There’s never been a remotely significant summer camp film, and Disney’s “Heavyweights” does nothing to advance the genre. Far worse, this yarn about an adolescent fat farm is shameful in its execution and content. It should be in and out of theaters in a couple of weeks, shortly joining the company’s equally illustrious “Camp Nowhere” in relative obscurity in the dark recesses of video stores.
Camp Hope is dedicated to the overweight child. As one “chubby” notes, in this crowd no one is the fat kid. Gerry Garner (Aaron Schwartz) arrives in the hefty milieu just as the camp’s longtime owners have had to declare bankruptcy. The new owner is spiky-haired, obnoxious fitness guru Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller).
He summarily dispenses with high-calorie meals and the traditional “passive exercise” program. Instead, the campers are to concentrate on shedding tonnage for the cameras as part of Tony’s weight-reduction infomercial, book and attendant product tie-ins.
Somewhere in the midst of this drivel is a feel-good message about taking control of your life. It’s trotted out so quickly that it could be missed if there were the slightest commotion in the theater.
The Judd Apatow-Steven Brill screenplay is awash with mixed messages. America , according to a recent Time cover story, is a nation where a third of the population is overweight.But the writers have nothing important to say on the subject, instead mining a series of mindless, obvious fat jokes. Equally inane equal time is devoted to the obsessive health fanatic, who’s characterized by greed, low self-esteem and outfits that cut off the blood circulation to his head.
Director Brill creates a slick, breezy style that’s professional and uncluttered. That casual visual quality only underlines the filmmakers’ insensitivity to the characters and material. The “Heavyweights” may be nicer than the slim folks in the pic, but that’s not adequate compensation for social ridicule and health disorders. Their triumphs — getting the girl, winning an inter-camp contest, etc. — aren’t pleasing or cathartic, just glib and unbelievable.