Even though filmmaker Harold Ramis has shared that he “can barely watch” his directorial debut Caddyshack without seeing “a bunch of compromises and things that could have been much better,” including the lousy golf swings by a majority of the cast, it hasn’t stopped fans from turning the 1980 film into a contemporary cult classic.
The movie ushered in a new generation of film stars including SNL castmates Chevy Chase and Bill Murray that Ramis would direct again in the future in hits like National Lampoon’s Vacation, Groundhog Day and Multiplicity. And despite the fact that some critics simply dismissed the film co-written by Ramis, Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney based on real experiences working as golf caddies in their teens as Animal House on a golf course, its impact on pop culture and underdog sports comedies has only become more apparent with time.
Releasing onto Warner Brothers Blu-ray and DVD to coincide with the film’s thirtieth anniversary – a fact that I still believe seemed hard to believe when watching the hilariously fresh movie again this June – while the video presentation does seem a bit dated visually, the film sounds better than it ever has before with an all-new 5.1 Dolby Digital Surround Sound track.
Although the intention was to center on the young caddies of the film, with so much energy and hilarity on both sides of the camera, Caddyshack quickly evolved into an improvisational free-for-all that mostly leaves the experiences of recent high school graduate and Bushwood Country Club caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) fading into the background.
And regardless of the fact that Ramis noted that O’Keefe was the only one who could accurately swing a club, in the film it’s the comedy champs Chase, Murray, Ted Knight (in his final role) and Rodney Dangerfield (in his first film role) who end up stealing our focus for the majority of the running time.
In fact, looking back on it today makes Caddyshack feel far more significant for its release at the very start of a new decade in that it foreshadows the class conscious comedies that ‘80s scribes like John Hughes would introduce by creating a cinematic war between “the snobs against the slobs.”
With Danny caught in the middle in his pursuit of the caddy scholarship, the movie finds newly rich real estate developer and all around tacky jokester Al Czervik (Dangerfield) forming an unlikely alliance with free-spirited, naturally gifted Zen mastermind golf prodigy Ty Webb (Chase) when Judge Smails (Knight) makes it his mission to run Czervik off the green.
Light on plot and heavy on laughs including some stand-up style Dangerfield humor and infamous brief gags (like the Baby Ruth candy bar), Caddyshack can also be appreciated for the way that it manages to blend so many different schools of humor into one movie.
Whether it’s in Webb’s brilliant throwaway riffs or the way that ultimately Bill Murray becomes the one to watch in an underwritten minor role as the screw-loose veteran who employs militaristic tactics in his pursuit as Bushwood groundskeeper to rid the course of one main mischievous gopher, Caddyshack consistently delivers something funny for all audiences.
To this end, it ensures that wherever someone’s comedic taste lie, they’re guaranteed to get something out of Ramis’ giggle inducing debut, which is reason enough for the director to hopefully be able to better appreciate his film the next time it’s flipped to on his television.
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FTC Disclosure: Per standard professional practice, I received a review copy of this title in order to evaluate it for my readers, which had no impact whatsoever on whether or not it received a favorable or unfavorable critique.