Holy mackerel! It must be at least 110 degrees inside this room and the heat is not helping me out at all. I’ve been sitting here racking my brain for an idea for an article and finally a light bulb lit up directly above my head: it’s summer! And you all know what summer means – camp! Well, I personally have never been to camp nor has anyone else I’ve ever met, but for some reason Hollywood keeps on cranking out the summer camp movies and we are all supposed to relate.
I think when I was a kid I always assumed it was standard practice for kids other than me to go to camp and my family probably just couldn’t afford it. Or perhaps I thought kids in other states went to camp and they didn’t exist in Oregon.
Whatever the rationale, everything I know about summer camp I learned from Hollywood, whether it be from kiddie films such as “Camp Nowhere” or “Ernest Goes to Camp” or from slasher pics such as “Sleepaway Camp” or any of the Jason movies. What Hollywood has taught me is that at camp things happen: 1. Boys become men. 2. Killers are almost always lurking. 3. There’s always a camp across the lake that is either full of rich kids or girls. 4. Girls go to camp to take their clothes off.
Today I am here to write about the “Citizen Kane” of all camp movies, “Meatballs”, and it’s three sequels, all of which fit camp movie criteria numbers one, three and four.
Alright loyal Vanguard readers, here we go. First on the docket, the O.G. slap-stick comedy camp masterpiece, the one, the only, “Meatballs”.
This 1979 film boasts Bill Murray in his first starring role and boy is it a doozy. He plays head counselor Tripper Harrison who entertains counselors and campers alike with his madcap antics.
Now, anyone who knows Biff knows he’s an avid video collector so when he says “Meatballs” was one of the very first movies he ever owned, they listen.
Other than Bill Murray’s involvement in the picture there are some other important points of interest. There is a pretty solid chance you will never see any of the cast members, aside from Bill Murray and Chris Makepeace who is in “My Bodyguard,” in anything else unless you are really, really lucky.
One time, and this is a true story, I was watching an episode of “ChiPs” and who do I see but Kristine DeBell, who plays “A.L.” in “Meatballs”, as some coked-out chick in an Astro Van. Needless to say she and her boyfriend ran and Ponch and John were hot on their heels. I digress.
Another fun fact is that “Meatballs” was directed by Ivan Reitman of “Ghostbusters” fame. Isn’t that fun?! This is kind of like Bill Murray’s “Ace Ventura” since he uses pretty much everything he’s got and the results are pure hilarity.
Biff’s favorite line: “The winner of tonight’s mystery meat contest was Danny Smith who guessed ‘some kind of beef.'” Genius.
Moving right along, we arrive at the awkward, confusing, John-Larroquette, involving, unrelated to the original except by name sequel, “Meatballs II.” This one revolves around some kids, including a very young Jason Hervey, and an alien named Meathead who is just trying to enjoy a normal camp experience. This one, in my opinion, is the lamest of the series and here’s why: It is aimed at a younger audience, the alien’s antics get old super fast, John Larroquette is involved and it stars Richard Mulligan of the TV series “Empty Nest.” Dude, weak.
The only fun things are the always entertaining Jason Hervey, as you already know, well-informed reader, played Wayne in “The Wonder Years” and Paul “Pee-Wee Herman” Reubens as the bus driver.
Biff’s favorite line: any that are not delivered by John Larroquette.
“Meatballs III” is no doubt the one you have seen late at night on the USA network.
This one boasts the “introducing Patrick Dempsey” credit at the beginning, which as you know, is a very good thing. One can never have too much Dempsey in one’s diet. Unless you are viewing the movie “Some Girls,” in which case you should hit stop immediately since it’s painful to the eyes.
I think ol’ Patrick might even show full frontal but don’t quote Biff on that one.
Back to the point at hand people! The movie revolves around Dempsey’s character Rudy’s quest to get laid. It’s just that simple folks. Now the genius of this sequel is how it is connected to the series. You see the first “Meatballs” involves Bill Murray and his relationship with Chris Makepeace’s character Rudy, who is a shy kind of kid who just needs a friend.
Now, in the third picture, Rudy is all grown up, played by a different actor, and just trying to lose his virginity. The film doesn’t even take place at a camp. Instead the hilarity ensues at a summer resort/park kind of place where Rudy works as a janitor and is guided in his conquests by a dead porn star played by Sally Kellerman.
The only real fun fact here is Rudy’s boss’ wife is played by none other than B-movie legend Shannon Tweed, who you probably will recognize from other movies on late at night on the USA network. And if you pay attention you will see midget pro wrestler Little Beaver as part of the hooligan gang that give Rudy a hard time.
Although the first and third installments follow the adventures and the second just sucks, the fourth bravely goes out on a limb and does neither.
“Meatballs IV” or as it is more commonly referred to, “the Corey Feldman one,” finds Feldman’s character Ricky Wade attempting to save his favorite camp from being bought out by a wealthy developer, which is pretty much the plot to “Ernest Goes to Camp” if anyone is paying attention.
Wade uses his water skiing skills, good looks, hip lingo and his way with the ladies to help motivate his campers into competing in a water Olympics of sorts which will determine the fate of the camp.
Feldman, as always, turns in a magnificent performance and never once dresses up like Michael Jackson. “Meatballs IV” is pretty sweet.
Biff’s favorite line: “I don’t need this, I was in Goonies.”
So, loyal reader, do yourself a favor and go to the video store. Although the Meatballs series doesn’t involve any recurring actors, barely any recurring characters and doesn’t necessarily always take place at camp, I am assuming watching these four harmless flicks is a lot less painful than going to camp itself. So there.