Shelf of Shame: Comedy Edition – Meatballs (1979)

Shelf of Shame Comedy

This Canadian summer camp comedy is the perfect movie to watch at the start of this season and a great way to understand why Bill Murray would become such a champion of the genre.  Murray is ALWAYS on in this movie, almost mugging a little too hard and never settling down for an honest moment, but the movie wouldn’t survive without it. I’d say it sacrifices story for antics and vignettes, but it isn’t really reaching for anything beyond making you laugh here and there. But it definitely has heart, thanks mostly to the good nature of Murray’s Tripper Harrison, especially when he spends time with shy outcast Chris Makepeace and encourages him to run the camp Olympiad (also another great example of the nurturing and irreverent 1970s when adults could harmlessly joke around with kids: “Let’s go get laid before the race.”). The structure definitely reminds me of “Caddyshack” in that we’re stuck in this place for an hour and a half and we could wind up with nearly any character at any moment, and story only surfaces when it reminds itself it’s a  movie after all. But this doesn’t have nearly as many memorable characters, nor does it give them opportunities to become that. Still, a harmless and fun time. Best just to see unfiltered Murray charisma and potential.

Grade: B-

Does it belong to your Shelf of Shame? Only if it’s a “Bill Murray Essentials” project. This is by no means a disappointment, but I wouldn’t call it essential comedy viewing.

Up next: Midnight Run (1988)

  • SOME LIKE IT HOT (greatest comedy ever? need to see more Billy Wilder)
  • MEATBALLS (set Bill Murray’s film career in motion, created a legend)
  • A SHOT IN THE DARK (many including my dad call the best Pink Panther)
  • SULLIVAN’S TRAVELS (need to see more Preston Sturges)
  • MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE (seen the other Python, gotta complete it)
  • EDDIE MURPHY RAW (is this the best standup movie ever?)
  • MIDNIGHT RUN (always stared at me in video stores)
  • THE APARTMENT (again with the Wilder, plus a best picture winner I haven’t seen)
  • WITHNAIL & I (gotta represent the cult classics, one I just keep hearing about)
  • SILVER STREAK (always wanted to see a Richard Pryor/Gene Wilder flick)