- Movie Rating -

Meatballs (1979)

| June 29, 1979

I didn’t laugh much at Meatballs but I can confidently report that it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of the filmmakers.  This is a low-flying, genial

The problem is that it flies too low, it never reaches for the great heights of its obvious inspiration National Lampoon’s Animal House and in that way, it fails in a very disappointing way.  This is your standard-issue bad behavior comedy taking place at a cut-rate Canadian summer camp in which the kids are encouraged to get into all manner of mischief, crudity, sexual situations and running around in their underwear behaving like complete animals.

That all sounds great, but the movie never rises to any great heights.  The jokes are so soft and so underperformance that you get a smile at best, and feel indifferent at worst.  All through the movie, I kept wanting it to cut the restraints, and fly off into the inner-sanctums of rude behavior, but it never really gets there.  Maybe it’s the actors.  The kids aren’t very good at comedy so the jokes often feel flat.

Take, for example, a scene in which to wise-asses decide to crawl under the girl’s cabin in the middle of the night.  The girls get wise to their plan, go outside and steal one of the guy’s pants after he gets stuck.  Okay, fine.  But the joke ends there.  There’s no energy and the scene stops before it really gets started. The whole movie is like that.  The gags are badly directed by Ivan Reitman, and edited so badly that we hardly get a chance to get involved in the scene. 

The one saving grace is Bill Murray in his first starring role.  He plays Tripper Harrison, the leader of the Counselor’s in Training, a wild and crazy guy who is always there with a smart-alecky remark and/or a bit of sexual harassment ready for the female counselors.  Yet, he has a heart.  He wants the kids to break out of their shells and have some fun.  And there are some tender moments with a shy kid (Chris Makepeace) who could use a friend.

Much of the movie is concerned with the fact that the kids aren’t good at anything until Murray encourages them to become a small rebellion.  This is particularly effective when they are placed in an Olympic-style set of games with a rival camp populated by rich kids.  Again, the jokes are soft and performed by actors not fit for comedy.

As I said, I wasn’t laughing much at Meatballs.  In fact, there wasn’t a belly laugh to be found through the whole movie.  Murray is great, but there’s not much here.  It’s a nice, genial, crude little comedy that was colorful, but just not very funny.  If you haven’t seen it, you’re not missing much.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1979) View IMDB Filed in: Uncategorized