Six Reasons Why It's The Best Disney Movie EVER!I
am not, nor have I ever
been a particular fan of the Disney Corporation.
I hear the sound of scoffing. Surely, I must have a soft spot in my heart for a number of Disney-related properties, right?
Well, of course I do. Did I love Toy Story 3? Like everyone else on the planet, I very much did. Did I love DuckTales on the N.E.S.? Most definitely. Did I proudly root for the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim during the 2003 Stanley Cup Finals? QUACK, QUACK.
So. . .with all of this out of the way, why such hatred for the Disney Corporation on my part?
The answer, obviously, is in the Corporation part of the equation. Say what you will about the beloved intellectual properties created (and by created, I mean swiped from story books that are about 500 years old) by Disney, the cuteness of Winnie the Pooh simply CANNOT
get me to turn away from the fact that Walt Disney is, and pretty much always HAS been, run by a bunch of corporate elitists scum bags.
If you ever do research on Walt Disney, I mean THOROUGH research, you quickly come to the conclusion that America s most family friendly entertainment empire is actually the equivalent of Pol Pot with an alliance with PIXAR and the rights to Spider-Man. Human rights violations including child labor exploitation, the use of imminent domain to displace migrant workers in order to build Disney Land, rampant civil discrimination to THIS DAY (try arranging a GAY wedding at Disney World and see how far you get with Mickey Mouse s handlers) and the fact that the company founder was a business associate of ADOLF friggin HITLER: the House of Mouse is the very definition of the term EVIL EMPIRE, and that is before we even get into the fact that the company is responsible for the proliferation of the careers of Lindsay Lohan AND The Jonas Brothers.
So, yeah, I do not like Disney, as an institute or ideological brand name
, but I can REDUCE my hatred just enough to enjoy the occasional viewing of Nightmare Before Christmas or one of the kick ass Donald Duck games on the Genesis. Rest assured, however, that it is still MIGHTY begrudged for MY sakes.
Even so, everyone has their favorite Disney movie. Go ahead, you might as well say yours and get it over with. No matter who you are, you have to have at least ONE Disney movie that makes you feel all warm and gooey on the inside. For some people, it is The Lion King (even though, now, I realize it s an utter and complete rip off of Hamlet), and for some, it is Beauty and the Beast (even though it s technically a metaphor for an abusive relationship), and if you are REALLY, REALLY high, it might even by The Black Cauldron. Essentially, NO ONE is immune from the DISNEY gravitational pull, and I am certainly no exception.
Of all the Disney movies I saw in my youth, there was really only ONE that I can say that I truly fell in love with. Sure, a lot of people had a fondness for Aladdin or The Little Mermaid, and I cannot fault them for it. Especially in the case of The Little Mermaid. I mean, sheesh, isn t Ariel every man's dream come true, a topless redhead that keeps her mouth shut? But alas, the animated works of the late 80s and early 90s really did not do it for me. That is why I turned towards Disney s LIVE ACTION offerings to get my fix.
To be fair, MOST of the live action Disney movies of the timeframe were, in a word, mediocre. Sure, sure, there are a lot of you out there that think that Honey I Blew Up The Kid and Hocus Pocus are great movies, and hey, who am I to judge one s cinematic tastes? That being said, finding an apologist for, oh say, The Mighty Ducks 3 or The Big Green is only slightly easier than finding a person that is willing to immolate him or herself voluntarily.
And it was in that pantheon of live action films, somewhere between Flubber and Cool Runnings, that I found MY Disney movie. A movie that was so contra the whole Disney vibe that, all these years later, I still have a hard time believing it was an actual DISNEY release. What cinematic opus am I referencing? What titan of the mid 90s cinematic canon could I possibly speak of? Why, only the GREATEST DISNEY MOVIE EVER MADE, the incomparable, the unparalleled, the vastly, supremely underappreciated. . .
