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‘Meatballs’ at 40: The Good Bad Movie That Launched Bill Murray’s Big-Screen Career

I’m not going to tell you that Meatballs is a great movie. I’m a writer, not a liar. The case to memorialize and celebrate its 40th anniversary — it premiered on June 29, 1979 — is made by cultural, not cinematic importance. “Rock Around the Clock” was not a great song, but it did inspire John Lennon and create a template that better songs followed and, most importantly, it did pave the way for The Beatles. It’s like that with Meatballs, only instead of riots it’s parties and instead of The Beatles it’s Bill Murray. Why Meatballs? Because, without Meatballs, many of us would have had a much more difficult time navigating the first two years of high school.

The plot follows the basic contours of summer — what starts with buses ends with the same, as hundreds of campers arrive and depart the bucolic grounds of Camp North Star, the best bargain in the Twin Pines region. There are cabins, counselors, a mess hall, a director, and contests, in skulduggery and sport, with the rich kids at the camp across the lake — the bastards at Mohawk. There are teenage hookups, pranks and various summer whatnot — all in all, a pretty accurate depiction of camp. I was at Camp Menominee, in Eagle River, Wisconsin, in 1979. My father to my mother: “Do you think Indian parents send their kids to Camp Goldberg?” Read more >

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