Meatballs (1979)

Genres - Comedy  |   Sub-Genres - Teen Movie  |   Run Time - 92 min.  |   Countries - Canada, United States  |   MPAA Rating - PG
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Review by Patrick Legare

The first of Bill Murray's cinematic comedy hits in the wake of his stint on TV's Saturday Night Live, Meatballs is a silly, enjoyable romp set at a low-cost summer camp. Murray stars as the camp's head counselor, a quack whose immature, screwball sense of humor hides a good-natured veneer when he befriends a depressed 11-year-old (My Bodyguard's Chris Makepeace). Other characters, played primarily by an unknown Canadian cast, include camp chief Morty (Harvey Atkin), Murray's love interest Roxanne (Kate Lynch), the ultra-nerd Spaz (Jack Blum), and his hefty pal Fink (Keith Knight). All figure into the film's funniest scenes including Spaz's seemingly hopeless efforts to find a girlfriend and Fink's repulsive but hilarious appearance in a hot dog-eating contest. However, it's Murray who really ignites the picture, whether he's doing wacky camp announcements, telling a campfire story about a hook-handed killer, or inspiring his overmatched troops with his chant of "It just doesn't matter" in a scene that recalls John Belushi's rant for revenge in National Lampoon's Animal House. The slim plot finds Murray's Camp Northstar pitted against the rich kids at nearby Camp Mohawk in the annual summer games. Naturally, the underdogs make a valiant comeback that is all for naught if Makepeace's Rudy can't win a four-mile run. Directed by Ivan Reitman, who later helmed Stripes and Ghostbusters, Meatballs actually retains a degree of sweetness and innocence that sets it apart from the raunchier comedies of its era, including Caddyshack (which co-starred Murray) and the Reitman-produced Animal House.