Bill Murray’s first hit movie was Meatballs in 1979. Five years later, Murray would team up with Meatballs director Ivan Reitman once again and the result was one of the biggest comedy films of all time, Ghostbusters. While that film was still burning up the box office in the summer of 1984, there came an in-name-only sequel to their previous effort. Brace yourselves for Meatballs Part II.
We begin with a bus load of kids on their way to spend the summer at Camp Sasquatch. By the way, our bus is driven by a weirdo in a leather pilot’s helmet played by Paul Reubens (aka Pee-wee Herman). The buses are also filled with horny teenage counselors. Among them is a juvenile delinquent called Flash (John Mengatti) who has been sentenced by a judge to work at the camp for the summer – sure, make the young crooks work with kids, that makes all kind of sense. Also working at the camp this summer is the virginal Cheryl (Kim Richards), whose friends are determined to make sure she sees a “pinky” before the summer is done. It doesn’t take long for her to start making goo-goo eyes at the hunky Flash. Honestly, there seem to be more teenage counselors than there are kids at this summer camp.
There are actually a few kids (including future Wonder Years big brother Jason Hervey), but there is one kid in particular that is, shall we say, unique. This is where the film really goes off the deep end. On the first night of camp, a flying saucer lands in the forest and a young alien is dropped off for summer camp. Once he is discovered by some of the young campers, they dub him Meathead. I’m not joking here, campers.
Meanwhile, the head of the camp, Giddy (Richard Mulligan), is getting all worried because the rival military camp across the lake has struck a deal with the natives who own the land to take over the entire grounds around the lake…which would effectively cause the closing of Camp Sasquatch. But Giddy decides to place a bit of a wager on the annual boxing match between the two camps to see who gets the land. Giddy ends up turning to Flash to win the boxing championship against the rival camp’s champ, Mad Dog (Donald Gibb…Ogre from Revenge of the Nerds).
The original Meatballs is pretty much just a goofy summer camp comedy, and that’s fine. As this film begins it looks like we’re going to be covering similar territory, but it’s clear early on that we’re probably not going to be at the same comedic level. We’ve got no Murray, no Reitman, but that’s not to say we might not get a few fun characters and some laughs. No such luck. Paul Reubens is pretty much the first person we see in this film, sadly he disappears for long sections of the film and when he is on screen is given very little to do. Richard Mulligan is an often solid comedic actor, but again, he’s wasted. I was excited to see Kim Richards show up at the beginning of the film. She was in Disney’s Witch Mountain movies and many TV shows when I was a kid…and I admit always thinking she was kinda cute. My heart broke as I researched for this review and found out that she is now one of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. I could say that a part of my childhood just died, but it would be closer to the truth to say that it swallowed a flaming chainsaw while taking a belly flop off the Seattle Space Needle! Still, she was one of the more appealing characters in this mess.
Had we stuck with the summer camp hijinks, we may have had something salvageable…but then we have the alien. Clearly, the filmmakers were spoofing E.T. here, which had been released just two years earlier. Someone please tell me that this was written by a twelve-year-old! Then I might understand why someone would’ve thought adding this alien character was a good idea. It’s soooooo dumb, and what’s worse is that the alien’s presence plays a major part in the climax of the film.
Meatballs Part II is a disaster, and I haven’t even touched on John Larroquette’s completely unfunny turn as a flamboyant military commander from the camp across the lake. Other than the summer camp setting, this sequel has nothing in common with the original. Primarily because the original IS funny, and this in-name-only sequel most definitely is not.