This movie RULED
Heavyweights is one of those movies that is so loaded from front to end with sheer awesomeness that it becomes difficult to reduce all of that inherent greatness into a bulleted list. However, after a good fifteen years of re-watching the film, I have been able to identify the precise points of awesome that the movie entails, and would like to share the fruits of my cinematic evaluations with you, fair reader. So, without further adieu, I proudly present. . .
Six Reasons Why Heavyweights is the Best Disney Movie Ever!Reason #001: It s SOOOOOO 90s.
Apparently, Kennan Thompson DIDN'T stay on the Perkis System for long...
This movie positively OOZES mid 90s nostalgia. In a world post Kurt Cobain and pre 9-11, you have to admit that the window is not exactly pockmarked by a number of truly memorable cultural reference points. Sure, sure, we have Monica and Viagra and Kiss From A Rose, but beyond that. . .eh, there s not that much to discuss.
One of the reasons why Heavyweights rules, to me at least, is because it SO encapsulates that underrepresented (and to me, fairly underrated) point in time. From the very first scene of the movie, featuring the strings of The Bodeans to all of that blatant product placement for the then-expansion Carolina Panthers, the movie is like traveling back to 1995 and stepping in a big, wet pile of irrelevancy. That, and hey, it s pretty refreshing to see that old school Atlanta Falcons logo, isn t it?
Kids walk around in those old ass Metallica shirts that all of the cool kids at the mall were pretty much forced into sporting circa 1994. Hell, one of the characters waltzes around wearing a tee featuring the mug of Fire Marshall Bill from In Living Color. For those of you that are REALLY hurting for some 90s nostalgia (and since it IS a movie about childhood obesity), you get a good gander at a number of retro candy wrappers, and the brown and purple Taco Bell logo even serves as a key plot point
in the story. How many movies can lay claim to THAT feat?
Long story short, if you did not grow up in the 90s, a lot of the humor of the film is lost on you. For example, when Josh Burnbaum says that the camp counselors choked like the Buffalo Bills in the Super Bowl, you would HAVE to be aware that the Buffalo Bills had a track record of hunching the pooch in the big game to really GET the dialogue exchanges. Hell, most kids today probably would not believe that the lowly Bills were ever a Super Bowl caliber team, anyway.
If you were a 90s kid, this movie will result in INSTANT nostalgia, which for me, is reason ALONE to give this one a screening if for some dumbass reason your HAVENT. Reason #002: Jeez, talk about a MUDDIED moral for the kids!
Remember kids: never let a fat man tell you "what's healthy"
Watching Heavyweights today makes me feel, for lack of a better term, a little concerned. Nowadays, everyone with half a brain considers childhood obesity a major health risk in the United States, but apparently, juvenile diabetes and over consumption was FUNNY circa 1995.
For whatever reason, NO ONE in the film takes childhood obesity seriously as an issue. Even the camp counselors seem a little apathetic about the issue, and HORRIBLY neglect their duties as dieticians. To pretty much ALL of the adults in the movie, obesity is not a physical ailment, but just something of a lifestyle choice, and if you are fat, people that criticize you and try to HELP YOU LOSE weight are just being egotistical jerks.
I suppose the INTENDED moral of the movie is that kids should be happy being themselves. However, the film seems to go WAY beyond the call of duty to avoid discussing all of the serious health effects of childhood obesity. There s nothing wrong with being fat, per the makers of this film. . . So a lifetime of insulin shots and hypertension are TOTALLY matters that parents should foster ZERO concerns about. Yeah, makes sense to me!
One of the things that perplexes me about the movie TODAY is just how Camp Hope stayed in business. Apparently, the kids at the camp have been attending the facility for YEARS, and despite the OBVIOUS ineffectiveness of the camps treatments, their respective parents KEEP sending them there. Keep in mind, this IS NOT a neighborhood service. Assuming that the main character Gerry lives in New York (as apparent by his NY Islanders shirt that he wears at the beginning of the film), his parents sent their kid approximately 800 miles South to attend a summer long camp. Obviously, that has to cost an utter ASS LOAD of money, and at the end, when it is revealed that not only have the kids at camp NOT lost weight but gained it SUBSTANTIALLY during their stay at the facility, are the parents irked? NO! Hell, they don t even bother asking for a refund although the camp, effectively, made their kids even FATTER than they were before.
