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‘Meatballs III’ (R)

By Richard Harrington
Washington Post Staff Writer
February 23, 1987

Years from now, cultural archeologists may be reduced to saying, "One 'Meatballs' was the cause of it all." In fact, Ivan Reitman's 1981 film was a charming little comedy about a summer camp inhabited by a zany crew of we-don't-care-bears under the tutelage of head counselor Bill Murray, making the most of his big-screen debut. With good writing and fine ensemble acting from kids and adults alike, it was not only a genial and genuine venture but got good reviews and even managed to make a bundle of money.

The money men, however, begat "Meatballs II," a decidedly inferior follow-up that reduced the original form to formula by eliminating most of the kids and concentrating on teen counselors with one-track minds. Such plot as there was involved an extraterrestrial and a military camp run by a mini-Patton. No one from the original cast returned for this debacle, but enough of the great unwashed ticket-buying public did, apparently, to warrant "Meatballs III," currently in all too many theaters nationwide.

Be warned: Most films with roman numerals in their titles are perfect examples of the disease of imagination called sequilitis, in which any success story is reduced to its lowest common denominator, and then halved. The process is usually repeated ad nauseam, but "III" could be the end of the line for "Meatballs," because it's hard to imagine a baser follow-up. No one from "I" or "II" even shows up for this one (to their credit) and the camp has been replaced by Mean Gene's, a lakeside bar patronized by bikini-clad bimbos and hollow-headed hunks. Only the sex drivel remains the same.

The subsophomoric plot revolves around Roxanne de Jour, a porno queen who has just died in midclinch and is being denied entry into heaven until she performs a good deed. In today's Hollywood this means helping local nerd Rudy with his first sexual encounter. Roxanne is played with depressing baseness by Sally Kellerman, who looks and sounds like a cross between Death and Mae West. Roxanne is invisible to everyone but Rudy (doesn't Kellerman wish!) and her one big trick consists of making time stand still, something she may have learned from director George Mendeluk.

Not that this is a one-gag film, of course. There's a wet T-shirt contest, a Heck's Angels water bike gang, stud jokes galore and more fleshy muscle on display than any four Spa Lady spots. Halfway through this repugnant film, you start hoping that maybe, just maybe, this is really a slasher movie and he's in the woods getting ready to take this crowd out.

"Meatballs III" is rated R and includes sexual situations.

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