Monday, February 26, 2007

Heavyweights (a guest review by Number Three)

This review is dedicated with love to my number two, Particle Man, who insisted that I write a review for a movie I don’t like for once…actually, for twice (I also loathed The Departed). The fact is I rarely waste my time watching movies unless I’m pretty sure I’ll like them. There are a few exceptions. In the case of The Departed, it was purely for educational purposes. In the case of Heavyweights, it was because someone from the youth group we lead suggested we watch it with the group. Needless to say, I think we’ll skip it.

So, you already know I don’t like the movie. But just how bad did I think it was? Well, let’s just say it was Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story bad (without the constant, unfunny “sexual humor”). So, now you know whether or not you’ll like Heavyweights, because the same thing that made one movie bad was the same thing that made the other bad: Ben Stiller. Now, don’t get me wrong, I loved Meet the Parents. It was probably the funniest movie I saw the year that it came out. The problem, though, is that when Ben Stiller isn’t playing the loveable, slightly Magoo underdog, he’s playing a character so bizarre, absurd, stupid, gratingly annoying, unreal, mean, vitriolic, and loathsome, that there’s simply no way for me to get into the movie he disgraces his presence with. Examples of such roles are the aforementioned Dodgeball, along with the irritating rotgut that is Zoolander. And again his sour abrasion is on display in Heavyweights.

Now, technically this is not a Ben Stiller movie. He barely shows up in the credits, yet, whether intentional or not, he is a dominant role with quite a bit of screen time. The basic plot is this: Nicholas (David Goldman) is a chubby young boy and his parents send him to fat camp. He is reluctant at first, but realizes it will be fun, so off he goes. During the first general session at fat camp, the friendly, fun owners announce that someone else is taking over the camp. It turns out that that Tony Perkins (Ben Stiller) is the guy. Whereas the old owners didn’t really push the kiddies at all to lose weight, Perkins is basically a slave driver. He is obsessed and delusional, and in an effort to sell his own name and image, he intends to knock many a pound off the chubbies.

And thus the “comedy” begins. He pushes the kiddies to the point of child abuse (something I guess we’re supposed to laugh at). Once they’ve had enough, it becomes a battle for the camp as some of the old camp counselors work with the kiddies to try to take down Perkins and his crew of buffed-up Scandinavians. Nicholas, his band of veteran fat camp friends, and the seasoned counselors all work together to bring justice to the unjust. That’s pretty much the only admirable part of the movie. This mission encourages and justifies a vengeful retaliation from the kiddies that really doesn’t make them much better than Perkins. Let me qualify…it doesn’t make them morally better. Certainly every one of the child characters and the old counselors are vastly more watchable than Ben Stiller’s character. Oh, by the way, some kids from the cooler camps across the way also cause problems for the chubbies, and I guess we’re supposed to laugh at that too.

Sorry, Stiller. The way to comedy isn’t to create an unbelievable character that goes over the top with “funny ridiculousness.” Rather, the truly funny movies are successful because they involve real characters in funny situations. These situations can border on impossibility as long as they don’t cross over. For example, Meet the Parents is brilliantly funny. The situations are right on the edge of believable. You play a character that we can identify with and care about; not so in Heavyweights. You cross the line of a believable character. On top of that, you are gratingly mean. Thus, this movie is completely unfunny, and when it did manage to pull a laugh out of me, it was a guilty laugh. Try again, Stiller. Take a look at Adam Sandler for some education in comedy.

Number Three’s Score:
Mouthspeak (impact of dialog): -18
Watchfeel (impact of visuals): -12
Mouthfeel (overall watchability): -15


Number Three

9 comments:

Dr. Worm said...

You know, my first reaction was that #3 was being a bit hard on Ben Stiller, but the more I think about it, he's right: Unless Stiller is playing his no-luck everyman character, he's playing something completely ridiculous.

Sometimes that's okay--I found Zoolander amusing, for example--but it's frequently not. In The Royal Tennenbaums, for example, his hamming sticks out like a sore thumb as the rest of the cast turns in rather sedate, subtle, nuanced performances.

That said, even despite Stiller, The Royal Tennenbaums is an excellent movie and if you haven't seen it, you should.

Particle Man said...

coughcoughRushmoreisbettercoughcough...

Your Racist Friend said...

*cougheveryWesAndersonmoviesinceRushmore hasgottenprogressivelyworsecoughcough*

In all seriousness, I thought he was ok in The Royal Tenenbaums. And Zoolander is really the only movie in which his schtick worked for me. That, and the late, great Ben Stiller Show, the most underrated (and cancelled) sketch comedy show of the 90's.

Dan said...

Ben Stiller isn't completely awful in Tennenbaums, but he's definitely a square peg in a cast full of round holes (if that metaphor makes sense).

And, all coughing aside, Tennenbaums is superior to Rushmore, and I'll take that to my grave.

Your Racist Friend said...

Uh-uh. You're completely crazy. That shot in Rushmore where Max is walking down the hall after planting bees in Herman's room, looking completely nihilistic and sticking his gum on the wall, while A Quick One While He's Away is playing? Max's plays? Brian Cox as the headmaster? The montage to that Cat Stevens song? Simply awesome. Although, I do like the music in TRT a bit better. That awesome shot of GP getting off the bus to the Nico version of These Days is pretty rad. I also love the Needle In The Hay sequence.

Wicked Little Critta said...

Well, I've never seen Heavyweights, but I don't think I will now. Ben Stiller has yet to make me laugh, and I hated Meet the Parents.

Particle Man said...

now that i think about it, i've never found Ben Stiller to be particularly funny either. Meet the Parents was a pretty good movie except for Ben Stiller. he was supposed to be a down-on-his-luck everyman that we really sympathized with, but he failed miserably. thus, i had sympathy with no one in the film. i did love the "i will bring you down to Chinatown" lines from Bobby DeNiro, though.

Your Racist Friend said...

I hated, hated, hated, Meet The Parents. You could have had like, Richard E Grant or Steve Martin in the Ben Stiller role, and the movie still would have sucked hard. I hate movies where the whole plot is somebody getting *&^% on for the entire movie. You can abuse the hell out of someone in a comedy if they get complete and total
comeuppance at the end, but Meet The Parents was a waste of time to me. Add the stunt-cast sequel, and I'm plan on keeping well away from the whole franchise.

Wicked Little Critta said...

You said that beautifully, YRF. ;)