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Meatballs

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Meatballs Movie Poster Image
Quaint summer camp comedy has sex on the brain.
  • PG
  • 1979
  • 93 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 3 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 1 review

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Amidst much childish behavior, an older character helps a younger one find his confidence. The boy overcomes the challenge of his own shyness and insecurity by finding something he's good at. The camp counselor's unorthodox behavior makes an otherwise dull place fun.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Rudy is a model for shy, insecure boys everywhere. When he shows up at camp, he suffers the ridicule of the other boys and wants to give up and go home. But with a bit of courage, he eventually finds something he's good at; he finds his confidence and begins to connect with those around him. Tripper is almost a role model; he helps Rudy, but is also the instigator of childish behavior, pranks, and general irresponsibility.

Violence

A few pranks, as well as quick images of boxing and wrestling matches between camps.

Sex

The movie has almost constant innuendo, sex-related jokes, and scenes of men ogling women in bikinis. Several characters kiss. There's no nudity, but two main characters are overheard, off-screen, after having sex. The actual act is not depicted in any way. There's a joke about "sexual awareness week" in which the children would be given access to hookers, and the winner would be allowed to "rape and pillage." In another scene, the main character wrestles with a woman in a flirty way; he bites her on the behind, she screams for him to stop, and he pretends that she has been attacking him.

Language

Language mostly includes sexual innuendo like "sex," "boobs," "nookie," "get laid," "boner," and "panty raid." A character is called a "dick." Other words include "mofo," and "hell."

Consumerism

Characters drink Schweppes soda water and practice burping. A Planters "Mr. Peanut" doll is visible in the background during one scene.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Older characters sing a song about smoking and drinking, but these things are never shown.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Meatballs is a sexual-innuendo-filled summer camp comedy from 1979, featuring 29 year-old Bill Murray. Even though it has young kids in it, it's intended for teen and adult viewers. There's no actual nudity, and no sex scenes, although two characters are heard speaking, off-screen, after they've had sex. But male characters ogle women in bikinis, and think and talk about sex almost constantly. There's a questionable spoken joke about children visiting hookers, and an uncomfortable scene in which a man jokingly attacks a woman (she doesn't think it's funny). Aside from sexual references, language includes things like "dick" and "hell." A camp counselor song includes a line about drinking and smoking, though these things are not shown in the movie. Irreverent at the time, the movie feels old-fashioned today. Older viewers will have a nostalgic fondness for it, but younger viewers may not be convinced.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 8 and 12 year old Written byTeenagerinthe80s June 23, 2014

A funny underdog movie

This is a funny underdog movie looking at Rudy who is a shy first time camper that shines in the end and makes friends. There are some iffy parts of the movie... Continue reading
Parent of an infant and 1 year old Written byMommaOfTwoo November 21, 2012

no thanks.

Way too many 'sexual innuendos' for children! While Bill Murray may be comical, the way the movie revolves around sex is not.
Teen, 16 years old Written byBestPicture1996 July 16, 2012

Pleasantly small with a big dose of Murray

Obviously this movie wouldn't have been quite the same without the presence of Bill Murray, who not only provides the film its best laughs, but serves as a... Continue reading

What's the story?

It's time for summer at Camp North Star. Head counselor Tripper (Bill Murray) plans to make it a good one. His agenda includes chasing the pretty lady counselor Roxanne (Kate Lynch) and playing nighttime pranks on owner Morty (Harvey Atkin). He also spends some extra time with shy kid Rudy (Chris Makepeace), encouraging him to take up running as a way to boost his confidence. When it comes time for the annual Olympiad, a competition with the rich, mean camp across the lake, it's up to Rudy to participate in the make-or-break final event. Does the camp's dignity hang in the balance?

Is it any good?

Ivan Reitman directs his first of four movies with Bill Murray, and he instantly understands how to give the great comic actor room to mess around. It's Murray's spontaneity that gives the movie its lifeblood. But Murray also shows an early, rare example of onscreen tenderness, in his scenes with the shy boy Rudy (Chris Makepeace, who went on to play a similar role in My Bodyguard). Murray clowns with the boy, but it comes from a place of genuine caring.

However, Murray's star power outshines most of the rest of the cast, and Reitman can't seem to find a balance for the rest of the movie. Its sweet, serious scenes come at awkward moments, and take up a bit too much of the final stretch. And its supposedly raucous, irreverent humor feels deliberately held back at times. This is odd, since National Lampoon's Animal House raised the bar for movie comedy just a year earlier. But on the other hand, Meatballs has a low-key tone that feels just right for summertime viewing.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's sexual content. How accurate is the movie's portrayal of the way the guys talk and think about sex? How do the male and female characters approach the topic of sex differently?

  • Is Tripper a role model despite his irresponsible behavior? How did his guidance help Rudy? Have you ever met someone like Tripper who's helped you in some way?

  • Which characters grow or change or learn something over the summer? Which characters do not?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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