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Filmed in 1978, Meatballs is still considered to be one of the funniest "campy" sitcoms of all time. The title of the movie refers to phrase that is used in the film when Spaz and Larry are playing tennis, and Larry says "I thought you said you had it, meatball," but outside of its use in song it is not further explained. Rated PG.
U.S. Release Date: June 29, 1979
The film followed the crazy antics of head counsellor Tripper Harrison (Bill Murray) and the counsellors-in-training (CITs) at Camp North Star, a cut-rate summer camp somewhere in the "North Woods". The characters range from reasonably sane, to zany, to screwball.
The main part of the plot involves Rudy Gerner (Chris Makepeace), a lonely kid who is sent away for the summer to attend camp by his father (his mother is not seen), and how he befriends Tripper. Each morning, Tripper and Rudy go jogging and bond as friends. Tripper helps Rudy gain confidence in trying and Rudy gives Tripper the courage to restart his romance with Roxanne (Kate Lynch), the female head counsellor.
Love is also in the air for many CITs. Candace (Sarah Torgov) "kidnaps" Crockett (Russ Banham) in a speedboat and lets out her feelings for him. At the same time, she tells off former boyfriend, senior counsellor Lance Cashman (Ron Barry). Wheels (Todd Hoffman), who had broken up with A.L. (Kristine DeBell) the year before, successfully rekindles their relationship during a dance. The nerdy Spaz (Jack Blum) develops a crush on Jackie (Margot Pinvidic), who sees the heart of gold he really has.
A parallel part of the plot deals with a rivalry with Camp Mohawk, another summer camp across the lake - one with a richer clientèle - and Camp North Star's attempt to come away with, if not outright victory, then at least its very own perverse version of pride, from the yearly "Olympiad" held between Camp North Star and Camp Mohawk.
For the first day of the Olympiad, Mohawk dominates over North Star in all events, using underhanded cheating tactics in some cases or just playing downright dirty as proven in the girls' field hockey game where Jackie suffers a broken ankle at the hands of two Mohawk girls. That night in the North Star Lodge, Tripper gives an all-out speech, telling the crestfallen gang that it should not matter to any of them whether they win or lose.
Day two of the Olympiad belongs to the North Stars, defeating them in the first five events with flying colours, evening the score with a few cheating tactics of their own. With one event left, a 20-point marathon race, North Star is still trailing Mohawk by 10 points. Needing a replacement for the injured Jackie, Tripper elects Rudy as North Star's runner against Horse, Mohawk's star runner. All of the time Rudy spent jogging and training with Tripper throughout the film pays off as he wins the race, albeit by a few inches, giving North Star their first Olympiad victory over Mohawk.
Later that evening, CITs gather around a campfire in which everyone says a final goodbye to each other and hopes to see them again next summer. The film ends with everyone going home on the buses. Roxanne agrees to come live with Tripper as the two of them lead the buses out of camp on a motorcycle.
Release Dates for Other Countries
Meatballs was made at Camp White Pine, and other locations in and around Haliburton, Ontario, Canada a few hours north of Toronto. Many of the extras in the film were actual campers and counselors of the camp, and most if not all locations were actual camp facilities (basketball courts, mess hall, swim docks, cabins, etc.) Parts of the movie were also filmed at Camp Towhee in the Haliburton Highlands of Ontario. I am gathering additional information on this.
The "Visitors Day" scene was actually filmed during the camp's Visitors Day. White Pine also had a similar yearly event to the "Olympiad" -- although rather than being a inter-camp competition, it was an intra-camp relay-type competition that was just part of an overall all-day themed event. These competitions were nicknamed "Mohawk Relays", perhaps serving as inspiration for the name of the rival camp in the movie.
Meatballs received three Genie Asards in 1980:
Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role - Kate Lynch
Best Screenplay, Original - Len Blum, Janis Allen, Daniel Goldberg
Golden Reel Award - Ivan Reitman, Daniel Goldberg
Rereleased on DVD in 1997
In this special edition version of this DVD, the extra features include some insight into Murray, who is somewhat elusive about committing to film projects. Chris Makepeace (left) also talks to the importance of the movie and his role of "Rudy the Rabbit." 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.
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The original music was written by Elmer Bernstein, and musicians contributing to the soundtrack included Mary MacGregor, who performed "Good Friend", David Naughton, performing "Makin' It", and Rick Dees and His Cast of Idiots, who performed the title theme. The former two songs made the Billboard pop charts. Session musicians on the theme included Ed Green on drums and Ron Cook on electric guitar.
Release Date: 01/01/1979
"The original soundtrack for Bill Murray's 1979 summer-camp comedy Meatballs, directed by Ivan Reitman, is a very mixed bag indeed. It's a hodgepodge of everything -- feel-good disco, novelty songs, middle of the road ballads and lush instrumentals. Snippets of Murray's funny dialogue from the alternately zany and touching flick are included too. The highlight is the exuberant disco-pop of “Makin' It" by David Naughton, a singer, dancer and actor known for his Dr Pepper television commercials and starring in the 1981 horror film An American Werewolf in London.
The Meatballs soundtrack is long out of print (but it did make Billboard's Top 200 album chart) and is valuable for the full seven-minute version of “Makin' It" since the edited single hit number five and went gold. Mary MacGregor (“Torn Between Two Lovers") dented the Top 40 with Good Friend," a warm and fuzzy piece of MOR pop. Disc jockey Rick Dees contributes the wacky novelty tune “Meatballs," which wasn't much of a stretch since he had a number one smash with “Disco Duck (Part 1)" in 1976. Terry Black's throaty ballad “Moondust" accompanies the movie's love scenes. “Are You Ready for the Summer" by the Camp North Star Kids Chorus is Meatballs' rowdy, shout-along theme song. Along that same vein, the original cast's “C.I.T. Song" is silly fun."
-- Bret Adams, All Music Guide
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