Friday, June 22, 2007

Movie Log: Meatballs

I'm still re-watching the comedies of my youth; I'm incorrigible. Sunday night saw me running through Meatballs again, which I'd probably last seen some weekend afternoon in the mid-80s on TBS. A new 2-disc "special edition" has just been released (with a bad, jumbled cover, unfortunately, dropping the important-to-the-plot-and-marketing-campaign T&A of previous releases), after a few years of the movie being unavailable, which is the reason I saw it now.

As is becoming common with movies of this era, I'm struck by how "mature" (and, yes, I am using that word loosely, and to describe a very adolescent comedy) movies of the late '70s and early '80s were with regard to sex. And I expect the reason this is surprising is that these are the movies that outraged the various right-wing pressure groups, so we got the PG-13 rating and a ratings panel that casts its beady eye over anything vaguely sexual. (On the other hand, for a movie about summer camp, probably aimed at pre-teens, Meatballs does have a lot of mildly racy material -- starting with the original movie poster, which I've stuck in over to the left. I can't remember how much of that flew over my head when I saw it at about the age of ten, but I don't think I'd want to watch it with my nine-year-old. And, as I recall, I saw and enjoyed quite a lot of female toplessness, both on Cinemax and in R-rated theater movies that I sort-of snuck into, in the early '80s when I was a young teen. Double standard? Maybe; I'll have to think about it. And is this the point to mention that my church's Sexuality class took us all to see a movie...and it was Porky's? Sometimes I miss the '80s.)

Anyway, Meatballs is a loose, good-natured comedy of its era, which means the script is just a collection of scenes in chronological order, and the good guys are explicitly poorer and lower-class than the villains. (When did we lose that in modern movie comedies? When did we start cheering for the assholes? Can I blame Adam Sandler for this, or do we need to go back to Jim Carrey or further?) Even more interesting, in the modern era of movies-by-template, Meatballs's most famous line is an admission that, even if the heroes do manage to beat their competition, as unlikely as it might be, it "just doesn't matter." (Furthermore, Bill Murray, who chants that, and the rest of the cast, who pick up on it, and the movie as a whole believes that. In 1979, even a silly adolescent comedy was deeply cynical -- now, that was my era.)

Meatballs wasn't quite the movie I remembered, but then I hadn't seen it for a long time, so I'd forgotten a lot of it. (I'd forgotten the kid hero was Christopher Makepeace, for one thing.) The camp milieu seems incredibly authentic (and the commentaries mention that it was filmed, for budget reason, during the last two weeks of a session in a northern Ontario camp, meaning all of the extras are real campers and counselors), and almost makes me wish I'd gone to camp myself. (I went to Boy Scout camp once, for a week, and loathed it -- it made me not only hate camp, but immediately quite Scouting. Not that I was much of a joiner to begin with...) And this is one of the great early Bill Murray roles, as he takes over every scene he's in and gets off at least a dozen classic lines.

Oh, one last thing that's been bugging me. The counselors are called "C.I.T.s" in the movie, but I don't remember the acronym ever being spelled out. I suspect it stands for "Counselors In Training," but they seemed to be just plain counselors. Anybody know what CIT really means? (Did I miss an incredibly obvious line of dialogue at the beginning?)


Anonymous said...

CIT is definitely "counselor in training" -- they're generally kids who started out as campers and have attended the camp for a few years. They make the transition to counselor as a CIT, kind of bridging the gap between counselor and camper. A CIT is usually a bit younger, as well as "cooler" and more permissive, than a straight up counselor, which is probably why the folks in "Meatballs" are CITs.

/long explanation by someone who spent a few summers at sleepaway camp :)


Anonymous said...

I was going to say what juliet said, but I had a couple more things, too.

We discussed N.M.Browne's Basilisk in book group last Saturday and the Catholic families were appalled that it was YA because there's mention of rape and torture in them. The rape and torture are not described, but they are definitely implied and other people say "rape" and "torture."

The only church I know that has a Sexuality class is the UU. LJ user Rivka is teaching her church's next year.

juliet, if you happen to read this, you can click on Other below the comment text box and just put your name in. That way it will show at the top and you don't have to sign it in the comment.

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