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:  Dunning/Link/Reitman Productions/Mount Royal Productions/Haliburton Films

Genre(s):  Comedy

Release Date(s):  June 28, 1979 (Canada)/June 29, 1979 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG

meatballs rudy tripper bill murray chris makepeace

Run, Rudy, run!

Camp North Star is open for business!  The camp director Morty Melnick (Harvey Atkin) is up to his neck with a new group of C.I.T.s (counselors in training) and his assistant Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray).  The arrival of the new campers brings 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 Camp Mohawk bubbles up, it is up to the kids and counselors of Camp North Star to win the Olympiad and prove that “it just doesn’t matter”!

Directed by Ivan Reitman, Meatballs is a Canadian comedy feature.  The movie was a massive success and spawned sequels.

I remember watching the movie as a kid and expecting camp to be exactly like it was portrayed in the film.  I also remember Meatballs II being released…which featured aliens.  It always made Meatballs feel a little less logical, but returning to the classic, Meatballs endures.

meatballs morty bed on lake harvey atkin

Oh, Morty…maybe you shouldn’t do hardcore drugs before you go to bed if the campers do this all the time

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 they never quite reached the level of success that Meatballs did.  The movie is relatively rosy in its portrayal, and the typical camper hijinks provide perfect fodder for the camp parody movie Wet Hot American Summer (2001) which pretty much used Meatballs as its basis.

Meatballs is Bill Murray’s first feature film, and he has a lot of promise with the movie.  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.  The rest of the counselors are so-so, and the film does feel quite amateur at times…almost like a Disney or Nickelodeon series.

meatballs cit campout bill murray

Hey…I was just thinking…is anyone watching the kids?

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 than the sequels that seemed to go like other Canadian comedies at the time like Porky’s, but it also is not very P.C. in the world were people are being mocked for weight, talk about smoking, and make fun of a character they all call Spaz (Jack Blum).  It isn’t a roll on the floor comedy, and its sappiness might make it a tough sell for older kids who are more jaded now and expect more vulgarity…but it is still an enjoyable classic.  Meatballs was followed by Meatballs Part II in 1984.

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.

Leave A Response