Meatballs (1979) – Ivan Reitman

With a script that involved Harold Ramis, a score by Elmer Bernstein, Ivan Reitman, his first major motion picture, directs Bill Murray in his first starring role in the Canadian-made summer classic, Meatballs. Does it all stand up? It really doesn’t. But is there a lot of fun to be had in the film, yeah there really is, not to mention a healthy dose of nostalgia for anyone who spent their summers at camp.

Camp North Star (actually Camp White Pine in Haliburton, Ontario) is gearing up for another season, Head Counsellor, Tripper (Murray) is sure this is the year he’ll finally capture the heart of Roxanne (Kate Lynch) even as he delegates assignments to the other counsellors, and proves himself a perennial thorn in the side of the camp chief, Morty (Harvey Atkin).

There is some sexism, a touch of homophobia, and a lot of guys trying to get glimpses of girls.

Through it all, the camp competes with Camp Mohawk across the lake, where all the rich kids go, and soundly beat our underdog heroes on the regular. But the real heart of the story is the relationship not between Tripper and Roxanne, but between Tripper and Rudy (Chris Makepeace).

Rudy is a bit of an outcast, he’s doesn’t want to be at camp, doesn’t have any friends there, and is not really sports-oriented, putting him on the edges of the camp from the beginning of the summer onward. Tripper fosters a bit of a big brother relationship with the boy, and helps build his confidence, even as he delivers laugh out loud lines and quips.

Much like Caddyshack, and other summer movies, this one plays almost as a series of vignettes or sketches stretched over the summer, and besides Rudy, there aren’t a lot of important character arcs to be concerned with.

That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.

In fact, watching this one put me in mind of summers spent at camps, ridiculous songs, and of course, the hijinx. And sure Rudy gets to be a hero at the end of the film, but the real important part of it was that he made friends, and actually had a good time that summer, which is not what he thought at the beginning.

How many of us were carted off to camp, kicking and screaming, and then didn’t want to leave when it was time to go home?

Sure, this one isn’t going to entertain everyone, but man, digging into it really brought back a lot of memories for me. And I wish I had someone like Bill Murray as a counsellor at my camps, that would have been amazing!

Has it stood the test of time? Kind of. But it is a Canadian classic.

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