By Chaz Lipp
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Heavyweights (1995) on Blogcritics.
Heavyweights is a kid-oriented summer camp comedy that originally hit theaters in early 1995. There are a few notable names prominently attached to the film, not the least of which being Judd Apatow. Long before his decidedly adult-oriented hits like The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Knocked Up, Apatow co-wrote and co-produced this innocuous tale of overweight tweens and young teens sent away to work off some of their excess poundage. Among the kids is Kenan Thompson, best known for his work on Saturday Night Live over the past 10 years or so. The new Blu-ray is noteworthy for the inclusion of a substantial amount of new bonus features.
Leading the group of misfits is Ben Stiller, aggressively overplaying the role of Tony Perkis. Camp Hope’s original owners (played by Stiller’s real-life parents, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) have run into financial trouble and sold the outfit to Perkis. His grand plan? He and his crew will film the camp’s activities all summer, using the footage for an infomercial that will hawk a weight-loss program. Naturally the longtime Camp Hope counselors and returning campers are mortified by this turn of events. As Perkis’ authoritarian style begins to grate on the camp personnel, Heavyweights becomes something of a Revenge of the Nerds, self-empowerment type of picture.
The enthusiastic cast doesn’t really make up for the uneven pacing. Even though it’s only around 90 minutes, it starts to feel much longer as it drags into the third act. Apparently not content with having the young underdogs take on Perkis, they also must battle for the respect of a rival camp that consists of far more athletic kids. It presents one climax too many for this modest flick. Stiller has a few fun moments and the kids are cute. It just never got me laughing. Plus some of the food-indulgence gets a little gross and out of hand (eating hamburgers in a bathroom stall, really?). The interesting thing is, Perkis’ message of health and fitness is actually a good one. It’s only his methods that are questionable, something the film never really addresses sufficiently.
Heavyweights looks pretty good for a catalog title. It’s no glorious restoration, but the modestly-budgeted film looks entirely acceptable in high definition. The transfer provides a reasonably sharp, detailed image. A natural layer of fine grain ensures an authentically film-like appearance. Black levels may not be quite as deep as they should be, but I think overall fans will be pleased. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix is also very suitable. The audio is free of distortion, presenting dialogue that approriately dominates the track. Surround activity is fairly minimal and nothing to write home about, but not a problem given the film’s limited audio ambitions in the first place.
The real draw for Heavyweights fans is the host of new-to-disc supplemental features. This stuff is a total blast for anyone with a soft spot for the film. The audio commentary by Apatow, co-writer and director Steven Brill, along with cast members Allen Covert, Tom Hodges, Aaron Schwartz, and Shaun Weiss is informative while always retaining a sense of fun and genuine warmth. No less than 94 minutes (!) of deleted and extended scenes are included here. This is a gold mine of material for anyone who likes the movie. There’s a lot more of Stiller as well as some seriously funny bits that should’ve been in the final cut. This includes a great scene where the boys are waiting for a hernia check from hot nurse Julie (Leah Lail).
There’s also a fun “Where Are They Now?” segment with the boys (now grown men) from the original cast updating us about their lives. All except Kenan Thomspson, but fear not—there’s a video chat between Apatow and Thompson. Also included are a vintage “making of” and a few other short pieces, all combining for a very cool roster of bonus materials. Heavyweights enthusiasts should be extremely pleased with Disney’s treatment of this film on Blu-ray.