Sunday, August 9, 2015

Movie Review: "Meatballs" (1979)

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Director: Ivan Reitman
Year: 1979
Rating: PG
Running Time: 1 hour, 34 minutes

The summer is just starting at Camp North Star. Head counselor Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray) welcomes some new CIT's (counselors in training) and a whole batch of new campers. Tripper and his CIT's get up to a lot of mischief as they prepare the campers for the annual competition against the neighboring and very wealthy Camp Mohawk. Meanwhile, one camper named Rudy (Chris Makepeace) has been outcast by his peers, so Tripper takes him under his wing and befriends him for the summer. 

"Meatballs" is the original wacky summer camp movie. Lakes, camps, long nights around a fire, stories, memories, the summer sun, jokes, what's not to love? From the opening scene, you know this film is going to be the Bill Murray show, and that's exactly what it winds up being, not that we're complaining. Sure, there are other characters in the film, but Bill Murray is front and center throughout its duration. In fact, without Murray, this movie would be rather mundane as he brings his signature messing around, goofy campiness to Camp North Star. We're not entirely sure how much of the film is actually scripted and how much is just Bill Murray riffing and doing his comedy thing, but regardless, it is a fun ride to watch unfold. The main meat of the story is about the friendship between Bill Murray's character Tripper and the outcast camper Rudy, played by Chris Makepeace. Rudy has a lack of confidence and low self esteem, and Tripper helps bolster his self image. There is also the subplot of a rivalry between Camp North Star, which is the economy camp, and Camp Mohawk, the posh, elite, high cost camp across the lake. This eventually sets up a scenario for an underdog story as the two camps compete in an inter-camp Olympics. From the start, we see some typical summer camp hijinks like pranks on the camp director Morty, played by Harvey Atkin, boys hitting on girls, normal shenanigans, etc. We wouldn't call it cliché because it wasn't at the time when this film came out, and since "Meatballs" did it first, well, it's only old to us now in 2015. It is definitely a fun movie, but does feel a bit dated now and hasn't held up as well over time. Bill Murray might be fantastic, but hey, when is he not? Certain scenes specifically are eyebrow raising, but we can mostly cast this aside in lieu of great comedic bits. Overall, though it's not a summer classic like some other movies, this film is not completely lost on us.

My Rating: 6/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 75%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Caddyshack"

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