Endless Bummer: Meatballs Part 2 (1984)


“Meatballs 2” is a weirdly fascinating failure – I mean, not enough to bother watching, in case you were thinking of doing that, but fascinating nonetheless. It’s got a lot of great comic actors (woefully misused). It’s an early example of the “we need to save our camp” sub-genre (done in a really weird way). Oh, and it’s got a Jewish alien dropping his son off on Earth to get a Space-Scouts merit badge (?).


But I’m getting ahead of myself! Part 2 is a movie with no central character. If you’ve seen it before, or if you watch it based on this review (please don’t) tell me who the main character is. It’s not Flash, the Fonz/Bruce Campbell hybrid who we meet first, because he’s not in it enough. It’s not the sweet, virginal Cheryl, as she’s in it even less, even though her and the other girls in her cabin drive most of the plot. It’s not camp owner Giddy, because what teen comedy has an old man star (Richard Mulligan was 52 at the time but looked 10 years older)? It’s not the younger boys and their new alien friend “Meathead”, because they have nothing to do with the rest of the movie until 5 minutes before the end. Hopefully this will illustrate what a curious experience watching this was.


Camp Sasquatch is your traditional good time, healthy outdoor activity camp, run by Giddy with help from bus driver Albert (an already-fairly-famous Paul Reubens) and head counsellor Jamie (Archie Hahn, genuinely brilliant improv comedian). Into this fairly nice place comes Flash, who is sent there as punishment for getting arrested (the days when it was that easy for criminals to get access to children, eh?), a few other undeveloped counsellors and a bunch of kids. The girls decide to help Cheryl see a penis before the end of the summer, and the younger boys – who include future TV producers Scott Nemes and Jason Hervey, oddly enough – meet Meathead the alien and occasionally have pretty low-key adventures with him, mainly centering round his ability to walk through things.


Camp Patton, over the lake, is run by Colonel Hershey and Sergeant Felix Foxglove (an appallingly unfunny homophobically camp turn from John Larroquette, who ought to be ashamed of himself). For absolutely no reason whatsoever, the local Native American owner of the lake sells it to Hershey, and he stops Camp Sasquatch from using the lake. Then, again for no reason, he agrees to a boxing match for sole possession of both camps and the lake, but sabotages Sasquatch’s champion, meaning Flash will have to step in and fight Patton’s champ, Mad Dog. Never mind that Mad Dog is played by the 6’4”, 280lb Donald Gibb whereas Flash is about 5’8” and 170lbs!


As I hope I’ve got across, none of this makes any sense at all. It feels like random bits of plot from about five different movies, just tossed together. Worst of all is the Meathead plot, and there’s a 100% chance it was written in when “ET” (released two years prior) became such a big hit. Because there’s such a prominent role given to the kids and the kid-friendly alien, that leads to the main problem with the movie…


…It’s a sex comedy with no sex in it. The girls have their plan to see “pinkies” (perhaps the only interesting thing about the movie is the driving force for the dirty stuff being women) but it’s all really chaste, with the most exciting thing a bit of kissing right at the end of the movie. No nudity, no dirty jokes, no wacky plans to get drunk or stoned, no nothing.  All we’re left with is a series of anaemic pranks and farce-like scenes, with perhaps the lamest closing joke in movie history.


What makes all of this weirder is knowing who the director is. Ken Wiederhorn, as well as making underwater Nazi zombie classic “Shock Waves”, also directed “King Frat”, perhaps the all-time-great grossness for its own sake movie. What “Meatballs 2” needed was a farting competition! Well, anything other than a boxing match where one of the fighters is levitated by an alien, allowing him to win easily. But honestly, it feels like a movie made by people who’ve completely forgotten what it’s like to be young, rarely offensive in its badness (apart from Larroquette) but never any good either. It’s worse than bad, it’s boring.

MEATBALLS PART II, Paul Reubens, 1984. ©TriStar Pictures

Rating: thumbs down


Youtube Film Club – Sleepaway Camp 2: Unhappy Campers (1988)

This woman's not in the film, in case you were wondering

This woman’s not in the film, in case you were wondering


Much like its predecessor, also reviewed on this site – “Sleepaway Camp 2” is available in its entirety on Youtube. Why not dip into it so my spoiler-heavy review won’t spoil anything?

