In the dark ages of 1995, the movie business was very different from what it is today. Back then, movie studios made all kinds of movies, not just sequels and reboots. For instance, in 1995 Disney hoped audiences would enjoy a comedy about kids forced to spend their summer at fat camp.
That movie was called “Heavyweights,” and it was directed by Steven Brill. The follows the journey of a teen named Gerry (Aaron Schwartz) who is sent by his parents to Camp Hope, a fat camp. When Gerry arrives at Camp Home, he and the other kids find that the camp’s beloved owners Harvey and Alice Bushkin (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara), are bankrupt, and have sold the camp to a sadistic fitness guru named Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller).
Almost immediately, Perkis turns the once cheerful camp into a weight loss boot camp. His goal is to make a high-powered infomercial that features before-and-after shots of the campers.
The premise of “Heavyweights” is a little strange for sure, but I actually enjoyed the movie when it was released in February 1995. “Heavyweights” has some really funny moments like: a 20 mile hike, a secret food stash, an all night binge, the blob, a boys and girls dance with a nearby camp, and basically anything Ben Stiller does, like telling the kids: ““Attention campers, lunch has been canceled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.”
I saw the movie in the theater back in 1995, and later on I watched it a few times on VHS. The last time I watched “Heavyweights” had to be sometime in the late 1990’s. Up until recently, I had forgotten about the movie. Then, while looking for something to watch on Netflix, I found it under “recently added.” As I sat there watching the movie for the first time in ages, I couldn’t believe when I saw the credits.
A then-unknown young man is listed as a screenwriter and producer, that man is named Judd Apatow. But wait, there’s more! Paul Feig (yup, that Paul Feig) stars in the movie as a former camper who lost a ton of weight and is now a counselor at Camp Hope. And talk about a before-and-after shot.
Today, a comedy featuring the combined efforts of Judd Apatow, Paul Feig and Ben Stiller would be a surefire gut at the box office. In early 1995, not so much. “Heavyweights” only earners a little over $17.6 million at the box office.
But I don’t care if the movie was a hit or not. All I know is I liked “Heavyweights” when I was a teenager, and I like it even more now that I’m in my late 30’s. And if the movie is still on Netflix, I highly recommend you see it.