality cleanly defined by Brill, the film belongs to Stiller, who makes the most out of this unusual villain turn. Tony is a madman in spandex, with an uncomfortably hairless, impossibly fit body and a desire to contort a camp of memories and friendships into a machine of fitness, failing to recognize the considerable challenge in front of him. It�s a wild performance from an actor at a transitional stage in his career, with much of �Heavyweights� resembling a sketch from his masterful comedy program, �The Ben Stiller Show.� In fact, the actor even revives a character from the series to play Tony�s dad in the finale (the �Do it!� celebrity hounder). Stiller�s energy and commitment to the extremes of the faux fitness guru are uproarious, nicely balancing out the conventional kiddie antics, while supplying an interesting sense of menace to the story, keeping Tony a memorable, flip-happy creep when most actors would be content to coast through the role.
Also surfacing throughout the picture are moments of weirdness, from a �One Flew Over the Cuckoo�s Nest� homage to a legitimate food orgy, staged by Camp Hope when Tony is temporarily detained. �Heavyweights� is filled with throwaway gags that work amazingly well, with a full imagination trying to lift formulaic moments off the ground. I especially enjoyed a beat where Tony �disarms� a camper�s contraband Pez dispenser, with Brill employing the sound of bullets dropping as the candy pellets hit the floor. Little moments like that make all the difference, showing that Apatow isn�t merely interested is surviving the picture, but striving to give nondescript material a personality worth paying attention to. The funky nonsense also helps to ease the pain of unappetizing fart jokes and lame �Seymour Butts� put-downs that litter the script.
Heavyweights Blu-ray, Video Quality
The AVC encoded image (1.78:1 aspect ratio) presentation keeps in line with other Disney catalog titles, with minimal effort provided to bring the movie to life on Blu-ray. A mild amount of filtering is detected along with solidified blacks, making evening sequences unnecessarily impenetrable, while the general muted quality of the transfer prevents the effort from looking fresh and cinematic. Skintones come across inconsistent, with a few overly hot moments causing concern. The illuminating power of daylight brings out the best in the presentation, with a good read of primaries, finding costuming a particular delight to study, while foresty hues also make a positive impression. Fine detail is acceptable, with the reasonably crisp image keeping food fight particulars and sweat sharp, while camp interior are easily surveyed. Print is fine shape, with little noticeable debris.
Heavyweights Blu-ray, Audio Quality
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA sound mix is a stable listening event with limited surround activity. Scoring is perhaps the only element that reaches around the viewer, and while it lacks a truly immersive quality, the music is crisply defined and full. Soundtrack cuts also sound satisfactory, carrying an adequate low-end to bring some depth to the mix, while soaring without distortion when time calls for montages or party sequences. Dialogue exchanges are cleanly presented with a secure front stage, with a swell of pubescent voices easily managed. Potential for clutter is avoided though a simplistic aural design, yet the overall chaos of the track is never harsh. Sound effects are sharply defined for comedic effect.
Heavyweights Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Heavyweights Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
The conclusion takes on the Apache Relay, an annual contest against the wicked overachievers at Camp MVP, though it arrives after the resolution of the Tony subplot, leaving the emphatic ending superfluous, as though the production had a few more clich�s they were determined to work through. The soft ending doesn�t dilute the �Heavyweights� viewing experience, which remains surprisingly entertaining and interestingly barbed. It�s fun to see how our collective sense of humor has caught up to the feature. What was once a peculiar Disney release the studio was almost embarrassed to put in theaters has found its place in the future, where kids and adults can finally appreciate Camp Hope�s wild side with a little more working knowledge of its creative origins.
Heavyweights Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Heavyweights Blu-ray - October 7, 2012
Disney is bringing producer Judd Apatow's Heavyweights to Blu-ray. The family comedy, starring Ben Stiller (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story), and Kenan Thompson (Saturday Night Live), features a slew of bonus materials, new and old. Catch Heavyweights, making ...
Heavyweights Blu-ray, Forum Discussions
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