Judge Clark Douglas wonders if Woody Allen wrote any live-action Disney comedies during his formative years.
They don't run the fastest. They don't jump the highest. But they sure are getting the last laugh.
"Look at you! You haven't lost a pound."
Facts of the Case
At long last, school is out and young Gerry Garner can begin soaking in the endless fun of summer. Alas, his glee is quickly dampened when he learns that his parents have arranged to send him to a "fat camp" for the next couple of months. Once upon a time, the famous Camp Hope was actually a fun and positive environment for overweight kids, but these days it's turned into a nightmarish boot camp run by the egomaniacal Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller, Tropic Thunder). Can Gerry and his new friends find a way to end Tony's reign of terror?
To the casual observer, the arrival of Heavyweights on Blu-ray may come as a surprise. After all, the 1995 live-action Disney comedy was a flop in theatres. Doesn't the House of Mouse have plenty of other catalogue titles people would be more interested in? Perhaps, but all is revealed when you take a quick look at the film's credits: Heavyweights was co-written by a young up-and-comer named Judd Apatow. Despite the film's kid-friendly sensibilities, it's tonally very much in line with the sort of stuff Apatow has become famous for in recent years: gleefully irreverent comedy accompanied by generous helpings of sweetness. The basic plot doesn't offer any surprises, but some energetic comic performances and fun dialogue make the movie an above-par family flick.
The strangest thing about Heavyweights is just how little it seems concerned for the health of its central characters. In the 21st Century, school vending machine candy bars and potato chips have been replaced by fruit cups, restrictions are being placed on food manufacturers looking to market their products to children and child obesity is being aggressively addressed by some of our most prominent public figures. As such, it's almost startling to see a movie that revels so cheerfully in the joys of overdosing on junk food. One scene offers a slow-motion tribute to gluttony, in which kids literally cover themselves in every sort of tasty sugar-and-fat-heavy snack they can find. They wake up the next morning in agony. "What's the lesson we've learned here?" a camp counselor asks sternly. "Not to mix twinkies and pizza," one kid moans. So yes, the consequences of unhealthy eating and overeating are eventually mentioned in passing, but these scenes seem far less sincere (and are far less fun) than the moments in which the kids manage to get their hands on copious amounts of candy.
Considering that, I can understand why some parents might feel a little hesitant about picking up Heavyweights, but I honestly appreciated the film's candid nature in this area. Fruits and vegetables are great and junk food is bad for you, obviously. But on another level, fruit and vegetables are kinda boring (especially if you're a kid) and junk food is awesome, obviously. The fact that the film playfully notes the obvious is hardly a crime. Besides, it's particularly hard to complain about the film's intended and unintended messages when the whole thing is just so darn likable.
The kids themselves (which include a young Kenan Thompson, Saturday Night Live) are solid, but it's the grown-up supporting members who steal the show. Stiller plays his villainous role with gusto; delivering one of his more enthusiastically broad and goofy performances (and honestly, it's always good to see Stiller play something other than the frustrated, neurotic straight man he plays so often). Tom McGowan is great as the kind-hearted long-time veteran of Camp Hope, and a young Paul Feig is appealing in a large supporting role. Tim Blake Nelson, Jeffrey Tambor, Peter Berg and Jerry Stiller make brief, entertaining appearances, too.
Heavyweights (Blu-ray) (which IMDb labels Heavy Weights, oddly enough) offers an adequate 1080p/1.85:1 transfer. While the image doesn't have the dazzle or pop of, say, a Camp Rock movie, it does look crisp and clean. There's some moderate grain present throughout and there are times that the imagery looks just a bit worn, but there aren't any major problems to report. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track arguably cracks up some of the rowdy soundtrack selections a little loud in contrast to the dialogue, but otherwise it's a sturdy and impressively robust mix. Supplements are surprisingly generous: an audio commentary with Apatow, director Steven Brill and actors Allen Covert, Aaron Schwartz, Shaun Weiss and Tom Hodges, a handful of exceptional featurettes ("The Making of Heavyweights," "Where Are They Now?" and "Video Chat: Judd & Kenan"), over NINETY FREAKING MINUTES of deleted scenes (seriously, they could have just given us the Heavyweights equivalent of Wake Up, Ron Burgundy), some Super 8 footage from the set, a gallery of Apatow's personal photos and a trailer.
Heavyweights is a simple, predictable little flick (and it arguably runs about ten minutes longer than it really needs to), but it's charming, funny and sweet. It's a good deal more tolerable than this sort of thing usually is, and the Blu-ray is packed with brand-new supplements.
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