Endless Bummer: Meatballs Part 2 (1984)

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“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.

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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!

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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

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My Boyfriend’s Back (1993)



Directed by: Bob Balaban

The only reason I watched ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ because I thought about doing a bit on the early work of Philip Seymour Hoffman. Hoffman, credited in this movie minus the ‘Seymour’, plays a jock stooge. He gets a handful of lines and ends up receiving a fireman’s axe through his head. There aren’t many glimpses of the greatness to come; in fact, his performance is part of a film that I would describe as a mediocre disappointment.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’, likely named after the popular sixties song from The Angels, is not appropriately titled because technically speaking, Missy McCloud, the love interest in this movie, is not actually in a relationship with the film’s undead hero Johnny when he is alive. So really the title really makes no sense.

Knowingly bad, ‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ doesn’t take itself seriously; it’s almost like one of those campy Elvira films, minus the sassy innuendos. The film’s story goes something like this – Johnny is a senior in High School, he’s been pining over Missy McCloud for twelve years and one day dreams of getting with her, his main ambition is to take her to the prom. Blocking his path is Buck, Missy’s ex-boyfriend, played by ‘Lost’ star Matthew Fox. The second obstacle comes when Johnny and his friend decide to win over Missy by setting up a situation where Johnny stops a fake robbery at the convenience store where Missy works, proving himself to be a hero, who is willing to put his life on the line for her. Unfortunately for Johnny a real criminal decides to hold up the convenience store. Johnny takes a bullet during the robbery that was intended for Missy.

Johnny dies and comes back as a zombie. In most films there’d be this whole adjustment period where Johnny takes a while to come to terms with his undead state, but nobody really bats an eyelid, and life pretty much goes back to normal for him. The only familiar zombie trope is that he is susceptible to losing body parts. There are a few funny lines around these scenes, including one from Johnny’s Mom, who says “Are you hungry? There’s a lot of food leftover from your funeral”.

The films turns into a sweetish love story, as Missy, seemingly turned on by dead men falls head over heels for Johnny. The film meanders quite a bit from here, and becomes rather boring, ending with a predictable happy ever after finale.

‘My Boyfriend’s Back’ knows it’s not the greatest movie in the world, but it is a fun little afternoon time killer that doesn’t enrage the viewer. Andrew Lowery, who plays the lead Johnny, acted in a trilogy of teen movies in the early nineties. As well as this movie he also had roles in ‘Buffy The Vampire Slayer’ and ‘School Ties’, he didn’t go on to much after that, which is a shame because he’s a charming presence. The trouble is the supporting cast are patchy, and underwritten. Buck the jock is not a constant thorn in Johnny’s side, the best friend character exists on the periphery and all the best lines come from Johnny’s unconditionally loving parents.

– RJW
4/10

My Boyfriend’s Back on IMDB