Meatballs. Canadian Film Development Corporation 1979.

Before watching the movie:
So, Bill Murray’s first feature film, directed by Ivan Reitman like Ghostbusters and Stripes were. It should probably be of about the quality of the other two films, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be great. Enjoyable, definitely. Memorable, not guaranteed.

After watching the movie:

Camp North Star enters another summer of camp shenanigans. Programming director Tripper spends another summer trying to woo his coworker Roxanne, Counselors In Training Spaz and Fink get up to trouble, counselors and CITs pair off, and shy loner Rudy gets personal mentoring from Tripper.

This is a completely episodic film. It isn’t even character driven, because all the characters are generic “types” going through the story. (This is even lampshaded by Murray’s character telling Rudy he must be the “short depressed kid we ordered.”) I found it hard to get strongly engaged because every few minutes the focus moves to the story of someone else before I’ve had the time to care. However that’s not so bad because the stories and characters are only serving to convey the full “summer at camp” experience to the audience in an hour and a half.

Bill Murray is of course the big ticket, and he was more involved than I expected, but still he only has barely enough time to let him stand out from the ensemble. On the other hand, he plays an unusual combination of the wacky weirdo type he usually played when he was young with a wise sage. Normally when he has this demeanor he’s playing someone dense, but in this he’s very savvy and helpful even outside of his scenes mentoring Rudy.

As I said above, this movie isn’t about the story or the characters, or even really the jokes. It’s about the fun of going to camp for the summer. It made me reminisce about my camp experiences, although mine weren’t all that similar to what was on screen, even accounting for the fact that the movie focuses on the counselors more than the students. Maybe part of it is that I think the longest I’ve ever been to camp is two weeks, but mostly it’s probably just the different time. Camps are more regulated and safe than they were in the “golden age” this movie glorifies.


Watch this movie: and consider applying to counsel a summer camp near you

Don’t watch this movie: and consider taking notes on the plot

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