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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

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
English DTS-HD MA 2.0
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 94 min.
Price: $14.99
Release Date: 6/12/2012

• Audio Commentary with Director Ivan Reitman and Writer/Producer Daniel Goldberg
• Previews


Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


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Meatballs [Blu-Ray] (1979)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 19, 2012)

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, for Meatballs doesn’t offer a flick heavy on story or character development. The relationship between Tripper and Rudy stands as the most significant, 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 veers into some seriously treacly territory. His tale leans 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, respectively, 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, 33 years later, the movie just doesn’t do anything for me. This was a dull, largely unfunny traipse down memory lane.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B/ Audio C+/ Bonus C+

Meatballs appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. While it showed its age, the image was usually pretty positive.

The main reason the transfer fell down to “B” level was due to some softness. While a lot of the film seemed fairly detailed and accurate, more than a handful of shots came across as somewhat 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. A few specks and marks showed up – mostly during the opening credits - but the flick seemed fairly clean overall.

Colors came across as positive. The movie’s graininess occasionally made them a little flat, but they usually were fine and they often could appear quite vivid. 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 a little opaque. These criticisms remained minor, though, as Meatballs looked much better than I’d expect for a film of its age and budget.

Though I expected the DTS-HD MA 2.0 soundtrack of Meatballs to give us stereo imaging, it didn’t – not that I could hear, at least. To my ears, this mix remained entirely monaural. While it’s possible some audio may have come from the sides, I couldn’t detect anything substantial. I’d guess this was two-channel monaural, as the information seemed to be centered throughout the film.

Speech was a moderately weak link. The lines could be hollow and edgy at times, though they maintained good intelligibility. Effects played a minor role and showed reasonable delineation and definition. Music gave us fairly solid reproduction, as the score and songs seemed clear and full enough. Nothing here appeared problematic, but nothing excelled, either; this was a perfectly acceptable track for a movie from 1979.

How did the Blu-ray compare to the prior DVD from 2007? Picture was a little stronger, as the Blu-ray looked a bit tighter and more vivid. It wasn’t a huge difference due to the limitations of the source material, but I thought the Blu-ray worked a bit better.

Audio went backwards, though, as the Blu-ray lost the multichannel mix from the DVD. As a purist, this didn’t bother me – I’d usually prefer to hear a movie’s original audio – but I thought the 5.1 track actually worked pretty well, so I was surprised it didn’t reappear here. It’s not a big loss, but it’s a change that limits options for the Blu-ray.

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.

The disc opens with ads for One for the Money, Employee of the Month and Killers. These pop up under Also From Lionsgate as well. No trailer for Meatballs appears here.

Note that the Sony-released DVD included a documentary called “Summer Camp: The Making of Meatballs”. It doesn’t show up 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 Blu-ray offers pretty good picture, acceptable audio and a strong audio commentary.

On its own, this is a decent release, but honestly, I probably prefer the old DVD. While the Blu-ray offers somewhat superior visuals, it limits audio options and drops a good documentary. Since the original DVD appears to be out of print, though, the Blu-ray would be the more economical choice for new fans, but those who still own the DVD should probably stick with it.

To rate this film, visit the Special Edition review of MEATBALLS

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