Meatballs isn’t really a movie. Sure, it’s shot on film, has actors, and other elements, but it’s more of a time capsule. It’s hard to have a film without a story, and Meatballs doesn’t carry one.
This Bill Murray starring vehicle is grounded, Murray’s counselor character Tripper taking notice a loner kid Rudy (Chris Makepeace) and working him into the social hierarchy. That’s something, building at least the essence of character and making Tripper a better counselor than the expectation. The final third concerns a competitive Olympic event with a rival camp, concluding not only Rudy’s arc but the low-end camps losing streak.
Those glimpses are just that – glimpses. Despite four writing credits, much of Meatballs feels like improv to push Murray into the spotlight. Even before his ’80s prime, he has enough charms liven up this sleepy little flick where the goofy mishaps are only passable, harmless fun.
More or less, Meatballs exists as a flashback to an era before technology took over. The kids all have an innocence (and counselors raging hormones) that doesn’t fall back on anything other than outdoor interaction. Sadly, the audience for this one, the kids who grew up during the era, is dwindling as new generations take over.
The fact that Meatballs has aged is arguably its most endearing element. It survives on nostalgia, although its difficult to see the piece surviving on much else. If John Landis’ Animal House captured the college experience, Ivan Reitman’s Meatballs nails the summer camp antics of the day. The difference is that college remains about sex, booze, and drugs. Summer camps are now pits of young despair, where technology is taken away in a connected world. That, or places where hatchet killers wander the forest seeking teenage prey… or so we’re told.
Meatballs comes from Lionsgate in an AVC package from a source that appears in relatively great condition. There are a handful of splotches, scratches, and specks of dirt to contend with, although nothing severe as to impede on the viewing. Damage has been minimized. The worst of it comes during the final marathon run as Rudy enters the forest. The specks pick up and become a bit of a bother, disappearing as the race concludes.
Hitting harder is a rough, coarse grain structure, which in theory shouldn’t exhibit any outstanding concerns. The compression isn’t up to it though, spikes breaking down into chroma noise or awash with other artifacts. Logically, there’s an inherent quality loss when that occurs. So many moments of Meatballs look marvelous with their bold sharpness and precise resolution. It’s a shame all it takes is a mild spike to dampen that.
There are concerns of saturation too, the bright oranges and reds swallowing their portion of the screen, while bleeding ever so slightly into others. Primaries are running a bit out of control, undoubtedly in an effort to make them look blazing in hi-def, and artificially convince some users of image quality. Amping up color and contrast are the simplest ways to draw in the eye, and it’s certainly easier than a full on accurate color timing.
That said, not much seems to have been done to the contrast, which retains a straight, standard level. Outdoors, the natural sunlight isn’t bleaching any detail, and indoors, the black levels will hold their own, if without too much effort. They can be considered passive supporters to the contrast.
Keeping it simple with a DTS-HD mono 2.0 mix, Lionsgate seems to have cleaned up the elements and left the rest to fate. Good for them, because it sounds great. The songs, many sung entirely by groups of kids, don’t lose their kick on the high-end. Fidelity is top notch. Any signs of aging is smooth, natural, and pleasing.
Even dialogue has a pristine, clear quality to it. Defects are non-existent, I.e, no hissing, scratches, or pops. Video has two counted dropped frames, and the audio keeps rolling without any hiccups. Sure, the content isn’t challenging, but it’s material like this that can make catalog titles easy listening.
With the exception of a trailer and a commentary featuring director Ivan Reitman and writer/producer Daniel Goldberg, the Meatballs Blu-ray debut is barren in the bonus deparment.
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