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Ivan Reitman
Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch, Russ Banham, Kristine DeBell, Sarah Torgov, Jack Blum, Keith Knight, Cindy Girling
Writing Credits:
Len Blum, Daniel Goldberg, Janis Allen, Harold Ramis

Are you ready for a good time?

Bill Murray plays Tripper, a counselor at Camp North Star who teaches the kids how to loosen up and have a good time, all while preparing for a showdown with rival Camp Mohawk at the camp Olympic games.

Box Office:
Opening Weekend
$77.170 thousand on 7 screens.
Domestic Gross
$43.046 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1/16X9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Stereo 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $19.94
Release Date: 6/5/2007

• Audio Commentary with Director Ivan Reitman and Writer/Producer Daniel Goldberg
• “Summer Camp: The Making of Meatballs” Documentary
• Previews


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Meatballs: Special Edition (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 1, 2007)

With 1979’s Meatballs, Bill Murray took his first step toward movie stardom. The flick presents him as Tripper Harrison, veteran counselor at bargain basement Camp North Star. They maintain a rivalry with Camp Mohawk across the lake, as they battle the arrogant rich kids over there.

Among various co-workers and kids, we meet new camper Rudy Gerner (Chris Makepeace). A mopey lad, he finds it tough to adjust to the camp, partially because the other kids don’t like him. Tripper befriends Rudy and boosts his self-esteem. We also view Tripper’s sputtering romance with fellow counselor Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and various events that culminate in a big “Olympiad” between North Star and Mohawk.

That entire plot synopsis essentially should be regarded as irrelevant. Meatballs doesn’t offer a flick heavy on story or character development. The relationship between Tripper and Rudy stands as the most key, largely because it motivates some plot elements. Nonetheless, as with 1980’s Caddyshack, the movie exists mainly as a collection of comedic sketches with only loose connections to tie them together.

Caddyshack managed to overcome its disjointed nature due to its stellar cast, as it included Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Ted Knight. They took average material and made it funny. Meatballs boasts Murray and a bunch of nobodies. Murray shows his talent but isn’t enough to carry the whole thing on his back.

Meatballs truly lives and dies with Murray. Occasionally he makes it amusing, but the movie needs to overcome far too many flaws to work. For one, the Rudy story takes the flick into some seriously treacly territory. His tale veers toward “coming of age” material and gives us many genuinely sappy moments. The movie awkwardly jerks from broad comedy to sensitive bits and fails to work either side in an effective manner.

The anonymous nature of the other cast members certainly doesn’t help. It looks like the filmmakers hoped that “Spaz” (Jack Blum) and Larry (Keith Knight) would turn into breakout roles, but they’re patently forgettable. They act as stereotypical nerd and fat slob characters and can’t bring out anything more than that. Indeed, all of the other counselors fail to produce any form of interest, and except for Rudy, none of the kids receive much attention. This makes for a very vague effort without much obvious point or purpose.

I maintain some fond memories of Meatballs from my youth, as I was 12 when it first appeared. Heck, even my Dad enjoyed the flick; he still likes to quote the “It just doesn’t matter!” sequence. Unfortunately, 28 years later, the movie just doesn’t do anything for me. This was a dull, largely unfunny traipse down memory lane.

The DVD Grades: Picture B/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Meatballs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though erratic, the transfer usually looked surprisingly good.

The main reason the transfer fell down to “B” level was due to some softness. While a lot of the film seemed pretty detailed and accurate, more than a handful of shots came across as rather indistinct. Though these never became overwhelming, they caused some distractions. I noticed no jagged edges or shimmering, and edge enhancement appeared to be absent. In addition, print flaws were minor given the age of the film. Some shots looked a little too grainy, and a couple of specks showed up, but the flick seemed quite clean.

Colors varied but mostly came across as positive. At times I noticed hues that could be a little runny or flat. However, the majority of the tones appeared pretty peppy and represented the summer camp vibe well. Blacks were acceptably dense and deep, but shadows seemed more erratic. The counselors’ campfire sequence showed nice delineation, but some other low light shots appeared rather opaque. Though all of these ups and downs left the transfer as a “B”, I still felt pleased with it given my expectations.

Similar thoughts greeted the surprisingly strong Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Meatballs. This remix opened up the spectrum in a decent manner. Music usually showed good stereo imaging, and environmental effects broadened the soundfield to a moderate degree. These blended to the rear speakers in a nice way that even boasted occasional split-surround information. None of this added a ton to the flick, but it proved more engaging than expected.

Though audio quality was inconsistent, the track nonetheless sounded pretty good given its age. Speech was a moderately weak link. The lines could be hollow at times, though they maintained good intelligibility. Effects played a minor role and showed reasonable delineation and definition.

Music worked best, though even those elements had peaks and valleys. The classical aspects of the score tended to sound somewhat flat and lacked a lot of pizzazz. On the other hand, the more modern music sounded more full and dynamic. Those elements allowed the mix to work pretty well, and this ended up as a satisfying soundtrack.

In terms of extras, we get an audio commentary with director Ivan Reitman and writer/producer Daniel Goldberg. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific chat. They talk about the project’s origins and pre-production, the development of the script and changes to it, the difficult pursuit of Bill Murray, other casting and using real campers, shooting at a working summer camp, finding distribution, and other production specifics.

This commentary starts really well and continues to be enjoyable and informative through its conclusion. Reitman and Goldberg dig into various elements quite well and provide a nice encapsulation of the issues related to the flick. They balance the nuts and bolts with fun anecdotes to make this a consistently lively and educational chat.

A three-part documentary called Summer Camp: The Making of Meatballs runs 48 minutes and one second. It offers the usual mix of movie clips, archival materials and interviews. We find remarks from Reitman, Goldberg, writer Len Blum, art director David Orin Charles, casting director/actor Jack Blum, costume designer Judy Gellman, and actors Hadley Kay, Harvey Atkin, Kate Lynch, Keith Knight, and Chris Makepeace. “Camp” looks at the film’s origins and writing, casting and characters, clothes and production design, shooting at an operating camp, changes to the story and reshoots, performances and improvisation, Reitman’s development as a director, favorite scenes, various specifics and anecdotes from the shoot.

Of course, some of the info from the commentary also crops up here. Despite those redundant moments, we get plenty of solid material in this fine documentary. The extra participants expand matters, and the show proves surprisingly introspective and thoughtful. It’s a disappointment that Bill Murray fails to appear here, but I didn’t expect him to chat about the flick, so I won’t fault the show for his absence. Instead of a silly, glossy traipse down memory lane, “Camp” provides a rich, involving program.

A few ads appear under Previews. We find promos for Seinfeld Season 8, Ghost Rider and Stranger Than Fiction. No trailer for Meatballs appears here.

With Bill Murray in the lead and fond childhood memories in tow, I thought Meatballs would entertain. However, while Murray produces a few chuckles, he can’t redeem this slow, meandering piece of fluff. The DVD offers pretty good picture and audio along with two very fine supplements. If you like this flick, grab this nice disc.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0909 Stars Number of Votes: 22
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