Meatballs is an above average film that benefits solely from the comedic timing of Bill Murray. Playing a rehearsal version of his character form Rushmore, he’s a camp counselor who befriends a young kid (Chris Makepeace, exuding little other than fresh-facedness) who needs support to make it through the summer. Along the way there’s a small tribute to the snobs vs. slobs universe that Animal House crystallized. Our review of Meatballs on Blu-ray follows after the jump.
What Meatballs points out is that films like this coast by on being genial more than funny. Even Bill Murray, who has some great moments (though many feel indebted to Animal House) isn’t given great stuff to work with, so it’s his energy that keeps the film alive. Those who grew up with the film are better off leaving it as a fond memory.
Taking place over the course of a summer, there’s the older camp counselors and the kids, with Makepeace the only kid who registers. The counselors are at the forefront, but because the film went for a PG rating, it’s mostly a nice version of the sort of hijinks one could expect from these films (the guy who runs the place has his bed moved into the forrest, etc.). But the other counselors besides Murray are blanks, or stereotypes (there’s the nerd and the fat guy, etc.) The driving engine of the film is a rivalry with a neighboring camp filled with rich kids. The two camps get into a competition toward the end of summer, and Makepeace becomes the focal point of a crucial competition. But this leads to Murray giving a rousing speech where he tells them all that it just doesn’t matter.
Though director Ivan Reitman was a producer on Animal House, his artistic involvement was minimal. Feeling the success about to happen, he decided to get Meatballs going and such helped establish him as a man about town. The success of Meatballs has everything to do with Bill Murray – without him there is no movie. That said, it does capture the spirit of the camp scene, and Murray is great in his cinematic debut.
Even in this malformed effort Murray has something so loveable in his dopeyness that you believe that he cares, even when his aloofness is the joke. Reitman says the film was restructured in editing and Murray was brought back for reshoots to pad the film’s already anemic running time. No wonder he is the movie.
Originally owned by Paramoutn, the DVD of the film was put out by Sony, but now it’s Lionsgate who has the picture. It’s presented in a clean widescreen (1.78:1) transfer and in Mono DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0. With a film like this that’s as good as it should, and no amount of surround activity would do anything but distract. Extras are limited to the commentary by Ivan Reitman and writer/producer Daniel Goldman from the DVD release, but it appears Lionsgate couldn’t license the three part documentary that was with the DVD. But as the disc is retailing for around ten bucks, it’s not really missed.