Set at a low-end summer camp and aimed squarely at a teen audience, Meatballs is a light screwball comedy that turned its low-budget Canadian roots into a very profitable box-office run. The biggest reason for the film's success is Bill Murray who stars as Tripper, the head counselor who runs things at Camp Northstar with the help of his love interest Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and the camp's director Morty (Harvey Atkins), who is affectionately known as Mickey. Camp opens with Tripper and Morty preparing the misfit counselors-in-training — Spaz, Fink, Crockett, A.L., Candace, Wendy, and Wheels among them — for the arrival of their hyperactive little charges. After settling in, kids and counselors begin their activities with a soccer game in which depressed 11-year-old Rudy (Chris Makepeace) accidentally loses the game. Cast out by the other children, Rudy runs away only to come across Tripper, who befriends the boy and makes him his running partner. Romance, sexy fun, and comic hijinx — usu
Decades before he was winning accolades for his work in Lost in Translation and Rushmore, Bill Murray was making moviegoers snicker with his breakthrough comedy Meatballs. This film--which was released theatrically in 1979--stars a 29-year-old Murray as a horny camp counselor named Tripper Harrison, who is just barely more mature than the kids he's looking after. Tripper seems like a screw up because he is, but the audience sees soon enough that he has that proverbial heart of gold, which is offset by an acerbic tongue. Looking over one of the unhappy children in his charge, Tripper says, "You must be the short, depressed kid we ordered." Camp North Star isn't the type of destination kids dream about during the school year. As envisioned by director Ivan Reitman (who would again collaborate with Murray in Ghostbusters), it's a place where kids do their time until their parents let them return home. But in his own way, Tripper makes it a fun place for the kids to learn about the opposite sex and get a feeing for competition. Unlike Little Darlings, the coming-of-age camping film starring Kristy McNichol and Tatum O'Neal that was released a year later, there really isn't a strong moral to this film. But there is a sense that thanks to Tripper's unorthodox madness, he makes Camp North Star a place that kids want to return to the following year. While not as self-assured as he would be in a smaller role in 1980's Caddyshack, Murray is highly likeable here as an overgrown doof.
On the DVD
In the special edition version of this DVD, the extra features include some insight into Murray, who is somewhat elusive about committing to film projects. Reitman reveals that he actually wasn't sure Murray (who wasn't a big name back then) was on board for Meatballs until he showed up for filming the first week. Interestingly enough, this comedy originally was supposed to focus its attention on several camp counselors, but Murray was so good in his role that the plot was adjusted to focus primarily on Tripper. Also included is a three-part "making of" featurette that includes insight into casting, the use of real campers because they didn't have enough money to pay for extras, and interviews with some of the cast members. --Jae-Ha Kim
Stills from Meatballs (click for larger image) Beyond Meatballs at Amazon.com