Friday, May 4, 2018
HEAVY WEIGHTS (1995)
Directed By: Steven Brill
Written By: Judd Apatow & Steven Brill
Cinematography By: Victor Hammer
Editor: C. Timothy O’Meara
Cast: Aaron Schwartz, Ben Stiller, Tom McGowan, Shaun Weiss, Kenan Thompson, Paul Feig, Tom Hodges, Leah Lail, Allen Covert, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Jeffrey Tambor, Tim Blake Nelson, David Bowe
11-year-old Gerald "Gerry" Garner lives in Long Island, New York, and he's overweight. Gerry's parents Maury and Mrs. Garner decide to send Gerry to Camp Hope, a camp for overweight boys. The camp is owned by kindly Harvey Bushkin and his equally kind wife Alice Bushkin. When the Bushkins file for bankruptcy the camp has to be sold, it is bought by a wacko named Tony Perkis. Tony plans to force the campers to lose as much weight as they can, and he also intends to document the marathon shedding of weight and use it for an infomercial for his slenderizing program. In the eyes of the campers, Tony has made Camp Hope a living hell. As Gerry and counselor Pat Finley lead the efforts to overthrow Tony, the campers prepare for the Apache Relay against arch rival Camp MVP. The Apache Relay is a kind of race in which Camp Hope has never defeated Camp MVP before.
As someone who has always battled weight issues. I can easily identify with this film. Which might be why I saw it on opening day in the theater. Me and all of five other people there. This is a movie I have always re-watched every few years. As though it is dated it still is dear to my heart and still enjoyable. One of those nostalgic favorites.
The film still holds up to a degree but at least feels like something different. It is still rife with stereotypes though at least it is in good humor. It doesn't feel like it is cruel or at the expense of the characters so much. It more gels like they are part of and provide the humor. As the film allows them to be characters. Showing they all come in different shapes and sizes. Letting some Have story arcs and others be part of the overall feel of the film. As in so many films these actors and characters would be the jolly comic relief or nerd. Maybe even the best friend. Either way he's the guy who longs after girls and fails until the end and a random girl likes him or he's the fat guy who everyone wonders how he is getting all the ladies. Here they are more the status quo and are allowed to be more than that.
The film offers not only a coming of age story for the young cast, but also some of the adult characters like pat played by Tom McGowan to finally grow some and have a romance.
I will say I have followed Judd Apatow's Comedic career more inadvertently at first. This strangely enough was the first film with his name on it that caught my eye.
As the film leaves the main message of not being superficial and judging a book by its cover. Rather simple but a fun way to express it. It hits home especially in a scene where the guys are forced into a dance with girls from neighboring camps to embarrass them and end up... you'll have to watch. It you will probably know where it is going. The film does at least have a romance, it saves it more for the adult characters as it allows the film to show the character growing up and becoming a man.
The film also has three cast members of THE MIGHTY DUCKS movies Aaron Schwartz, Shaun Weiss and Kenan Thompson. Who are more the younger leads and actually get a good amount of screen time to flex their acting and comedic talents. While Ben stiller had been a comedic presence before In Other films. Here this seems like a star making vehicle for him. As he is the major adult or adversary to the kids in the film and he is fully over the top. Playing two characters and his parents even co-star in the film briefly. So this was an early showcase of his talents. As he is funny. The character of Tony Perkins seems similar to the character who he played in DODGEBALL. They could even be the same. As maybe the character changed his name and got older, for that I always see the movie DODGEBALL as an unofficial sequel or continuation of the character. The films second half Seems set more around him and his comedic stylings So many recognizable faces on the cast who later became directors, writers and character actors. Like Tim Blake Nelson, Peter Berg (who was roommates with director Steven Brill for a time) , Allan Covert, Paul Feig and of course this was written and produced by modern comedy godfather Judd Apatow. This almost feels like an early dry run of FREAKS AND GEEKS minus the drama.
Surprised this wasn't some kind of Adam Sandler vehicle as the humor is close only not as gross. Keep in mind early Adam Sandler when he was still funny and bearable and seemed to still care about the audience. Other than THE BEN STILLER SHOW and THE LARRY SANDERS SHOW. This was my introduction to Judd Apatow and his comedy. So as you can see one was an early adapter.
For those who remember this. The film is a fun nostalgic look at a kids high concept comedy. That can be shown to kids today to teach how not to easily write someone off or judge them on appearance alone.
The film also leads one to have an appreciation of the disco song LOVE MACHINE and all of it's complexities.