This was not too much of a surprise when it comes to expectations. It is exactly as I remebered it, a rather gentle summer comedy with a vivid Bill Murray and a cast of unknowns. This came out in the Summer of 1979, which as far as I was concerned was one on the great summers of my life. I had graduated from USC, was getting ready to go back for grad school and did not have or need a job. I had some money saved and I decided to spend most of the summer in the pool. Dolores had a new job and I picked her up after work most of the summer, but that meant that my afternoons were my own and this movie was one of those lazy summer afternoons in 1979. I probably swam in the morning, saw the movie in the early afternoon, went back home and got in the pool, then picked up Dee and went to get food.
Bill Murray stars in his first movie and plays the character that he played in a dozen films since. He is a smartass, quickwitted slouch, who doesn’t fit in but everyone looks to as a leader(Stripes, Ghostbusters). This movie has a very genial feel to it. It is a couple of years away from the 80’s and the need for nudity to sell even mainstream comedies. There are a few references that are risque, but I have heard much worse in a single episode of Two and a Half Men.
There is not a lot of plot, kids and councelors at a summer camp for eight weeks. They learn about each other, they bond, hijinks ensue and there is a underdog sports theme to boot. No one is out of control and the pranks play as normal practical jokes rather than the kind of actions that demand hideous revenge. There are two or three great scences between Bill and the kid played by Chris Makepeace. These display a nice understanding of what counts for warmth that is not maudlin. Actually all the actors get a couple of good bits. The difference between yesterday’s disappointment and todays little jewel is not the caliber of actors but the tone of the story. This movie meanders it’s way to the conclusion also, but it is a pleasant walk thru a forrest compared to Nashville’s nightmare trek down an urban alley at night with money hanging out of your back pocket. No one is going to get mugged by Meatballs, it won’t change the world, just your foul mood.