Canadian film

Meatballs

Summer camps in these parts function as a dumping ground — parents unload their kids, and breathe a sigh of relief for a few months sans brats. Meatballs is a fairly accurate representation of the summer camp experience — the frequently awkward gender dynamics, raging hormones, idiotically competitive mandatory “fun,” and crappy food.

Summer camp in Southern Ontario was a mixed bag for the authors of this site. It was frequently a rewarding, eye-opening experience featuring all sorts of novel activities, from kayaking to sack races… However, there was a dark side too, especially if friends weren’t immediately made.

And the summer camp / prison similarities weren’t lost on us: In both, people are sent there against their will; there are fractured group dynamics; cliques are formed for self-preservation; lunch is a large, communal experience (with frequently bad food); authority figures are looked at askance; and there are strictly enforced curfews…

In the 1979 Ivan Reitman production that is Meatballs, we catch a small glimpse of the movie star Chicagoan Bill Murray would become. Here he’s Tripper, an aging wiseacre camp counselor who treats his job with as little earnestness as he can possibly muster, who openly mocks the kitchen mystery meat during his morning camp announcements.

He befriends loser/social outcast, Rudy (Chris Makepeace), a slight, effeminate wallflower who’s picked on by his Lord of the Flies fellow campers. Together, they play small-stakes card games (literally, for “peanuts”) and bond over long-distance running. All the while, Murray’s Tripper amuses his young pal with age-inappropriate jokes that’d be kiboshed in today’s era of hyper-sensitivity.

And like period kid movies, Meatballs features the usual assemblage of near-80s archetypes: jocks, hot girls, nerds, fatties, loners, etc.

Dueling camps (and their counselors/counselors-in-training) go at it for all the glory, Camp North Star (the relatable middle-class good-guys/gals) VS. Camp Mohawk (the stuck-up, attractive, older, richy-riches).

Ultimately, Rudy comes out of his shell to win it for our heroes.

Meatballs recedes when Murray’s not in the frame, but when he is…things come alive.

*** (out of 5)

[Listen to our podcast about Meatballs on the Really Awful Movies Podcast]

The Vindicator

vindicator_movie_posterFilm School Rejects dismissed The Vindicator as  a”formless blob…a RoboCop ripoff.” We’re not hear to um, vindicate it, but it’s worth noting that this on-the-cheap Canadian techno-action-thriller predates the Paul Verhoeven film by a year and a half…

And it’s not like RoboCop doesn’t share stuff in common with early comic versions of Judge Dredd.

However, there are key differences between RoboCop and this film: boom mics in the frame, Canadian production values, tenebrous cinematography that resembles Bruno Mattei in his sub-prime, and the fact that RoboCop is still in print…

In The Vindicator, ARC is a sinister corporation, headquartered in an unnamed city, but which fans of tax shelter Canadiana will instantly recognize as Montreal. They’re developing “rage program” serum being tested on chimps (and we’ve seen that movie before! That’s Monkey Shines/Link/Shakma territory, primate-run-amok films which have made monkeys of us in the past).

However, being evil and all, ARC Corp does have other stuff in the innovation pipeline: a super high tech space suit, but more interestingly, Japanese technology which suspends grey matter in an oxygenating fluid to keep it viable. When a lab explosion claims the life of rockstar scientist Carl Lehman (who’s certainly no layman) ARC’s top-dog Alex Whyte figures they’ve got a recently still-warm body to test out their technology.

vindicator_movie_Now, if you weren’t already aware of the similarities to Frankenstein, The Vindicator pummels you over the head with it, as the evil corporation’s venture is none other than “Project Frankenstein.”

That won’t arouse suspicions at all!

The company builds Carl a cyborg body, and tries to re-animate him with rage serum, with a remote control safeguard. Unfortunately, there’s a short circuit..and a big fire! The gold lamé space suit burns away, leaving this proto-RoboCop looking somewhat less like an Austin Powers villain.

Cyborg Carl escapes…high-tails into an alley, beats up a bunch of Francophone motorcycle toughs, before being chased into a scrapyard, where in the sunny light of day…his form is fully revealed…not the sleek chassis we’ve come to associate with Peter Weller, but…a kind of rusted, jalopy Swamp Thing.

The Vindicator is sorta dull, but the presence of the ever-gorgeous Pam Grier helps as Hunter, a kendo stick-wielding assassin.

**1/2 (out of 5)