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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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`Heavyweights’ Light On The Funny Stuff

Steven Rea Philadelphia Inquirer

“I’m not going to camp with a bunch of fat loads!” declares Gerry Garner, a portly 11-year-old whose parents sit him down with a recruitment guy from Camp Hope - a place that looks pretty cool, what with its promotional video full of gocart races and stuff, until Gerry realizes that everybody on the tape is carrying extra poundage.

Of course, Gerry does end up going there, and of course we end up watching him and his overweight, underachieiving bunkmates, who struggle with the midnight munchies and a maniacal new owner using the campers as guinea pigs for what he envisions as “the No. 1 weight-loss infomercial in the country.”

“Heavyweights,” a frighteningly unfunny comedy from the producers of “The Jerky Boys,” is most notable for the astounding energy that Ben Stiller brings to his role as this despotic dietary entrepreneur, Tony Perkis. Stiller (whose comedy-team dad and mom, Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, make a mercifully brief “Heavyweights” appearance), gives a performance that’s all out of proportion to the mostly adolescent cast around him.

Wearing blinding-hued aerobic gear that accentuates his newly acquired personal-trainer physique, Stiller jogs, bounces, bikes and climbs around like a man possessed. Perhaps if he’d been given some vaguely clever lines by the screenwriters, the actor’s narcissistic fitness guru would have been fun to watch. As it is, all Stiller can do is toss his birdy mane, make a lot of deadpan grimaces and bark out lines such as “Lunch is canceled today due to lack of hustle.” He comes across as a very scary hybrid of David Copperfield and Alice Cooper.

Worn out emotionally and physically by the new camp owner’s weight-loss regimens, the hefty kids ultimately rebel, but even these insurrectional sequences - the sort of mutinous, slapstick coup that’s usually good for a few laughs - are filmed with an alarming lack of conviction. “Heavyweights” comes with several standard-issue characters and conceits: a wholesomely pert nurse; a marathon competition with the jock camp across the lake; and earnest messages of self-esteem and empowerment. There are also quite a few fat jokes.

MEMO: “Heavyweights” is playing at Lincoln Heights, North Division and Showboat cinemas. Directed by Steven Brill. Rated PG

“Heavyweights” is playing at Lincoln Heights, North Division and Showboat cinemas. Directed by Steven Brill. Rated PG

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