Wednesday, June 26, 2013

#1,045. Meatballs (1979)

Directed By: Ivan Reitman

Starring: Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch

Tag line: "The Summer Camp That Makes You Untrustworthy, Disloyal, Unhelpful, Unfriendly, Discourteous, Unkind, Disobedient, and Very Hilarious"

Trivia: The movie was filmed at an actual summer camp, Camp White Pine, in Haliburton, Ontario

Meatballs, a 1979 comedy directed by Ivan Reitman, marked the first time Bill Murray was given a starring role in a movie. Needless to say, he made the most of it, and while Meatballs is only a so-so picture when the actor isn't on-screen, it’s pure gold whenever he is.

Murray plays Trip Harrison, head counselor of Camp North Star, a summer camp for kids. Placed in charge of the C.I.T.’s (Counselors-in-Training), Trip instead spends most of his time trying to hook up with fellow counselor Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and watching over a young camper named Rudy (Chris Makepeace), who’s having a hard time fitting in. The summer is chock full of outdoor hikes, canoe trips, and romantic entanglements among the C.I.T.’s, culminating in a two-day Olympiad in which North Star battles it out against their chief rival, Camp Mohawk, which caters only to the rich and snobby.

Aside from Murray’s character, Meatballs also follows the exploits of the C.I.T.’s, including Spaz (Jack Blum) and Fink (Keith Knight), two awkward pals who have no luck whatsoever with the ladies, and Candace (Sarah Torgov), who strikes up a romance with Crockett (Russ Banham) that lasts the entire summer. While the young performers do a good enough job with their roles, Meatballs loses a lot of steam whenever the focus shifts to these various side stories. Fortunately, Murray is on-hand to liven things up. His P.A. announcements, which he makes throughout the film, are hilarious (“Attention. Here's an update on tonight's dinner. It was veal. I repeat, veal”), as is a running gag where he and several C.I.T.’s play a series of practical jokes on the camp’s director, Morty (Harvey Atkin), who’s obviously a very deep sleeper. Along with his sarcastic wit, Murray also shows genuine tenderness in his scenes with Chris Makepeace, giving the movie a little bit of heart to go with the laughs.

Since the release of Meatballs nearly thirty-five years ago, Bill Murray has become one of Hollywood’s most recognizable actors. He’s part of Wes Anderson’s stock company, appearing in all of the director’s films since 1998’s Rushmore, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2004 for his superb performance in Sofia Coppola’s Lost in Translation. With Meatballs, we get to see the actor at the start of his career, and, even at this early stage, we can spot the incredible talent that has since transformed him into a star.

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