Endless Bummer: Oddballs (1984)

These people aren't in the movie

These people aren’t in the movie

This movie answers the all-important question “what would it be like it Zucker, Abrahams and Zucker made a summer camp movie, while they were high?” I can think of no better way of describing this, yet another in the line of Canadian mid-80s teen comedies (no raunch in this one, unless you count the times when a bunch of young teens stare at fully clothed women).

The plot, such as it is, relates to some kids going to camp. Shocker! I wonder if I’m intrigued by this genre thanks to Britain’s complete lack of anything similar? I mean, we had weekends away with the Scouts when I was a kid, but it’s not the same. Anyway, Camp Bottomout, which was “won” by Hardy Bassett (Foster Brooks, a man who’s made a career out of being able to act drunk) after losing a card game, is sort of run down and is entirely populated by 13-14 year old boys. The evil camp across the lake (shocker again!), full of 16-18 year old girls, wants to take over the camp for, you know, the generic reasons these things happen in these sorts of movies. And that’s all the plot you need!

 

Every millisecond of this movie is crammed with jokes, or at least attempts to make people laugh. I’ll give you three phrases, and I’ll bet you’ll be able to guess just how they were used in this movie – “cat burglar”, “illegal aliens”, and “raining cats and dogs” (the cats and dogs thing is achieved by the camp bus running into a vet’s van, which is quite funny I suppose). The sound guy’s “wacky comedy sound effects vol.1” LP must have been worn out by the end of filming too, as approximately every ten seconds, someone will fall over, pull  a stupid face, see an attractive woman or something of that sort, and the “boi-oi-oing!” sound will let us know that yes, that was supposed to be a joke we just saw. The laws of physics are treated as an inconvenience, giving everything the flavour of a particularly gross cartoon.

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They ignore the rule of three though, sadly. Hardy fires into the air (accidentally) a lot, and the first two times it happens he brings down the Wicked Witch of the West , then Mary Poppins. They needed that third shooting! Quite a few of the jokes are bizarrely misjudged or just too strange to be funny, though. A couple of bushes get set on fire, and out of a nearby tent runs a Moses lookalike, shouting and gesticulating for a few seconds before disappearing from the movie. Camp Bottomout hires a Phys Ed guy called Billy Wankey (!), who’s a convicted child molester – Hardy justifies this by saying he’ll work for free; although Wankey dies during an aerobics session after doing amyl nitrate and ogling the barely pubescent boys. Played for laughs! Lastly, head counsellor Laylo Nardeen (Mike McDonald, a decent comic actor) runs a seduction class, having a written a book about how to pick up women (which he charges the boys for) – with the kids being so young, and trying to hit on adult women, it just doesn’t work.

 

As the movie meanders to its inevitable “let’s save the camp” conclusion (although Hardy instantly accepting the first offer to sell the place is pretty funny), the law of averages tells us that at least some of the jokes will be great. A flashback is about to happen and both actors in the scene notice the scene is going wobbly; there’s a total “Airplane” gag (“town? What’s that?” “It’s like a city, only smaller”); and there’s an advert for Bergman’s “Cries and Whispers” at the camp too.

Good old Billy Wankey

Good old Billy Wankey

Like any movie of this sort, the only way to judge it is on hitrate, and this movie manages to get plenty of “hits” by being utterly relentless, and partly by breaking the fourth wall almost constantly. And I’m not just being positive because someone has a Pekingese puppy in this movie and I am the proud owner of Charlie the Pekingese! Even if you ignore all the jokes, it’s still a really weird plot for a movie. A drunk finds himself in charge of a summer camp and decides he’ll hold off on killing himself til the end of the season. His head counsellor takes the kids to a bar and, happy with them drinking and smoking, helps them hit on drunk women. The boys are much younger than the girls. There are no boobs.

 

I think this is worth watching, just for the sheer oddity of it all. An all-out comedy with not a single concession for plot or good taste. And you can watch it for free too!

Canuxploitation Review- Oddballs

Rating: thumbs up

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