Meatballs (1979)

meatballs poster 1979 movie bill murray
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Bill Murray, fun classic

Might be too tame for modern audience

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Meatballs

Studio:  Famous Players

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  June 29, 1979

MPAA Rating:  PG


Wait, are there kids at this camp?

Camp North Star is open for business.  The camp director Morty Melnick (Harvey Atkins) is up to his neck with a new group of C.I.T.s (counselors in training) and his assistant Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray).  A new group of kids brings comes new problems, and Tripper is trying to help a young camper named Rudy Gerner (Chris Makepeace) fit in with the other campers.  When the old rivalry between Camp North Star and the elite Mohawk camp which shares the lake, it is up to the kids and counselors of Camp North Star to win the Olympiad.

Directed by Ivan Reitman, Meatballs was a Canadian film and the first feature film of Bill Murray.  The movie was a big hit and spawned many sequels, but most sequels went for the raunchier aspects of the movie.


Run, Rudy…Run!

Meatballs is the quintessential camp movie.  Other movies like Poison Ivy (the one with Michael J. Fox not the Drew Barrymore one) tried to get the format down, but never quite reached the level of success that Meatballs did.  The movie is relatively rosy in its portrayal and of the typical camper hijinks was perfect fodder for the camp parody movie Wet Hot American Summer (2001) which pretty much used Meatballs as its basis.

Bill Murray shows a lot of promise with Meatballs and shows why he was one of the biggest comedic actors of the ’80s.  He’s able to bring the funny (he carries most of the movie’s jokes) but he’s also able to do the nice scenes with Rudy that gives the film some endearing qualities.  It is great to see Bill Murray is still a major player in films (now taking a bit more of a dramatic turn), but it is probably because he’s less of a one-trick-pony like the other comedy stars of the ’80s.


Let’s play dirty!

What cracks me up about Meatballs is the camp aspect.  First, the C.I.T.s (counselors in training) seem to be the only counselors so I don’t know who is doing the counseling.  They all stay in their own cabins leaving the kids unattended I guess and despite their title, they seem to have all been counselors before.  Plus, the C.I.T.s all go for a camping trip away from the camp for a couple of days with Murray…I want to be a counselor at that camp!  The campers also sometimes range from busloads to a few campers, so I have no gauge of the camp’s size.  When the Olympiad occurs, most of the counselors are the contestants instead of the campers.  I guess it is more of a counselors’ camp.

Meatballs is a classic.  It is less raunchy then the sequels that seemed to go like other Canadian comedies at the time like Porky’s.  It isn’t a roll on the floor comedy and there are some adult moments that don’t make it good for kids, but its sappiness might make it a tough sell for older kids who are more jaded now and expect more vulgarity.  I still like it and hope you will too.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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