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How the PerkiSystem Changed My Life

Maija Gustin | Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Is it Camp Hope, or Camp Hell? Therein lies the central question behind the 1995 fat camp movie “Heavyweights.”

Most will remember this classic piece of American cinema, billed as “a comedy of gigantic proportions,” from countless reruns on the Disney channel back in the ‘90s. Some may also recognize it as that movie at Blockbuster with the kids and the guy in the giant cheeseburger on the cover. For those unlucky enough to have missed it, you should probably fix that. Like right now.

“Heavyweights” takes place at the idyllic Camp Hope, a summer camp for overweight boys. Amongst these portly protagonists are Kenan Thompson (of “Kenan and Kel” and “SNL”), Shaun Weiss (Goldberg from another ‘90s favorite, “The Mighty Ducks”) and Aaron Schwartz (also of “Mighty Ducks” fame, and recently seen on “Gossip Girl”).

There’s this kind-of famous guy named Ben Stiller you might have heard of, but back in the day, when “Zoolander” wasn’t even a glimmer in someone’s creative lobe, Ben Stiller took on the meaty role of Tony Perkis, new owner of Camp Hope. He “eat[s] success for breakfast … with skim milk,” but is, perhaps, a little crazy.

Camp Hope, once a place to spend a fun-filled summer with Go-Karts and the Blob, turns into a living nightmare for the boys when Perkis takes over the camp in an attempt to sell weight-loss videos.

Some would argue that Tony Perkis is the true embodiment of evil. Though he could be considered “over the top,” he does know how to “repulse the monkey” and “part the wild horse’s mane.” The Go-Karts are trashed, the Blob is stabbed (learning about the Blob is as good a reason as any to check the movie out) and fun is kicked to the curb in favor of Perkisizing. So, obviously, general hilarity ensues.

“Heavyweights” newbies can revel in the glory of the mysteriously foreign Lars and his severely deviated septum, learn about the “body” system, discover the lesson of “don’t put Twinkies on your pizza,” find out the real meaning of downloading and watch a good vs. evil showdown of epic proportions.

For those in the know, “lunch has been cancelled due to lack of hustle. Deal with it.”

Ultimately, “Heavyweights” harkens back to a nostalgia of days gone by, when Kenan was funny, fat camp could be more than just a subject for “True Life” and the Disney Channel still put on quality television. In those days, a movie didn’t have to be directed by Michael Bay or center on a vampire love story to be deemed quality entertainment. No, all it took was a classic story of good vs. evil and the fight for the right to eat whatever you want.

Perhaps most importantly of all, “Heavyweights” really does have some important lessons about health, body image and doing your personal best to share with even a modern, sophisticated audience.

“Heavyweights” can be found on Ebay for a mere 99 cents. You’ve got nothing to lose. So take off your political correctness caps for an hour or so and sit back and enjoy what the ‘90s were all about: absolutely hilarious, though ridiculous, movies that go straight for the funny bone. Oh, and Jeffrey Tambor from “Arrested Development” also makes a few brief appearances.