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As school ends for the summer, Gerald 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 the Chipmunk Cabin (which the boys have named a long time ago), 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, Gerry is "not the fat kid, everyone's the fat kid.") Gerry also discovers that the other campers have smuggled in enough junk food to easily stave off the hunger pangs, 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, Harvey (Jerry Stiller) and Alice Bushkin (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. During this event, Josh (Shaun Weiss) taunts Tony in the protection of Gerry. Josh ends up getting kicked out of the camp without a refund. Many campers question what Josh's fate was after this event. However, because Josh did not receive a refund, Josh's father, who is a lawyer, threatened to have Tony sued. As a result, Tony had no choice but to allow Josh to return to the camp.
One day, when Tony goes out for a run, Gerry, Josh and a few other campers sneak into Tony's office to search for food. They find that Tony was holding onto all of the letters the campers sent to their parents that complained of their hardships. As they leave the office, Gerry and his friends come across a fellow camper eating a hamburger. The camper tells them of a secret food stash in the forest. The campers eventually gain more weight, despite Tony's fitness regimen. After Tony measures some of the campers' weight losses, he notices they actually gained more weight. As punishment, 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, and even some camp counsellors who are also happy about Tony's downfall, order in pizzas and submarine sandwiches, gorge themselves on chocolate and drench themselves in soda.
The next morning, Pat Finley (Tom McGowan), 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 regime and start to make Camp Hope a fun place again.
On Parents Day, the parents are shown a video of Tony's cruelty. While they are watching, Tony escapes his prison and ends up exchanging quips with Gerry's father. In an attempt to make an impressive exit, Tony attempts a series of backflips, stumbles and knocks himself out. 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 what happened with Tony, the camp and the friends they have made are still a lot of fun. Since there is no adult in charge of the camp now, Pat is voted to be the head counsellor. 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. With this already being planned by the Chipmunks, Pat gives the trophy to one of the kids; the trophy is then thrown into the lake, much to the dismay of the over-competitive campers, who believe that Pat is crazy for being more concerned with having fun instead of winning a trophy.
The movie ends with everyone laughing and carrying on; Gerry then says to Pat "thanks for the best damn summer of my life" (which Pat had mentioned to Gerry in the beginning of the movie).
After the credits, Tony is shown being a door-to-door salesman selling healing crystals.
The film currently holds a 20% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes, but is fresh with the community with a 75%.
- Aaron Schwartz as Gerry Garner
- Ben Stiller as Tony Perkis / Tony Perkis, Sr.
- Tom McGowan as Pat Finley
- Tim Blake Nelson as Roger Johnson
- Jeffrey Tambor as Maury Garner
- Jerry Stiller as Harvey Bushkin
- Anne Meara as Alice Bushkin
- Shaun Weiss as Josh Burnbalm
- Kenan Thompson as Roy
- Paul Feig as Tim
- Tom Hodges as Lars
- Allen Covert as Kenny
- Josiah Berry as Robert
- Leah Lail as Julie
- David Goldman as Nicholas
- Cody Burger as Cody
- Joseph Wayne Miller as Sam
- Brittney Vance as Dancing Girl
- Steve Ramos as Fat Kid #1
- Isaac McGraw as Fat Kid #2
- In one scene, Tony can be seen wearing Aladdin's pants.
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