In defense of the film, however, there is a brief exchange in which one of the characters states that his parents are high level lawyers. Although it is never explicitly stated in the film, I suppose Josh Burnbaum's parents COULD have had some role in keeping the other parents shushed because they may have had some sort of financial investment in the facility, but that is just me grasping for straws. Either way, if you were a fat kid watching this movie circa 95, you HAD to have walked out of the theater feeling CONFLICTED as all hell about the films message. Reason #003: It s the most risque Disney movie EVER.
As a general rule, you kind of associate Disney movies with something of a conservative, evangelical image. That is not to say that the films made by the company carry that specific message, but hey, the Moral Majority does not complain about their flicks TOO often, so take that for what you will.
Heavyweights is probably the most risque movie Disney EVER made that was geared SPECIFICALLY towards child viewers. Yeah, we have all heard the rumors about suggestive (and possibly subliminal) messages in The Lion King and The Rescuers Down Under, and I think the word Hell was used a couple of times in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, but by and large, you DON T hear characters in Disney movies CURSE.
Well, break out the Kevin McCallister face, because Heavyweights has a NUMBER of swear words in it, including a character dropping the word Ass as a direct reference to his posterior. That, plus, listen to what Gerry says when he gets hit while playing softball. That s right: A Disney character says SHIT, not to mention a passing BASTARD as said by the camp cameraman. Oh, and that isn't the only thing in this movie that s just a TAD not so family friendly:
Oh yeah, you know what I'm talking about here. Kids talk back to their parents and even drop the word DAMN in casual conversation. At one point, a character FARTS directly in the face of another camp attendee. When the kids are invited to a social mixer, a couple of double entendres sneak their way into the movie. The kids lie, and cheat, and pay no heed to adult guidance, and they taunt the head camp counselor by mocking his, and I quote, skinny wiener. And hell, some of the camp counselors even aide them in their lie-telling to get the main character of the film FIRED even though he is the only person in the film that really takes his job seriously.
Methinks some kids circa 1995 had some interesting questions to ask their parents after seeing this one for the first time, that s for sure. Reason #004: The dialogue.
Jeffery Tambor: The man that DID NOT send you to Go-Kart Camp.
This movie is simply LOADED with great line after great line. In fact, this is one of the more quotable movies of the mid 90s, in my humble opinion.
Thanks to Heavyweights, the term devil log and repulse the monkey are regular phrases in my vocabulary. Also the film advocates a number of important life lessons, like not putting twinkies on your pizza.
Some of the dialogue in the movie is so unbelievably campy that you cannot help but smirk when the tubby camp counselor responds to the antagonist of the film by saying that he is, indeed, crazy about his gal.
For me, one of the most unintentionally hilarious lines in movie history is when the main character s dad responds to his son s criticisms of the camp by saying, and I quote, I did not send you to go-kart camp! Like he was aiming for an Oscar or something.
There's the afore mentioned Josh-Be-Good swerve in which one of the film characters drops the word ass, and you, too will shed tears when Jerry pines the loss of the camp water float. They killed the blob, indeed.
And then, there is THE SCENE. If you have seen this movie, you know EXACTLY what I am talking about.
JOSH BURNBAUM, STEP ON UP! GET ON THE SCALE SON!
Forget the shower scene in Psycho or the love scene in From Here to Eternity, THAT is the greatest moment in cinema history as far as I am concerned. Reason #005: The ensemble cast.
This movie is a who s who list of 90s C-movie stars, and one of the better ensemble efforts Disney put together (if you have seen The Big Green or Mighty Ducks 3, you know I speak the gospel).
Everybody in this movie seems to pull their own weight, and yes, I do mean that as a fat pun. Given the hokey material, the cast of the flick puts in WAY more effort than they had to, and this makes the film genuinely enjoyable from start to finish.
There really is not a forgettable character in the entire movie.
