Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Meatballs III: Summer Job (1986)

Directed by George Mendeluk
Starring Patrick Dempsey, Sally Kellerman, Shannon Tweed
Rated R
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The opening of Meatballs III plays like the prequel to a slasher movie franchise. Future TV doctor Patrick Dempsey is Rudy, a shlubby nerdboy sitting in a diner reading Personal Computing magazine. Suddenly, a chesty, hot-to-trot blonde slides into his booth and starts pestering him about his summer plans, letting her index finger roam his regions while she does. Rudy can't believe his luck and attempts flirting back, when suddenly some asshole shows up and lifts Rudy's carefully placed magazine off of his lap, revealing his now-throbbing boner.
"Haha, 30.5 seconds!" Shouts the alpha-jerk, as people either clap or groan, depending on how they placed their bets. Seems it was all a little game to see how long it would take the local feeb to sprout wood. Thoroughly humiliated, Rudy attempts to escape, when the real book he's reading - 'How to Score With Lots of Horny Chicks' - falls on the floor. He'd been hiding it behind the magazine. This, of course, provokes even more rueful laughter. Rudy makes a sprint for it, away from this awful, apocalyptic scene. One girl picks the book up and chucks it at Rudy's head, braining him on the way out.

This is exactly how guys like Jason Voorhees and Freddy Krueger got their starts. Who wouldn't plan a killing spree after some serious damage like that?

Rudy does the sensible thing and gets the hell out of town for the summer. Unlike the other Meatballs films, III doesn't even take place at a summer camp. Instead, Rudy takes a summer job working the slop bucket at a low-rent marina club-restaurant called Mean Gene's, run by it's titular owner (George Buza, Screwball Academy), a pig-nosed maniac biker who eats beer bottles and bashes anyone who ogles The Love Goddess (Shannon Tweed, naturally), who lives upstairs in a tower. Mean Gene's is populated mostly by the fuckface townies who tormented Rudy at the diner and a violent, slovenly motorcycle gang, the River Rats. So, fun job.

Rudy barely notices the near-constant abuse, however, as he is focused, laser-like, on getting laid for the first-time. Surprisingly for such a zero, Rudy already has a perfectly reasonable love interest, the Pat Benatar-ish Wendy (Isabelle Mejias), but their romantic plans are constantly thwarted by meddling parents and de-puking duties at work, so God (!) sends down a recently deceased porn star, the Mae West-y Roxy Dujour (Sally Kellerman) to get him sex. If she achieves her goal, she gets to go to heaven. Who knew God was so concerned with teenage boys' penises? Anyway, at least the horny-virgin storyline provides a few moments of decent skin-baring.

Roxy - who is invisible - takes Rudy into town for a makeover. Cue the 80's fix 'er up montage to the tune of Loverboy's The Kid is Hot Tonight (well, this is a Canadian flick, after all). This particular montage is even hinkier than usual, since it utilizes the ghost-girl gag. There's many shots of pants and boxes of condoms flying around on Ed Wood-esque 'invisible' strings.

The 'new' Rudy (dandied up to look like over-privileged yacht-trash), drops into Mean Gene's to try out his newly minted fatal charm. On the way, Roxy gives him exactly the sort of advice you'd expect from a tired old porn star with a troubled upbringing: "Remember, kid," she says, "No means yes."
Rudy takes this foolish advice, which gets him kicked in the nuts when he mauls one of the River Rats molls.

I cannot express in mere words how unfunny and depressing the endless scenes with an over-the-hill, madly-vamping Kellerman are. This entire story line has so little interest for its target audience that I just can't imagine a teenager - even a dopey 80's teen - suffering through it. It's like watching a porn flick starring your own mother. Couple this with Dempsey's repellent character - for a nerd, he's a complete and utter douchebag, even before his makeover - and you've got a seriously non-engaging experience on your hands. If it were not for the brief but eventful wet t-shirt contest at the hour mark, it is doubtful that anybody would watch Meatballs III to it's bitter end.

Anyway, the big climax devolves into cartoony slapstick as Rudy and his townie tormentor square off during a hedonistic party/competition to see who gets to fuck Shannon Tweed first before the biker gang (or speedboat gang, whatever they are) tear them limb from limb. I should point out that, in a movie where sex with Shannon Tweed is a major plot point, Shannon doesn't get naked. She's barely in the film at all. Speaking of barely there, Sabrina the Teenage Witch's chubby aunt Hilda, Caroline Rhea, is billed as Beach Girl #4. It was the future talk show queen's first role. Hard to say, but judging solely from her ample bosom, I'd say she's the jiggly chick in the red bikini playing volleyball. I know, who cares, but there's so little to cling to here, you get your kicks where you can.

In summation: on the plus side, there's a cool biker dwarf. On the downside, there's everything else.

Amazingly, Meatballs III required the services of six writers. Six people to write lines like this:
Dude in bar, post-fight: "Wow, where'd you learn those moves?"
Rudy: "Nam."
Dude: "You were in Nam?"
Rudy: "No, I went there on vacation."
Also amazingly, Meatballs III did not kill director Medeluk's career. He was on the set of Miami Vice two years later, and has been churning out television shows ever since. Dempsey is big time now. Some bullshit about a hospital. Kellerman was already 30 years into her career by Meatballs III, and she still shows no sign of slowing down. The franchise, however, was lost after this fiasco, and it would be six long years before the eye-gouging Meatballs IV, starring bummer-king Corey Feldman, would slither it's way onto video rental shelves. As of this writing, we have so far eluded any further sequels, but the inevitable remake is already looming on the horizon.

Availability: Meatballs III is the toughest of the series to find. It's available on out-of-print VHS.
Get it at Amazon for, like, $4.00.

-Ken McIntyre

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