Critics Consensus

Meatballs is a summer camp comedy with few surprises, but Bill Murray's riffing adds a spark that sets it apart from numerous subpar entries in a frequently uninspired genre.



Total Count: 33


Audience Score

User Ratings: 28,677
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Movie Info

Set at a low-end summer camp and aimed squarely at a teen audience, Meatballs is a light screwball comedy that turned its low-budget Canadian roots into a very profitable box-office run. The biggest reason for the film's success is Bill Murray who stars as Tripper, the head counselor who runs things at Camp Northstar with the help of his love interest Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and the camp's director Morty (Harvey Atkins), who is affectionately known as Mickey. Camp opens with Tripper and Morty preparing the misfit counselors-in-training -- Spaz, Fink, Crockett, A.L., Candace, Wendy, and Wheels among them -- for the arrival of their hyperactive little charges. After settling in, kids and counselors begin their activities with a soccer game in which depressed 11-year-old Rudy (Chris Makepeace) accidentally loses the game. Cast out by the other children, Rudy runs away only to come across Tripper, who befriends the boy and makes him his running partner. Romance, sexy fun, and comic hijinx -- usually with the heavy-sleeping Morty as their target -- lead up to an annual Olympiad in which Camp Northstar battles the wealthier and athletically superior residents of Camp Mohawk. The challenging events include cup stacking, potato-sack racing, and a nauseating hot dog-eating contest in which the portly Fink devours his way to victory. With the two-day event tied up, it comes down to the cross-country run, in which Tripper enters Rudy. Meatballs was the first major directorial effort by multi-talented filmmaker Ivan Reitman, whose name has since become synonymous with the comedy genre. ~ Patrick Legare, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Meatballs

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (25) | Rotten (8)

  • Through it all, Murray smiles and forges ahead, but his big riffs have been edited down to frantic bursts of mugging.

    Oct 5, 2008 | Full Review…
  • It's difficult to come up with a more cliche situation for a summer pic than a summer camp, where all the characters and plot turns are readily imaginable. That makes director Ivan Reitman's accomplishment all the more noteworthy.

    Jul 24, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • Camp counsellor Tripper (Murray) is a John Belushi clone whose 'charisma' dominates the film's standard wackiness and sentimental story (of a kid who doesn't fit).

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • A cheerful, if not particularly deft, summer-camp comedy.

    Jul 28, 2002 | Full Review…
  • I can't really say Meatballs is a great film, it's a silly, stupid summer movie, and sometimes, that's exactly what you need.

    Aug 22, 2017 | Full Review…
  • For those of you that are big fans of the cult comedy hit Wet Hot American Summer, Meatballs is the summer camp movie it parodied the most, even though Meatballs had a bigger heart and was strictly PG.

    Sep 4, 2012 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Meatballs

  • Jul 08, 2017
    With a tip of the hat to Robert Altman's M.A.S.H,, we join 'the other guys'(who are not rich, or privileged, or anything like that) kids at summer camp as they learn important life lessons like 'we ARE just as good as the rich and privileged kids' and 'we may not have masseuses or chauffeurs but we still know how to have fun'. Bill Murray struggles under the onus of being this camp's Hawkeye Pierce, needing to be 'wacky' in nearly every scene. I smiled once, I think, catching sight of a cochroach leaving the theater.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Apr 09, 2017
    I was somewhat surprised to see a 75% rating on RT, and I'm almost certain that was NOT the reception it received from critics in 1979. This movie, if I am not mistaken, was almost universally panned by critics back then. I don't know if people are sentimental about this movie, or if our standards and mindsets have changed. In any event, Meatballs is actually a very sweet film, unfairly criticized as an Animal House-type rip off. It's actually not very vulgar, or sexy, or offensive at all. Perhaps in 1979, people were more easily shocked? Meatballs features Bill Murray in his very first lead roll, and he carries the movie from start to finish. The history of how this movie got made, and how Murray was hardly a lock to play Tripper is worth a Google. Ivan Reitman wanted a shot at directing a teen comedy after he was denied the director's chair on Animal House. He produced it instead, and when given the chance, soon after directed Meatballs. This movie most likely would be long forgotten had Murray passed on it. However, there is just enough goofy camp situations and supporting character development to make this movie worth while. What is most surprising about this movie is how sentimental and sweet it really is. You have to be a fairly cynical person to dislike the harmlessness of this film. It isn't a great film by any means, but it manages to be a little touching, a little funny, and is very easy to watch. This is a good choice for young teenagers who desperately want to see Porky's or Animal House, but aren't old enough for that just yet. A nice effort from a virtual novice (in film) from Murray, the SNL newbie and National Lampoon alum. Worth a spot in the genre's hall of fame. Honorable mention, anyway.
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Jul 05, 2012
    I can see that it may have been an old fashioned classic, but I can't help to find many flaws in this film. It was not funny, acting was bad, campy indeed and the script was retarded, it may be funny in the past, but the blue comedy certainly didn't work, especially swearing in front of children??
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Mar 18, 2012
    [img][/img] Meatballs is by no means, an Ivan Reitman/Bill Murray classic. However, it has got quite a few funny moments and an energetic Murray leading the camp. The best thing about it though, was that I had a smile on my face that never faded away when I was watching it.
    Directors C Super Reviewer

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