Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Caddyshack (1980)

Lately I’ve been trying to re-watch some of the old movies that I have come to take for granted. Movies that I maybe haven’t ever sat down and watched, but have seen various parts of them on cable about a billion times. So that’s how I wound up renting “Caddyshack,” one of the cultural touchstones of my generation.
For the few people in the free world who haven’t seen “Caddyshack,” there is no plot, so don’t look for one. I think that some of us who saw all or part of it years ago have actually invented plots for the film which don’t exist. For example, I had gotten the impression at some point that the movie was about Rodney Dangerfield’s character, land developer Al Czervik, trying to buy the club and destroy it. Well, it’s not about that or about anything else really other than allowing the actors and the audience to have a good time. There is some pretense to a plot about young caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) trying to get a scholarship by ass-kissing stuck-up club president Judge Smails (Ted Knight). There is also the enmity between Judge Smails and the socially unrefined, hilarious Czervik, as well as a subplot featuring Bill Murray as groundskeeper Carl Spackler, and his delightfully violent efforts to rid the golf course of pesky gophers.
But “Caddyshack” is not about these plots, it is all about scenes. There’s the scene with the Baby-Ruth in the pool, which to this day makes it hard for me to eat a Baby-Ruth. There’s the scene with the priest golfing in the thunderstorm. There’s the dancing gopher. There’s the scene with Cindy Morgan naked. Who could forget the Bill Murray “Dalai Lama” story, and that weird scene in Bill Murray’s apartment, which was added on after the fact when the filmmakers realized that their two biggest stars, Murray and Chase, didn’t have a scene together. Good times, people!
As cool as those scenes are, I have to admit that while re-watching “Caddyshack” I was struck by how my memory of the movie was much better than the movie itself. I didn’t realize it before, but most of the acting is terrible! Michael O’Keefe is almost unwatchable, and even Chevy Chase is mostly uninspired as golf pro Ty Webb. That “Caddyshack” manages to rise above its own lameness is a testament to the genius of Bill Murray, with an assist from a wickedly insulting Rodney Dangerfield. Thanks to these two, the film is worth watching. For the majority who have already seen it, however, your best bet may be to just reminisce.

3 stars.

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