Meatballs Still Keeps You Laughing
Review by Lois Siegel
(June 14, 2021 – Ottawa, ON) Many young people go to summer camp. Maybe you have been to one, but it surely was not as crazy as the one in the film Meatballs. The film stars Bill Murray as Tripper, the camp program director. Camp North Star is a boy’s camp in Ontario for 14-year-olds.
The story follows a young man, Rudy, who is not keen on being at the camp and lacks self-confidence, but Tripper expertly helps him to fit in. Tripper is also the head prankster at the camp. People sometimes wake up to find themselves sleeping in trees. Fans of Bill Murray will love his performance. The first thing Tripper does is tear up the camp rules. Delightful chaos prevails. With Tripper in charge, Camp North Star is different from other camps – for example, he announces Sexual Awareness Week and brings hookers into the camp.
There is Olympian competition with rival Camp Mohawk and it includes a swimming rally. To give Camp North Star an advantage, one camper puts a fish in a competitor’s swimsuit.
A popular camp song becomes: “The Food is Hideous.” And there is a hot dog eating contest between two very overweight rivals. The film is full of surprises and is always entertaining.
Although Meatballs first came out in 1979, it still holds up and will keep you laughing as everything goes wrong.
Filming took place at Camp White Pine on Hurricane Lake between Haliburton and West Guilford in August and September of 1978. Meatballs was directed by Ivan Reitman and selected for National Canadian Film Day on April 21, 2021. Back in the day, it won Genie Awards for Best Screenplay and Best Actress for Kate Lynch.
The film was the highest-grossing Canadian film of all time in the United States and Canada, winning the Golden Reel Award Canada, which was presented at the Genies to the highest-grossing Canadian films.
I was part of the production crew after teaching film production at John Abbot College and Concordia University. Other Canadian crew members and their school affiliations were:
Ernie Kestler – second camera assistant, Concordia University
Rit Wallis – second assistant editor, John Abbott College)
Josh Nefsky – stills photographer, Concordia University.
Much to everyone’s surprise, Meatballs grossed $17.9 million in its first 17 days. It was followed by several sequels: Meatballs Part II (1984), Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986) and Meatballs 4 (1992). None of the sequels involved either Ivan Reitman or Bill Murray. Only Meatballs lll: Summer Job had any connection to the original.
Also see: The cast & crew of Meatballs
Lois Siegel is a photographer, filmmaker, educator, musician and agent who also reviewed films for Ottawa’s The Glebe Report for 15 years.
Editor’s Note: This review was first published in The Glebe Report after Meatballs was picked up by Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service. It is republished here with permission of the author.