As we head into summer, here’s my favorite summer camp movie. This is no easy feat as there are probably 4,000 summer camp movies out there. WET HOT AMERICAN SUMMER was a definite contender along with CAMP (the genre movie for the GLEE crowd). And for just a sheer summer romp, who could forget FRIDAY THE 13th?
But my nod has to go to MEATBALLS from 1979. Primarily due to Bill Murray. It’s been so long now that many of you readers (perhaps most or close to all) don’t know that Bill Murray was once pulverizingly funny. Hell, a lot of you don’t even know who he is.
Like 98% of screen comics, he got his start on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE. MEATBALLS was his first movie role and his breakout film. In many ways he was the Seth Rogen of his day – that charming slothy slacker future alcoholic/drug addict.
He plays the insouciant inebriated camp counselor who becomes a mentor/father figure to a shy young camper.
From there it’s like every other camp movie. Hijinks, pratfalls, food jokes, romance, raunch, tender moments, debauchery, teen angst, the elite camp across the lake that always beats them in every competition. And in the end either everybody is ultimately happy and has learned some valuable life lesson or their throats are slashed. There have been so many of these yarns that it’s hard to pinpoint just who lifted what plotline from who? Only the gags and brutal stabbings are different.
But the gags are funny in MEATBALLS. Fresh, original (at the time), and Bill Murray turns in a bravura comic performance.
It was directed by Ivan Reitman and was the movie that put him on the map. He later gave us STRIPES, GHOSTBUSTERS, and best of all -- Jason Reitman.
So sit back and laugh once again at the poison ivy, traumas, and dysentery. Summer camp was never more than fun than in MEATBALLS.