This may come as a surprise to some of you, but growing up, I was a fat kid. So naturally, I wholeheartedly related to this 1995 comedy about fat kids who go to camp, only for the previous owners give it up to a maniacal health nut hellbent on making money, and have a nightmare befall them that year. The movie I’m talking about of course is:
Okay, so there were no new, psycho owners at my fat camp, in fact, I didn’t even go to a fat camp, let alone a camp. But as a fat kid struggling to be a part of the conversation (other than the butt of jokes), this movie spoke to me.
Heavyweights stars almost half of the kids from the original The Mighty Ducks. No, seriously. The lead, Gerry Garner (played by Aaron Schwartz), John Birnbaum (played by GOOOOOLDBEEEERG! himself, Shaun Weiss), and Kenan Thompson, who starred in all three along with Shaun Weiss.
This film is a comedy fans star map. It was co-written by Steve Brill and Judd Apatow (yes that one). While we all know where Judd went after this, it’s important to note that Steve Brill (Not to be confused with Dr. Steve Brule), went onto writing and directing many films such as all of the Mighty Ducks films, Little Nicky, Mr. Deeds, Without a Paddle, and Drillbit Taylor.
Then, it co-starred another writer/director in Paul Feig, who went onto make such films as Bridesmaids, Spy, The Heat, and the remake of Ghostbusters.
AND, if that weren’t enough, it featured actor/writer/director Ben Stiller as the main villain, Tony Perkis.
Ben Stiller, to me, is best utilized when he’s playing someone who doesn’t get shit on all day. In Meet the Parents for example, Stiller is put in the most awkward spots, and that character he plays (in several films) is annoying. Now this of course was before I found myself appreciating the British-style humor of uncomfortable and awkward situations.
In films like Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Tropic Thunder, Zoolander, and this film, is where he’s best served. I like his “out-there” personas, and love how they can transcend sometimes bad material into hilarious, quotable gems.
Another fun fact is that the film’s eventual Blu-Ray release in 2012 featured a redesign of the logo and re-skinned the campers’ outfits to more closely resemble a camp environment. This must have been a studio note well after the fact, because unlike the similar film released in the prior year, Camp Nowhere, the title Heavyweights nor the poster shouted “Fat Camp!” They don’t even use the right uniforms.
Not to mention the film only made $17 million in lifetime box office gross. And look at these frickin’ taglines! They have NOTHING to do with the movie!
Where/ when did I first see it?
I watched this as a VHS rental from the wonderful Video Market soon after its home video release later in 1995.
How does it hold up?
The movie is a kids’ comedy, but in no way should that diminish its appeal. It was co-written by Judd Apatow after all, and while it’s mostly childish in its scope, like any good current film of that ilk; it has its adult jokes sprinkled throughout.
The acting is some of the most endearing, (aside from the aforementioned Stiller); Tom McGowan, the senior camp counselor, has a great arc that mirrors the main kid, Gerry’s: They both come out of their shell and step up to the person they were always meant to be.
Paul Feig is also great as the lanky and wild Tim, whom all of the kids make fun of because of his “bony butt.” He brings an energy to the role that I’m sure inspired him to evoke the same from his actors in the future.
Ok, that’s reaching, but one can assume…? Maybe?
What did I like about it and why?
Again, this movie spoke to me in ways only the likes of Angus did. It was fun, relatable, and had one of the best villains and accompanying musical scores to reflect said villain.
The basic bait and switch premise was fun as a viewer as well. It set you up to expect the tired old shenanigans of the camp movies, and instead makes it about a lunatic owner, hell bent on making a few bucks. Tony Perkis is the embodiment of fat prejudice. He makes fun of them, flaunts his own physicality to mock them, and tries to force his lifestyle into theirs.
-I’m a big fan of revisiting this film to learn that Allen Covert had a small role as Kenny the cameraman. He was in myriad Adam Sandler films, and starred in one of the best underrated comedies of all time: Grandma’s Boy.
-The Blob was great. It made me wish I could have and/or use one of them.
- Child actors must have loved working on these films; I know I would.
- Hot DAMN I wanted to be that kid who made out with the hot girl at the dance!
- Fat camps are probably not this fun.
Where can you see it?
Check out Heavyweights on CanIStream.It?