A Movie A Day: Quint on MEATBALLS (1979) Is that a bra you're wearing or are you expecting an assassination attempt?
Published at: July 21, 2008, 7:14 p.m. CST by quint
Ahoy, squirts! Quint here with today’s installment of A Movie A Day.
[For those now joining us, A Movie A Day is my attempt at filling in gaps in my film knowledge. My DVD collection is thousands strong, many of them films I haven’t seen yet, but picked up as I scoured used DVD stores. Each day I’ll pull a previously unseen film from my collection and discuss it here. Each movie will have some sort of connection to the one before it, be it cast or crew member.]
Today we follow the Murray blood line from yesterday’s MOVING VIOLATIONS to today’s MEATBALLS.
Ever since I was a kid I knew I should be watching this one. It’s always been in the background… Hell, I’ve seen the second one, thanks to HBO… I think because Pee-Wee Herman was in it.
Anyway, it was a long time coming, especially considering how much of a whore I am for Bill Murray, and now the time has come.
And I was underwhelmed.
The flick doesn’t really stand up to any of the classics of the era. The PORKYs, the STRIPESes or ANIMAL HOUSEs or the CADDYSHACKs. Know what this film reminded me of the most? You’ll think I’m crazy for a second, but bear with me.
This film reminded me most of BACHELOR PARTY. It’s slightly awkward, a lot clunky, but in both cases the filmmakers took an exploding comic star and just let them run. In the case of Bachelor Party, it was Tom Hanks. Shots hold too long, but you don’t mind because it’s fascinating trying to watch Hanks wing it or do something bugnuts insane to fill the time.
I got the exact same feeling about MEATBALLS. Bill Murray isn’t constrained. He’s like Animal from the Muppet Show. His chains are removed and he’s out of the gate, going a million miles a second, sometimes knocking shit over, but just completely unrestrained.
The comedy is all character-driven, not story driven. There’s a crazy summer camp, the craziest of the counselors pushes the kids to kick another summer camp’s ass at their annual games.
However there is a lot of hear to the movie and I found that’s what I was most drawn to. Bill Murray’s character, Trip, takes an awkward young kid, Rudy (played by Chris Makepeace), under his wing and fills in as goofy big brother, helping him talk to girls and survive puberty.
There’s a natural feeling to this film that I also appreciated. Everybody feels like they’re having a good time and it doesn’t feel overly cast. Even Murray looks like he comes from the real world, and wasn’t cast out of some magazine.
Maybe there’s a disconnect for me due to expectation of a great missed comedy. Maybe I never really had the summer camp experience as a kid… Whatever the reason, I didn’t love the flick, but I can say I do love moments of this movie and I love what they were going for.
Final Thoughts: Murray is a ball of comic energy in this thing and the real heart in how he deals with the kids makes it a worthy flick, but I was expecting another Stripes from the team of Ivan Reitman and Bill Murray and I didn’t quite get it. Looking at it in Bill Murray’s career timeline, it’s fascinating watching him tackle his first starring role. It’s not a bad movie at all and one I expect to grow on me each time I see it.