Camp(y) classic Meatballs returns to ICT screen

Camp(y) classic Meatballs returns to ICT screen

ATTENTION CAMPERS: Meatballs was Bill Murray's first staring role. The outrageous clothes he wore were his own.

Hey, kids, summer's here and it's time for movie camp. While this year's summer movie season doesn't have any real notable comedies coming, it doesn't mean that you can check out a classic summer flick at the Palace Theater this weekend. What's coming is a special bonus screening of the summer camp film classic, Meatballs.

Prior to Meatballs, Bill Murray had been a featured player on Saturday Night Live, but the burden of being Chevy Chase's replacement largely undermined his talents to audiences. Eventually, he grew into his own and landed with Ivan Reitman, co-producer of National Lampoon's Animal House, who took on the task of directing Murray in his first starring role. Another Animal House alumni, co-writer Harold Ramis, also co-wrote Meatballs and became a frequent collaborator with Murray and Reitman.

Murray's role as an irresponsible summer camp counselor in a camp full of wacky hijinks serves as a great foundation for a film that would have otherwise fallen flat.

There was some doubt that Murray would even show up to the set for the film. Reitman said that the film would have been cancelled if Murray had not appeared. Murray's line of work is based largely off of improvisation. It's a blessing that the supporting cast was willing to play off of Murray's hilarious personality, which shines through here and subsequently in Stripes, Caddyshack, Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day (all penned by Ramis and directed by either Ramis or Reitman).

Meatballs also has the distinction of starting the summer camp film genre. Sure, there have always been tales from camp, notably the Allan Sherman song "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah," but it had never been captured on film in the manner that made Animal House successful, a feat for a PG rated film. Many tropes associated with summer camp are depicted here — particularly the in-camp practical joke wars, teen crushes and other-camp rivalries — and have been repeated several times to lesser success in films like Ernest Goes to Camp, Heavyweights and Wet Hot American Summer.

The slapstick summer camp nostalgia runs this weekend at the Palace Theatre, 535 S. Ridge Circle, Friday and Saturday nights at 6:45, 9, 11:05. Tickets are $3.50.