Starring-Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield
Reviewed April 15, 2016
Caddyshack is one of the funniest slapstick comedy films of the 1980’s, arguably the decade of the “mindless comedy”. Made in 1980, the cusp of the decade, it led the pack during a time when one after the other, comedy films were churned out-cookie cutter style- based largely on the success of Caddyshack. While not every aspect of the film works, the parts that do are hysterical and its influence in film history is unquestionable. More than merely a “dumb comedy”, Caddyshack features funnymen of the day (Bill Murray, Chevy Chase, and Rodney Dangerfield), and the talent and timing are spot on.
Clean-cut teenager Danny Noonan works as a caddy at a posh resort named Bushwood Country Club. An “underachiever”, he lacks direction in life while being pressured by his parents to attend college. While spending the summer at work pondering his future, high jinks ensue as a rivalry develops between the club co-founder, Judge Smails (Ted Knight), and the outrageous Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), who is a nouveau riche real estate developer. Meanwhile, bordering on psychotic, Bill Murray as groundskeeper Carl Spackler, is engrossed in his own feud with a gopher running rampant on the golf course. Mixed in with all of this are the standard teen romance themes, bathroom gags, and sexual jokes.
Caddyshack is not high art nor does it need to, or intend to be. It is simply pure juvenile fun. It is not even that well written, but it works. Interestingly, the portions that work so well do not even involve the caddies featured in the film- originally set to be the focal point. Rather, the real scene stealers are the two oldest members of the cast- Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight. The bickering and barbs traded between the two characters is delicious and downright funny. When Al mocks Smails hat, or dances with his snobbish wife, or crashes into his new boat, each scene is rich with goofy comic timing.
Without a doubt, my favorite scene is the “doody” scene in the resort pool. It is laugh out loud raucous as a candy bar tossed into the water is thought to be something else. The star of this scene is Lois Kibbee, who plays Judge Smails wife. Her comic mannerisms and upper-crust looks make her a perfect choice for the role and she arguably steals the show in her limited appearances. When Al jokes that she must have really been something before electricity, her facial expressions emit comic horror in a perfect way.
There are points of the film that really are unnecessary and do not work well- I have never understood Bill Murray’s character of Carl. Bordering on silly, with a stuffed animal as the gopher, Murray himself is fantastic- clearly improvising, but the role does not seem necessary to the rest of the film. More scenes between the Judge and Al, or more from Chevy Chase’s character of Ty, and of the Judge’s wife would have been preferable.
Also, the attempted teen triangle between Danny, Maggie, and Lacey is dullsville- plain Maggie cannot really compete with gorgeous and slutty Lacey.
These criticisms, however, are small gripes when compared to the hilarity and perfect timing of the rest of the film and that is why it certainly ranks among one of my favorites.
Caddyshack, along with Animal House, paved the way for the plethora of slapstick comedies to follow- a few good, most bad, but must be recognized as the influence that it was, and a must-see for fans of golf, sports, and good, clean fun. The elements of Caddyshack come together and work so well.