As school ends for the summer, Gerry Garner (Aaron Schwartz) is sent by his parents to Camp Hope, a weight loss camp for boys. Despite worrying at first, Gerry makes friends easily at camp and learns that Camp Hope is actually a lot of fun and won't be nearly as bad as he thinks. (As one veteran of the camp put it, Gerald is "not the fat kid, everyone's the fat kid.") He also discovers that the other campers have smuggled in enough junk food to easily stave off the hunger pains and probably counteract any weight loss that the camp programs cause.
But all is not well at Camp Hope. The first night of the summer brings the revelation that the original owners of Camp Hope (Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara) have entered bankruptcy and the camp has been bought by fitness entrepreneur Tony Perkis (Ben Stiller), who announces his plan to make the camp's new exercise regimen into the top weight loss infomercial in the country. Tony tries to make himself seem like someone the campers can relate to, saying that he was a fat kid when he was younger too, but his methods of motivating the campers border on psychotic.
Tony cleanses the cabins of the campers' food caches, cuts off their contact with the outside world, and installs an exercise outline of trendy fitness techniques that downplay fun to the point of humiliation.
The campers discover a secret food stash and actually gain weight, despite Tony's fitness regimen. Eventually, the time comes when the summer is halfway through, and Tony decides to weigh the boys and mark their progress. Once he realizes that the boys have been gaining weight instead of losing it, Tony forces them on a 20-mile hike, reasoning that this will not only help the boys work off some of their extra weight, but will also restore discipline. On the hike, the campers trick Tony into falling into a deep pit, severely injuring him. The boys bring Tony back to camp and imprison him in a makeshift cell of chicken wire electrified with a bug zapper.
In the celebration of Tony's downfall, there is a lot of binge eating. The boys order in pizzas, submarine sandwiches, gorge themselves on chocolate and drench themselves in soda.
The next morning, Pat Finley, a counselor who had come to Camp Hope every summer since he was 10, tells the kids to finally start taking responsibility and start actually losing weight. The boys begin following a more healthy regimen and start to make Camp Hope a fun place again.
On parents' visiting day, the parents are shown a video of Tony's cruelty. While they are watching, Tony escapes his prison and ends up exchanging quips and then blows with Gerry's father. In an attempt to make an impressive exit, Tony attempts a series of backflips, stumbles, and incapacitates himself. The parents tell Tony his days of terrorizing their kids are over. Tony's own father shows up to take the keys and deed for the camp away from his son to ensure this doesn't happen again. He states that the camp will be closed, and all of the money paid for admission refunded.
But the campers don't want to leave Camp Hope. Despite Tony Perkis, the camp and the friends they have made are still a lot of fun, so Tony's father appoints Pat as the camp leader. After, Pat starts really putting the campers to work to win an annual competition against some rather athletic, and perhaps somewhat over-competitive campers who are trained to go at this competition with everything they have, which up until Pat took over made the competition rather one-sided. Pat, however, has been training them not to lose hope, and just to have fun, which they do. It turns out that they have just enough ability to win: to the distress of the counselors at the overly-competitive camp, who have already decided that the trophy belongs to them, and believe that Pat is crazy for being more concerned about having fun than winning. Pat has the trophy thrown into the lake and then kisses Julie in triumph as Gerry thanks Pat for the greatest summer of his life.
In a brief post-credits scene, Tony is shown as a door to door salesman selling healing crystals.
Heavyweights was filmed over the course of two months in North Carolina at Camp Pinnacle Filming started on March 28, 1994 and finished on May 25, 1994.
The film's original score was composed by J.A.C. Redford, and the film's Soundtrack consisted of eleven songs listed below:
Heavyweights currently holds a 29% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on seven professional reviews, but is fresh within the community with 78%. According to Stephen Holden of the New York Times, "Heavyweights is really two movies in one, and they don't mesh. One movie is a no-holds-barred spoof of a Tony Little- or Susan Powter-style fitness merchant [...] The other movie is a conventional family comedy that pokes lighthearted fun at the chubby young campers."
The film made $17.6 million at box office and was not successful theatrically, though the film has garnered a cult following.
Heavyweights was released on Blu-ray for the first time on December 11, 2012.