A group of kids at a different (but relatively nearby) summer camp handily recap the first film for us in the form of a campfire ghost story. There’s no particular reason to have Angela from the first film be in this – it could be a copycat teen with mental health issues, or one of her relatives or something. But no, it’s the same girl, played by a different actress, and they decide to reveal this fact in the first five minutes of the film, which is an interesting idea.


This is the summer camp where every 80s cliché imaginable goes to spend some time. Now, a lot of this review may well be completely false, based on my faulty understanding of summer camps. I always assumed they were mostly populated by kids of 14 and younger, and the rare older kids would be camp counsellors. In this film, it’s almost all older kids, with a few younger ones there to provide a link to the teen raunch movies set at summer camps by trying to take photos of women in the nude (oh, and getting murdered just before the end, but that’s not really a result of them being young). But you’re left with the slightly unsettling feeling of there being five counsellors for every kid, or Angela barking orders at a group of teens who all look older than she does.


Talking about the rules of film is boring, but if you watch enough garbage (85 reviews and counting!) you start to learn them in a rubbish savant sort of way. The way you realise you know them is what happens when you watch a film that doesn’t obey – sometimes, it’s as simple as B needing to follow A for a film to make sense, but on other occasions it’s a bit more complex. In “Sleepaway Camp 2”, you know who the murderer is right from the start, and because we spend so much time with her, and because virtually everyone at the summer camp is a scumbag, our sympathies start to lie with Angela. But there’s a problem there, in that we we never learn why she’s decided to carry on with her career of wholesale murder of people at summer camps, and her reasons for killing people, tenuous at the beginning, just become silly by the end. So we’re really left with no-one to care about, apart from Molly, one of the teenagers who isn’t so much a protagonist as a lucky survivor.


Before I continue – the two leading ladies in this film are relatives of much more famous people – Pamela Springsteen (Bruce’s sister) is Angela, and Renee Estevez, who I think is a cousin or something of Charlie and Emilio, is Molly. Still not as good as the ragtag band of celeb-relatives in “The Roller Blade Seven”, but a respectable showing.


You don’t need me to tell you 90% of the plot of this film. Teens get killed, a lot. There’s a risky reference to Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees and Michael Myers at one point too – it’s one of the strictest rules of cinema:


“If you make a bad movie, don’t have references in it to good ones, as people will just want to go and watch that instead”


“Good” is obviously relative here. Anyway, the thing that intrigues about this movie is the fairly gleeful way Angela goes about her business of punishing people for basically any activity she sees as even slightly bad. Walk around your dorm topless? That’s a killing. Be slightly mean to Angela? That’s a killing. Try and have sex with someone or smoke a joint? You’d better believe that’s a killing.


We find out at the end that Angela was released from the mental institution, and that she had a sex change while she was there. I mean, this is so commonplace in movies that I barely need to mention it – lots of mentally ill teen murderers locked up in mental institutions are given sex changes on the public dime. Now she’s a woman and has gone through all that therapy, and is considered well enough (after committing a lot of murders, lest we forget) she seems to go right back to killing people, with nary a hint of remorse or explanation as to why she does so.


As we drag on towards the film’s inevitable conclusion, there’s some fun to be had. A kid gets stabbed in the leg and then sort-of gives up, lying down and letting Angela kill him (when Angela gets a similar injury near the end, not only does it not seem to bother her all that much but she catches someone who is running for her life and has a start on her). Two teens have sex, and as the woman’s getting up she says “listen, you don’t have AIDS or anything, do you?” Ah, the 80s. There are a couple of classic slasher movie bits – decapitated head placed inside a broken television, our heroine cackles “Have you seen what’s on TV?” and she picks up, tests and discards a series of potential murder weapons before settling on one (a full 6 years before Quentin Tarantino had the same idea for “Pulp Fiction”).


The plumber really went all out

The plumber really went all out

Angela’s fired before she can finish killing everyone, which must have been a bit of a bummer for her – still, she doesn’t let it get her down and kills everyone anyway. Don’t think too hard about the end, because you’ll just get annoyed (I certainly was) and just relish the knowledge that no resolution was gained, the bad guy won easily, and it didn’t so much end as the filmmakers hit 80 minutes of usable footage and went “that’ll do”. Next up, “Sleepaway Camp 3”!!