Meatballs Parent Guide
Dated, awkward, and frequently obscene, Meatballs doesn’t offer much in the way of family entertainment.
Parent Movie Review
Camp North Star is a discount summer camp, held together by chewing gum and duct tape - when they can find it. Owned by the frazzled Morty Melnick (Harvey Atkin) and run largely by his deranged camp counselor Tripper (Bill Murray), kids at camp can expect three months of uninterrupted chaos. But when Tripper notices that one of the new kids, Rudy (Chris Makepeace), is struggling to fit in, he makes it his job to make sure that Rudy has a good time. With the help of fellow counsellor Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and their counsellors-in-training, Tripper sets out to make this summer at Camp North Star the best one yet.
Right off the bat, this is an older movie, and its age is showing. No, not the outfits, although those are soaked with the fashion stench of the 70’s; it’s the sense of what is appropriate in a kid/teen comedy. The frequent and awkward sexual innuendo makes this grossly unsuitable for kids (and almost anyone else), and one scene which is played for laughs sees Tripper essentially sexually assaulting one of his co-workers. Not terribly funny. The only reason Meatballs got away with a “PG” rating from the MPAA is that PG-13 wasn’t introduced until 1984, five years after this film’s release.
What this movie has that you don’t usually find in modern teen comedies is a surprising heart. It’s not a great comedy, but Tripper’s efforts to include Rudy are genuinely touching. Seeing Bill Murray go out of his way to be a friend for a lonely kid is downright lovely. Murray’s mix of avuncular affability and complete freewheeling insanity is easily the best part of the movie. It’s a shame the rest of the movie fluctuates between goofy and unpleasant.
It’s a classic summer comedy, with a great set (shot on location at Camp White Pine in Ontario, which still offers full summer camps), but the execution falls apart. Dated, awkward, and frequently obscene, Meatballs doesn’t offer much in the way of family entertainment. Bill Murray does his best to keep things moving, but it’s not worth sitting through the rest of the movie for his highlights.Directed by Ivan Reitman. Starring Bill Murray, Harvey Atkin, and Kate Lynch. Running time: 94 minutes. Theatrical release June 29, 1979. Updated March 30, 2020
Watch the trailer for Meatballs
Rating & Content Info
Why is Meatballs rated PG? Meatballs is rated PG by the MPAAViolence: Individuals are occasionally mildly injured during practical jokes. An individual suffers a broken ankle in a sports accident.
Sexual Content: There are frequent scenes of sexual dialogue and innuendo, much of which involves teenagers in the presence of younger children. In a scene played for laughs, a man sexually harasses a woman and physically assaults her. One scene includes skinny dipping and implied sex. Teenagers are heard reading aloud from an explicit romance novel.
Profanity: There are four instances of scatological cursing and occasional terms of deity and mild profanity.
Alcohol / Drug Use: There is a reference to teenagers smoking cigarettes. Some adult characters are shown drinking champagne.
Page last updated March 30, 2020
Meatballs Parents' GuideWhen Tripper sees that Rudy is having a hard time, he makes a special effort to make him feel welcome. What does Tripper do for Rudy? Have you known or do you know someone like Rudy? What did you do to help them? What can you do in the future?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Not everything that happens in the Canadian wilderness is fun: Hatchet, by Gary Paulson, tells the fascinating story of Brian Robeson, a young boy who is stranded in the Canadian wilderness after a plane crash, leaving him to survive with only his wits and a hatchet.
In The Broken Blade by William Durbin, Pierre quits school to sign on with the voyageurs of the North West Company, trading furs up the Great Lakes from Lachine. Along the way, he bonds with his fellow voyageurs and learns some valuable skills along the rivers and lakes of eastern Canada.
Beverly Cleary brings her warmhearted storytelling style to summer camp in Runaway Ralph. The titular mouse goes to Happy Acres Camp and spends his time avoiding cats and making friends. Suitable for elementary school readers.
For a little more zip, middle schoolers can check out Stuart Gibbs’ Spy Camp. The protagonist, Ben, is a teen training for the CIA and has adventures at camp that are unlike anything your kids are going to experience. Thank goodness.
Homeschooling parents decide to run a summer camp for creative kids in Applewhites at Wit’s End. Author Stephanie Tolan sets up a chaotic, hysterical novel for middle school readers.
Also for middle schoolers is Camp Average by Craig Battle. Camp Avalon’s campers aren’t sporty or musical or outstanding in any way that they can see. When a new director wants to make them excel at sports, the kids push back and start losing on purpose.
The most recent home video release of Meatballs movie is April 1, 2020. Here are some details…
Related home video titles:
What About Bob? stars Bill Murray as the insane but well-intentioned Bob, a deeply neurotic man who finds himself heavily dependent on his therapist…even when his therapist leaves town for his summer vacation.
The horror movie version of this is Friday the 13th, in which some ill-behaved camp counselors at the infamous Campy Crystal Lake are confronted with a psychotic killer with a grudge.
A hapless father decides to run a summer camp in the hopes of strengthening his relationship with his son in Daddy Day Camp.
Space Camp follows the adventures of teens attending a NASA summer camp. All seems unremarkable until the kids are accidentally launched into orbit.
Made for TV movie Camp Rock, sends a group of kids to a summer workshop for wannabe musicians.