For starters, there are a couple of familiar faces here, including a pre All That Keenan Thompson, and GOLD-BERG himself playing perhaps the fattest kid in all of the fat camp. The bit players really go beyond the call of duty in this flick, and become pretty memorable characters in their own right. Case in point? Everybody s favorite transcendent deviated septum sufferer, Lars, the personal trainer.
Jerry Stiller is in this movie for all of two minutes, and he freaking SHINES in all 120 seconds. Also, the secondary fat camp kids are pretty unique and quirky, like the British kid, the fat kid that likes to Vogue like Madonna, and that one kid that duct tapes fudge bars under his he-boobies.
The main character, Gerry, is played with just enough pathos to make him relatable without being too preachy, and some of his camaraderie with the camp counselors is genuinely moving (well, that may be taking it a bit too far, but when the Gerry and the eldest counselor talk about never scoring any points in sports, you d have to be inhuman to feel a lack of empathy in the moment).
That being said, there is ONE character in particular that makes this movie one of the greatest cult films of the decade. Which, of course, leads us into THE reason why Heavyweights rules. . .Reason #006: Tony FREAKING Perkis.
The Man. The Myth. The Legend...Uncle Tony.
A lot of people are HUGE fans of Ben Stiller. Well, not me. I hated There s Something About Mary, I DESPISED Zoolander, and by and large, I think he is one of the most overrated comedy actors in the history of American film.
That being said, if for only THIS movie, he was absolutely freaking BRILLIANT. Heavyweights would be an entertaining movie without the presence of Perkis, but with him, it becomes something TOTALLY different, and I am certain that no other actor out there could have brought the sadistic, New-Age, self-absorbed camp owner to live as well as Stiller did.
Tony Perkis is basically a facsimile of Richard Simmons, that Body-By-Jake dude, and that pony tailed guy that is always hawking exercise equipment at three in the morning on FX. He's a hypocritical, backbiting, hippy dippy mystic bunghole that only cares about money and cardio, and he is one of the most memorable villains of the mid 1990s.
Stiller delivers Perkis lines just about pitch perfectly. He has the ability to fluctuate from being really low key to hyperactive with such subtlety that you wonder why Stiller was not given two paychecks for his performance.
His lines are PHENOMENAL. There is all of the Zen Buddhist nonsense he spouts while meditating, the oblique references he makes to his parents light fixture company while introducing himself to the camp, and his pseudo-self help B.S. that he tells the kids. I guess my favorite would be the monologue he gives the kids in which he talks about eating success for breakfast and washing it down with skim milk.
Perkis is just a sublime son of a bitch throughout this movie. He cancels lunch due to lack of hustle, and he believes a persons fatness automatically negates the intellectual worth of their statements. At one point, he even ASSAULTS one of the camp attendees, which should have scored him about five years in a state penitentiary. That, AND he confuses the story of Icarus with the story of Sisyphus during a 20 mile hike. Hey, just calling it out.
He is just such a unique movie character. He has an almost Vaudeville quality to him, but there is enough nuance in there to keep you interested in him. Ultimately, despite being a capitalistic prick, he is pretty much the ONLY character in the movie that takes physical health seriously so. . .is there some furtive commentary going on here? (Long story short: No, not in the slightest.)
Also, for those of you that HAVE seen the film and have not stuck through ALL of the credits. . . You may want to for one more scene involving Perkis. Trust me, it is WELL worth it.A
ll in all, Heavyweights is one those movies from the 1990s that, while far from being a classic, is still a damned enjoyable flick, and the kind of movie you can watch over and over again. Of course, it is not exactly the most well rounded film, but for the most part, it achieves what it sets out to do, and it does so relatively well. If you have not seen this movie by now, what are you waiting for? Come to think of it, I really cannot imagine a better film to view around Thanksgiving time, so. . .
. . .what are you waiting for? DO IT TO IT, LARS!
James Swift used to weigh 300 pounds in the eighth grade. He had bad skin, poor self image, and NO self respect. He is also the author of Mascara Contra Mascara available now from iUniverse Publishing. I mean, not that the two are related or anything. . .