Blu-ray Review: Heavyweights (1995)

heavyweights blu-rayI’m going to put this right out on front street, I watched Heavyweights because some super nice PR people sent me the Blu-ray for review. However, it’s because I was sent the actual press release that I became interested in this film. I don’t know if I would have known that Judd Apatow wrote and produced the flick otherwise. Don’t worry about a tainted review, though, because as it turns out, this is the kind of movie I would have loved if I’d seen it back when it premiered in 1995.

At that time I was around 12 years old and a big, big fan of the first two Mighty Ducks movies and a movie called Camp Nowhere which shares some similar plot points with Heavyweights. Speaking of similarities, Heavyweights shares like four cast members with the Mighty Ducks franchise and was directed by that film’s co-writer Steve Brill.

The movie is about a kid named Gerry who gets sent to fat camp by his parents. The original, easygoing owners of the place — played by Jerry Stiller and Anne Maera — lose ownership very early on to Ben Stiller as the super-into-fitness new owner. Much like his character in Dodgeball, Stiller’s super intense which winds up driving the campers crazy. After one too many injustices, the kids capture Stiller, have a crazy food orgy (that’s actually the title of the chapter on the Blu-ray menu) and then decide to take over their own weight loss, the idea being that you’re not a bad person because you’re heavy, but it’s also not healthy to be heavy. Or something along those lines.

Familiar faces from the camp include Kenan Thompson (Mighty Ducks 2, SNL), Shaun Weiss (Goldberg from Mighty Ducks), Paul Feig (co-creator of a little show called Freaks & Geeks), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development) and even Allen Covert (star of personal favorite Grandma’s Boy). That’s a lot of people from things I already love. There’s a lot of other people in the movie too, many of which I was reminded of and updated on by the Where Are They Now feature on the Blu-ray. That was but one of the many special features I checked out. I was also a fan of the Skype conversation between Apatow and Thompson where the former interviewed the latter on his experience during filming. I also really liked the shot-when-the-film-was-shot Making Of featurette. I assume it was shot for Disney Channel or something along those lines because it features interviews with guys like Stiller, Apatow and director Brill. I haven’t had a chance to check out the Super 8 footage, the deleted/extended scenes or the audio commentary, but I’m excited to get to them.

At the end of the day, I had a pretty great time watching this movie. It’s hard to watch a movie for kids and place it within your already existing pantheon of childhood favorites, but I think I would have liked this movie a lot. So, if you already dug this movie, definitely pick up the Blu-ray and dive into the special features after watching the pristine-looking film. If you’re not already fan, but like 90s kid comedies along the lines of Mighty Ducks, I’d recommend giving this one a rent.

Judd Apatow DVD Commentaries Are Pretty Fantastic

Back in college, I was a big fan of listening to director’s commentaries. I had only recently been introduced to the world of DVDs with their tons and tons of extra features. The commentaries became a favorite because I could listen to them while working on a paper or while making the drive from home to school on my portable DVD player. After that I kind of fell off the wagon, but a couple weeks ago I hopped back on with a triple feature of commentaries all related to Judd Apatow. Superbad (2007), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008) and Knocked Up (2007) were all on the docket and they were all hilarious.

In college, my favorite commentaries were for Kevin Smith movies where he would cram as many people involved in the movie as possible to sit around and offer their two cents. That’s why I like the Superbad one so much. I can’t seem to find a full list online anymore, but I know it included Jonah Hill, director Greg Mottola and Producer Apatow in New York (along with Apatow’s oldest daughter Maude who wasn’t listening in on headphones, but was still in the room which meant Hill couldn’t swear) while the rest were in California. “The rest” included Michael Cera, Seth Rogen, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and co-writer Evan Goldberg. As someone interested in the creation of films, I found this commentary very interesting, though I got a lot of the same information from the podcast Rogen and Goldberg did for Creative Screenwriting Magazine (which you can listen to here or download from iTunes). You of course get all kinds of behind the scenes information, great stories and shout outs to people and things you might have missed. It’s especially fun listening to Hill try and not curse like a sailor. He does slip a few times and gets admonished by Apatow. There’s also a part where Apatow leaves with his daughter and Hill starts yelling at him about being professional. I’m guessing it’s another big gag, but it still left me feeling confused and awkward. Good stuff.

The Forgetting Sarah Marshall commentary was another big group affair with director Nick Stoller, writer and star Jason Segel, Mila Kunis, Russell Brand, executive producer Rodney Rothman, producer Shauna Robertosn and Jack McBrayer live from New York. Apatow wasn’t on the commentary, but his company did make the movie, so it still counts. Seeing as how FSM was my favorite comedy of 2008, it’s probably not a big surprise how much I liked the commentary. I like when the people who worked on a movie together seem like they really like each other. Kind of like in the Ocean’s 11 movies. It really seems like those guys have a great time together, which makes the movie even more fun to watch. Like with Superbad, there’s lots of interesting tidbits, with Segel commenting on how specific scenes were taken from his life and how the Dracula musical was something he actually wrote seriously. Sure, a lot of this information can now be read on IMDb, but I’d always rather hear it from the horse’s mouth than just read something on a forum that hundreds of thousands of people can and do contribute to. I guess it’s the reporter in me.

The Knocked Up commentary was a much different animal as it only had three people involved: writer and director Apatow, star Seth Rogen and…Bill Hader? Sure Hader has a bit part in the movie, but he’s basically there to do impressions, toss out mini-factoids and ask questions. Hader explains how he met the Knocked Up gang (the friends in the movie are friends in real life and often hang out together) and also explains that he worked in the same building they shoot his scenes as a film editor. He apparently used to be a librarian on The Surreal Life and a PA on The Scorpion King and a documentary about Star Wars. Like with the others you get plenty of information about the origins of the story, what events were taken from real life, specifics about some of the actors (Ken Jeong was an actual doctor before his turn as the doctor and his eventual role on the excellent Community) and that sort of thing. I especially liked hearing about him working with his wife Leslie Mann and their two daughters. I think she’s hilarious and am really looking forward to seeing Funny People, which will hopefully be coming in my queue this week.