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Meatballs


Not the Murricane’s tastiest.

Rod Lott June 6th, 2012

My brothers and I watched 1979's Meatballs so many times as kids in its initial run on HBO that, when watching the new Blu-ray release, I remembered almost everything about the summer camp comedy, which marked the first starring role of one Bill Murray, not yet 30.

meatballs

Things such as:
• the kid-vocalized "Are You Ready for the Summer?" theme song;
• the nerd, Spaz (Jack Blum, Happy Birthday to Me), getting a milkshake dumped on his head;
• clown counselor Murray downing so much club soda that he burp-talks, "Oh, really? Really?";
• the fat guy, Fink, getting depantsed;
• the rival camp's entire basketball team getting depantsed (don't accuse Meatballs of not exploring a theme);
• camp head Morty (Harvey Atkin, Atlantic City) waking up in a tree;
• camp head Morty waking up on the side of the road;
• camp head Morty waking up in the middle of the lake;
• the "Spaz! Spaz! Spaz!" chant;
• the campfire story about the hook;
• the "It just doesn't matter!" speech;
• the baseball lost in the girl's cleavage;
• the hot dog eating contest (which — no joke — kept me from eating hot dogs for about 15 years);
• the race of Rudy the rabbit (Chris Makepeace, My Bodyguard); and
• the counselors' end-of-season song: "We are the CITs, so pity us / The kids are brats, the food is hideous ..."

Yes, I remembered just about everything, with notable exception: that Meatballs is not funny. At least not anymore. And I'm someone who loves Bill Murray.

Let me take this public opportunity to apologize to my three children for cajoling them into watching it with me. I should've suspected that two decades and then some could not be kind to it, but fond memories won out. I'm sorry, Lott children; your father has betrayed you. (Also, I swear to you that even if the hairstyle says otherwise, Chris Makepeace is not a girl. And, hon, it's "Murray" — not "Murphy.")

Meatballs is a series of jokes without punch lines, scenes with payoffs, all held together with gobs of spit provided by director Ivan Reitman (who would get much better with Ghostbusters). It has energy in the opening credits it never duplicates; after that, it has some amusing moments — most of them public-address announcements likely ad-libbed — and that's it. Much of the movie is so bad, I felt like cringing ... and did.

But it sure as shinola beats the three sequels. —Rod Lott



 
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