Is it politically correct these days to be fat and proud or thin and proud?
Disney’s new kidpic “Heavyweights” plays it both ways: It says it’s fine to be chubby and then goes ahead and makes all the usual chubby jokes. It’s a case of having your hi-cal cake and eating it too.
Gerry Garner (Aaron Schwartz) is sent by his parents to a summer camp for overweight kids called Camp Hope. (Is this a sly dig at Bill Clinton?) Quickly bonding with his fellow heavies, including Josh (the amusing Shaun Weiss) and Roy (Kenan Thompson), Gerry finds himself for the first time among kids who don’t make fun of him. In fact, none of the kids make fun of each other--which seems a bit too idyllic. Wouldn’t the least fat kids make fun of the fattest?
Instead, they make fun of the camp’s new director, a fitness guru horror named Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller), who plans to use the summer activities as the basis for a bogus infomercial. (Perkis appears to be based partially on motivation guru Anthony Robbins.) Perkis puts the kids through boot camp paces, and he gets more and more wacko, in ways that are more disconcerting than funny, as the film dribbles on.
Co-written by director Steven Brill and Judd Apatow, “Heavyweights” is an inoffensive dawdler for kids under 10. It might have been funnier if the filmmakers had taken a good look at the summer camp scenes from “Addams Family Values,” where a pageant involving Native Americans and settlers turns into a race war. Is it too much to ask for a little subversiveness in these toddler fests?
The funniest moment in “Heavyweights” is when the camp’s original owners, played by Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, break down and sob in front of their campers as they declare bankruptcy. It’s Stiller and Meara’s only scene in the movie, which is a waste far more upsetting than the mounds of uneaten ribs and cheeseburgers that litter the campgrounds.
* MPAA rating: PG. Times guidelines: It includes a scene in which a camp director receives a strong electric shock that may be scary to small children.
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‘Heavyweights’ Tom McGowan: Pat Aaron Schwartz: Gerry Shaun Weiss: Josh Tom Hodges: Lars A Walt Disney presentation in association with Caravan Pictures. Director Steven Brill. Producers Joe Roth and Roger Birnbaum. Executive producers Judd Apatow and Sarah Bowman. Screenplay by Judd Apatow and Steven Brill. Cinematographer Victor Hammer. Editor C. Timothy O’Meara. Costumes Kimberly A. Tillman. Music J.A.C. Redford. Production design Stephen Storer. Running time: 1 hour, 40 minutes.
* In general release throughout Southern California.