May 26, 2013


Ivan Reitman, 1979

          Tripper (Bill Murray) is a fun-seeking camp counselor who is trying to make sure all of the kids at summer camp have a good time, including the outcasts. He tries to boost the confidence of quiet Crockett (Russ Banham), while also trying to win the various competitions against the rival Camp Mohawk.
          This is Bill Murray's first starring role and a predecessor to other successful Reitman film's Stripes, Ghostbusters Ghostbusters II. It has the typical high jinks and quirky humor that one would come to expect from Murray, but ultimately falls flat because that's really ALL it has going for it. A good portion of the film feels unscripted, which is fine, but there's just not a whole lot there to laugh at. Most of the film feels very dated 34 years later. While Meatballs clearly influenced future Summer Camp films (Heavyweights, Wet Hot American Summer), it's guilty of not maintaining enough structure as its counterparts. It contains a lot of slapstick humor, combined with a lot of physical comedy that treads common themes (bullying the geeks, poking fun at the fat kids, awkward teen romance, social cliques). Groundhog Day, Ghostbusters and pretty much EVERY Wes Anderson film that Bill Murray has been in proves that he needs to have some framework in order to pull it all off. Seeing him dance by himself to disco music is hilarious, don't get me wrong, but not for an hour and a half. For me the more minimalist, restrained Bill Murray has always been the most effective comedically (Life Aquatic, The Royal Tenenbaums, Rushmore). Meatballs is trumped by the laughs in Wet Hot American Summer, likely due to the fact it's main energy source is child acting and not Michael Ian Black or Paul Rudd.
          Meatballs pops up on a lot of lists of people's favorite Summer Camp films. This is likely because there really aren't a lot of good films in that genre. That's surprising, because one would think it could be a very manageable type of film to create seeing as you don't need a big budget for set design (you can just shoot at one rural location) and all you really need is good comedic acting and a good writing staff.

No comments:

Post a Comment