Scraping the Barrel: #100, ‘Meatballs 4’

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Thousands and thousands of films are made every year. And while some of them are destined for Oscar glory and widespread Metacritic acclaim, others wind up scraping the barrel on the IMDB Bottom 100. What makes these films so universally despised? Are they all really that bad? And, seriously, what’s the deal with From Justin to Kelly? We’ll answer all these questions (and hopefully more) with “Scraping the Barrel,” in which we review the ENTIRETY of the bottom 100, in order.

For our first installment, Ryan Reed takes a closer look (when he’s able to uncover his eyes) at #100, 1992’s Meatballs 4.

Meatballs 4


The Gist: Smooth-talking goofball Ricky Wade (Corey Feldman) is re-hired by Neil Peterson (Jack Nance) to re-invigorate his fledgling summer camp, which is rapidly losing customers. Monica Shavetts (Sarah Douglas) is the Cruella Deville-like owner of a rival camp, and she wants to buy out Peterson’s operation. Naturally, there’s only one way to settle this: a SKI-OFF! Can Wade’s dated, ’80s-styled charisma whip the campers into shape? Or will Shavetts swoop in and kill summer fun once and for all?

IMDB Stats: #100, 2.6 rating

The Straight Dirt: Let’s get one thing straight right off the bat: I haven’t seen the second or third installments in the Meatballs franchise. But my critical conscience tells me that my enjoyment of Meatballs 4 won’t be hindered by this. (I did watch the first one when I was 12.)

The first thing I notice is the DVD menu: a dude’s T-shit with theĀ Meatballs 4 poster on it (complete with Feldman’s devil-may-care visage). Way cool! To my dismay, no bonus features. I feel butterflies in my stomach as the FBI Anti-Piracy Warning kicks into gear, and the MGM lion’s roar fills my heart with pure adrenaline.

“A Bog Logan Film.” Do a quick Google search on that poor sap.

This film has a 2.6 rating, so I’m obviously not expecting Citizen Kane, but I’m also encouraged by the words of an anonymous Amazon commenter (who is most likely one of the film’s producers), who assures me, “The story line was great fun, like original, no aliens, no sex star ghosts, but the goold old male ego/camp competition. WHOO WHOO, great skiing scenes…and I don’t ski.”

The film starts as a shabby bus pulls to the curb, unleashing this summer’s attendees: huge-breasted 25-year-old women, washboard-ab frat-boy douches, and a lone fat guy named Pig Pen. I guess they’re all supposed to be 17.

“A lot of people around here just call me Neil,” says the head honcho, “especially when I’m dropped to my knees!” The campers stare back in disbelief, but I thought that was pretty hilarious, Jack Nance.

Meatballs 4 (Jack Nance)


Also, poor Jack Nance. How sad that David Lynch’s go-to weirdo (in classics like Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet, and — most notably — Eraserhead) eventually stooped to such pathetic lows. On the plus-side, Nance’s presenceĀ here ultimately adds a strange level of creepiness the filmmakers probably weren’t intending.

By the way, OF COURSE the token floral-shirt-donning fat dude is named Pigpen. Is this the origin of the fat-guy-named-Pigpen mythology?

Back to the movie: The first thing Nance does is tell the kids to “hit the showers.” What a pedophile! Speaking of which, it only takes about three minutes for boobs to show up. That has to be some kind of record, even in a horny teen-camp flick. I suppose Logan figured he had to reel in the pre-teens as fast as possible.

“I’m getting a woody!,” screams Pigpen, as he and two tossled-hair d-bags spy into the girls’ showers (where, of course, they’re all freely showering together, locker-room style).

That’s all well and good, but where’s Corey Feldman?

His character, Ricky Wade, hang-glides into the camp carrying his own boom-box. Ricky then asks camp counselor Jennifer (Paige French) if her breasts — nicknamed Bill and Ted, of course — have “been on any excellent adventures lately.”

Strangely enough, Feldman is actually kinda funny at times; his comic timing was still sharp in 1992, even if the lines they’re feeding him are atrocious beyond belief. (They should have titled this film The Ballad of Ricky Wade.)

There are more boobs, more awkward one-liners. There’s even a dance scene in which Feldman’s character dances embarrassingly to an awful rip of Michael Jackson’s “Black or White.”

But the “plot” really kicks into gear during the ski-off training. Naturally, the campers are awful at skiing (one slams straight into a ramp during a practice session — ZOINKS!) until Ricky Wade works his magic and unites the gang as one. Monica Shavetts, the evil rival camp leader, wants to buy out the operation, but Ricky’s not having it. Plus, he has extra motivation: He used to work for the evil Shavetts, and he wants to impress his former flame, Kelly Peterson (Deborah Tucker).

(Strongly fighting the urge to fast-forward 3/4 of the way through.)

Spoiler alert: Ricky’s gang wins the ski-off. Then Shavetts sends her semi-mentally-challenged goons to cause a ruckus, and so on. Facing a mounting mortgage, Neil is desperate. In one especially emotional scene, he confesses that he might have to close the camp.

There’s only one solution: ANOTHER SKI-OFF. So when Ricky approaches Shavetts with a winner-take-all re-match, we essentially watch the same movie all over again: corny training sessions (with aimless, hair-metal guitar soundtracks), awkward banter, and terrible aquatic action.

(When Ricky attempts a triple-flip spectacular ramp-jump, they clearly edit the same jump three times in a row, interspersed with Nance’s face, saying, “ONE! TWO! THREE!”)

I won’t ruin the rest of the film for you, but use your imagination.

One more note: Feldman and Nance are a comedy dream-team, the Jordan and Pippen of juvenile boob-comedy. (OK, not really.) They’re also kind of like a weird Yoda/Luke Skywalker duo.

Consensus:

Basically, the whole movie is summed up succinctly in one scene: As Ricky prepares for a battle of jet-ski chicken, one camper remarks, “This is ridiculous!” In response, Jennifer replies, “Boys.”

Should-Be IMDB Score: 3.2

Random Quotes:

“These aren’t boobs — these are BAD GUYS!”

“This isn’t the world of chocolate shakes and extra cherries. This is the real world. Are you going to put up or shut up?” “Monica, I’ll be puttin’ up.”

“Virtually nill?! Virtually nill?! Look down your pants — you’ll find something virtually nill!”

“Why did you leave me, Ricky?” “I left you…because I was afraid, Kelly. You see, your grandfather always said he wanted the bes for you–THE ABSOLUTE BEST–and you see, my problem is that Ricky Wade has never been the best at anything, ever. And I didn’t want to bring you down with me. I didn’ twant to destroy your future. So I left, took off. Because I cared. I came back here…becasue I cared. Your grandfather cares a lot about you, and he cares a lot about this camp. And he wants you to have this camp when he’s gone. And I want to see that happen. I’m sorry, Kelly. I’m so sorry I hurt you. Please forgive me.”

“I was in Goonies.”

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