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Classic Canadian 1979 comedy is the first starring role for SNL alumni Bill Murray and the first big hit for director Ivan Reitman (Stripes, Ghostbusters). The flick takes place at bargain basement Camp North Star and is basically the misadventures of head counsellor Tripper Harrison (Murray) and his staff and charges during summer camp. There really isn’t much of a story, aside from North Star’s competition with the elite Camp Mohawk and Tipper’s bonding with lonely misfit Rudy Gerner (Vamp’s Chris Makepeace in his first film).
It’s a light and breezy comedy as directed by Reitman from a script by four people, including the late Harold Ramis. Odd it took so many to write the screenplay, when it barely has what’s considered a story. It’s almost just a series of comic skits, till the Olympiad competition between the two camps, and maybe that was the intention. It’s fun, though not outright hilarious and extremely tame by teen coming of age comedy standards. It is very nostalgic to adolescence, the summers of childhood and the comedies of this time. No better example than Murray’s advances on cute councilor Roxanne (Kate Lynch), which would be outright sexual harassment nowadays and not portrayed as cute and funny, as it is here. It’s a good time and a classic, though not quite as funny to an adult watching it all these years later as it was when seen as a kid.
While there is a large cast of characters, it’s Murray’s show. His horny, mischievous teen in a grown-up’s body act that he made his early career on, is in full swing. His slightly offbeat humor is also coming to bear and we can see his lovable weirdo persona forming. Makepeace is sweet and sympathetic as the insecure and quiet Rudy. He and Murray get along well here and they make a good team. The rest of the cast are all fine in their roles as councilors and kids, including Harvey Atkin as the much harassed camp director Morty.
Overall, It’s not as laugh out loud funny as one might remember it, but then it is aimed at the audience it portrays, with a PG rating and thus very tame in language and sexual hi-jinx. It’s dated, but still fun and very nostalgic and one can see Murray developing the persona that would make him a star in the 80s and 90s, before he moved into indie film roles in more recent decades. Certainly worth a revisit if it’s been a while since you’ve seen it. Brings back memories and that alone is a noble purpose four decades later.
Rated 3 (out of 4) meatballs.