B Movie Challenge: Oddballs

If it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and (CENSORED) like a duck, then chances are it’s… a platypus? Very confusing, I know, but not as confused as some viewers are after watching the 1984 goulash casserole of regurgitated movies Oddballs. See, once upon a time, in a land called Hollyweird, producers who made crap piles of celluloid odds and ends knew deep down they could not compete on their own merits, so why not make it seem similar to other ‘better’ films on the ma and pa VHS shelves? Hence, the word ‘rip-off’ was born (congrats, it’s a baby weirdo)! Don’t blame the film! It’s the producers who tried to trick you into thinking this Meatballs/Up the Creek/Porky’s/Police Academy wannabee was similar to these mentioned. The issue at hand? It’s a harmless, goofy, kiddy (CENSORED) camp movie… without the language and… you know… NOT as good!

The art of selling a movie by the poster is nothing new (is anything anymore?) but the VHS days heavily relied on clam-shell box art marketing to sell you a golden turkey. The VHS box for this film makes you think it’s filled with sex, dummies, and rock ‘n’ roll. The only thing running throughout the entire film is Foster Brooks’ deep desire to get out of this hot summer night mess (I truly want to believe he is not doing his stage-drunk routine, but was truly sauced throughout the production). To be fully transparent (unlike the movie poster) the film does try, and like the little engine that could, it gets itself to the end of the SP mode, but fails in its… well, campiness. In an attempt to mix Airplane!  style jokes and breaking the fourth wall all over the place, it falls like a cheap outhouse. Had the jokes been delivered in a more appetizing presentation (unlike mystery meat Fridays), maybe Oddballs would be included in sleepover movie nights as Heavyweights or Camp Nowhere. Instead, we get a movie that throws out the kitchen sink with the bathwater from the lake. I must admit the title Oddballs should have been the title of Meatballs if you think about it (yet I’d hate to call it Oddballs III: Summer Vacation starring Patrick Dempsey).

The plot for this forgotten cabin in the woods (filled with spooky spider webs and collapsed roof) involves Camp Bottomout (high achievers for sure), a place for the best of the last losers to hang out all summer long. Recently bought by camp director Hardy Bassett (played sloppy by Brooks, retreading old material), he does his best to make it fun, even though he doesn’t like kids, aiming various weapons at the little tykes like ‘Chris Makepeasce’ wannabe Wally Wadcris and Ruby Hall (hilarious, putting kids in danger). Like most crazy/zany/ wacky camp films, it’s a hodgepodge of wild times and silly hijinks, until it has to get serious when Bassett decides to sell the property to a millionaire to build a shopping mall on the defunct campground. Throw in a couple of (not-so-well) aged jokes, mix in a few odd camera angles, and tie it all together with a fun second unit shot car chase and you got yourself a sparkler stuffed 4th of July hot dog of a cinematic pride, smothered in relish and spicy mustard (no ketchup, you [CENSORED] heathen)!  

Staking into the ground at ninety-one minutes, and directed by Miklós Lente (who went on to direct TV series like Diamonds and Night Heat), this film happens to be one of the earliest screenplays by the prince of movie adaptations, Ed Naha, who later wrote the novelizations for Robocop and Ghostbusters II. If you happened to be one of the lucky ones to buy this on VHS back when then you hit the bullseye! Oddballs is hard to find on most streaming platforms, but you can watch ripped versions on YouTube (just don’t expect 4K resolution, or even 1K). So get cozy in your sleeping bag for one, roast some stale marshmallows by the fire pit, and ask yourself if you’re ready for a summer of good times, badly framed jokes, and sloppy old comedians slurring along in this (CENSORED) camp cult classic!

About Ian Klink

As a filmmaker, writer, and artist, Ian Klink’s work includes the feature film Anybody’s Blues and short stories for Weren't Another Way to Be: Outlaw Fiction Inspired by Waylon Jennings, Negative Creep: A Nirvana-Inspired Anthology, A-Z of Horror: U is for Unexplained, The Creeps, Vampiress Carmilla, The Siren’s Call, and Chilling Tales For Dark Nights. Born and raised in Iowa, Klink lives with his family in Pennsylvania where he shares his talents as a teacher of multimedia studies.

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