Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Netflix pick of the month: MEATBALLS

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.

23 comments:

danrydell said...

"...and there are a large pair of pants on the flag pole."

A great nostalgic summer movie. And Murray's interview where he talks about Camp Mohawk's summer activities is priceless.

Dan Serafini said...

Seth Rogen is no Bill Murray. Seth Rogen is a self-absorbed guy who will never be as funny as he thinks he is.

Bill Murray may be a pothead and drinker, but he does it in the shadows, relatively.

I heard that a bunch of Meatballs was re-written and shot after Murray came aboard. Without him, it is real dull, I bet.

Rinaldo said...

I always wanted to know more about Chris Makepeace. He was an unusually good juvenile actor in this and, a year later, in My Bodyguard. As he grew up he would get only occasional roles (often in the sort of movie one never hears of till it's all over HBO for 3 months and then vanishes again, like Aloha Summer or Captive Hearts) -- but enough to show that he hadn't lost his acting chops and had become an exceptionally handsome young man. And yet the roles almost stopped around 1990, and completely stopped in the last decade. I wonder what else he was doing all that time, and what he's doing now. He "coulda been a contender."

Joey Smallwood said...

Bill Murray's "it just doesn't matter!" speech delivered to the campers remains one of my all-time favorite scenes.

Jen said...

I still enjoy a rousing rendition of "IT JUST DOESN'T MATTER!" every so often.

Rinaldo said...

I always wanted to know more about Chris Makepeace. He was an unusually good juvenile actor in this and, a year later, in My Bodyguard. As he grew up he would get only occasional roles (often in the sort of movie one never hears of till it's all over HBO for 3 months and then vanishes again, like Aloha Summer or Captive Hearts) -- but enough to show that he hadn't lost his acting chops and had become an exceptionally handsome young man. And yet the roles almost stopped around 1990, and completely stopped in the last decade. I wonder what else he was doing all that time, and what he's doing now. He "coulda been a contender."

Janet T said...

We are the CIT’s so pity us
The kids are brats, the food is hideous
We’re gonna smoke and drink and fool around
We’re noogie bound
We’re Northstar CIT’s

(CIT’s are counselors in training- basically the teenagers in charge of the younger campers)- this song will be in my head all day now
and any time someone says "it just doesn't matter" I start the "it just doesn't matter, it just doesn't matter" chant in my head
I too loved this movie-a wonderful blast from the past this morning- thanks Ken

Max Clarke said...

Good speech, "It just doesn't matter."

I put it up with Belushi as Bluto near the end of Animal House, "Nothing is over until we decide it is!"

scottmc said...

'Meatballs' is one of two summer camp movies that I love. The other is 'Camp'. In 'Camp' kids perform in musicals during the summer. These kids would be more likely to know Michael Jeter than Derek Jeter and 'Albert' as the first name of the lead character in 'Bye Bye Birdie', not the first name of the Cardinal 1st baseman. The film features 'Up In the Air' co-star Anna Kendrick, with a notable cameo by Stephen Sondheim.

Ted said...

"... the Swiss taught me to kill with this knife."

YEKIMI said...

Not sure, but on IMDB they show a "Meatballs" as being "in developement" in 2010. PLEASE let it not be a remake of the 1979 classic!

Matt Tauber said...

One aspect I like that I think is overlooked is the plain-Janeyness of Bill Murray's love interest. The movie poster would have you believe he's getting it on with the hot young counselors, yet in the movie he relentlessly pursues tomboyish Roxanne.

Jeffrey Leonard said...

I love this movie and to top it off, my friend, Mary MacGregor sings one of the songs in the soundtrack. It doesn't get better than that!

Frasier Fan said...

LOVE this movie! I remember seeing it in the movie theatre as a kid and just laughing through the whole thing. I now own it on DVD and still laugh!

I used the "It just doesn't matter" chant over the weekend!

Anonymous said...

The Jerry Aldini speech alone is worth it.

dvestv said...

I also like its way..

Larry said...

Meatballs has been parodied by Family Guy. I'm often amazed by the wide frame of reference that show has.

Also, there was a great camp movie parody on Mr. Show where the monks take on the rich snobs from the fat camp. It all ends in a rap off. You can see it on YouTube as "Mr. Show - Camp Monk Academy."

Ref said...

Janet T, that was "NOOKIE", not "noogie."

Matt Tauber, Roxanne was played by Canadian actress Kate Lynch, who was definitely an attractive woman. Tripper's challenge was to break down her facade of reserve.

Rambling Dave Scharf said...

Time to rent it and share it with my kids. They will finally know why, when my wife occasionally cooks, I am want to say, "And the winner of the mystery meat contest is Arthur who guessed 'some kind of beef.'"

Rockgolf said...

Kate Lynch went to the same high school (Michael Power/St Joes) as me and was two year ahead of me. I saw her in our school plays.

What makes Meatballs so different from every other camp film made since then is that the teenage campers are actually played by teenagers! These kids are really 13-16 not 18-28 trying to look like teens. It adds an innocence to the film that none of the others capture.

Rose said...

Ken, I'm THRILLED to see you feature MEATBALLS as a classic summer movie. I have loved this movie since I first saw it back in the 80's when I was a kid (yes, I'm giving away my age), and there was a time in my life when I could recite the ENTIRE bloody movie line for line. :-) Just a couple of weeks ago, I showed it to my 14-year-old twin sons, and they were delighted with it. Bill Murray is hysterical in this film. I still think it's one of his best roles.

Paul Duca said...

I saw it in a theater back in 1979,,,,the theater is gone, but I'm still here.


"That's the 14-year-old girls cabin...they've got the drive and the equipment, but not the experience--and you're not going to give it to them"

Joel Godwin said...

One of the fondest movie memories of my youth, still one of my all time favorites and I feel it's a bit under rated overall. I can remember seeing some of the other actors in subsequent years in various projects, especially Spaz and exclaiming, "Hey, they were in Meatballs!"

Also, I remember trading quotes from the movie with Liz Ross who sat next to me in 8th grade math.

I'll definitely have to show it to my kids when they get age appropriate.