johnlink ranks CADDYSHACK (1980)

It shouldn’t have taken the death of the great Harold Ramis to make me want to go back and revisit his work. GHOSTBUSTERS is an all time favorite and GROUNDHOG DAY is a top ten type comedy as well. I hadn’t seen CADDYSHACK in a decade or so, and it was time to fix that.


I watched CADDYSHACK (1980) on 3.5.14. It was my fourth viewing of the film and first in probably ten years.

To describe the plot in CADDYSHACK would be to try and describe a car as it drives by you on the highway. You can get the color, the make and model most likely, perhaps you get a piece of the license plate. But you don’t really know what just went by. CADDYSHACK, similarly, is a golf movie. A kid, Danny (Michael O’Keefe) wants a scholarship but also maybe got one of the two girls he sleeps with pregnant. Two old men, a judge (Ted Knight) and a real estate tycoon (Rodney Dangerfield) are polar opposites who fight. A groundskeeper named Carl (Bill Murray) wants to kill a groundhog but also gets pulled into a couple other vignettes because he is too funny to waste. A zen-seeking drifter with a lot of money (Chevy Chase) dispenses advice, criticism, and message oil with equal disdain for everything that is going on.

This somehow leads to a bet and a golf match which pits Dangerfield and Chase against Knight and a random doctor (Dan Resin) before O’Keefe gets pulled in with the hopes of tying up some story-lines. But the movie doesn’t really care about the rules of golf. Despite one team playing horrendously, it all comes down to one shot with an excuse made to set it up so that the shot is win-lose (which never happens in golf since the worst would be win-playoff hole). In fact, HAPPY GILMORE had more attention to detail in the golf game than CADDYSHACK.

But, guess what, it doesn’t matter. Because CADDYSHACK is funny. Consistently funny and powerfully funny. The movie was supposed to be about the caddies. But Ramis and/or the studio (depending on who you ask) brought in Dangerfield, Chase, and Murray. The movie ended up becoming about them. The gopher bits were a late-production attempt at giving the movie some sort of through-line. Because so much was written on the fly or improved, the movie has a meandering and rudderless feel. Were are privy to a series of vignettes which only sometimes relate to the story. But, again, it doesn’t matter. Nobody in the audience cares about the plot, because the bits are usually very funny.

The famous scene between Chase and Murray was not intended and only added last minute when it was realized that the film’s two stars didn’t have a scene together. They didn’t like each other from an incident that happened during SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE five years older, but apparently everyone buried the hatchet and moved on. Murray is notoriously prickly, having even reportedly being on the outs with Ramis ever since GROUNDHOG DAY before tossing him a lovely little tribute in the recent Oscars.

But this article has become as tangential as the movie it covers.

This is classic comedy. However, it is not perfect. Dangerfield has some of the best bits, but also almost all of the movie’s duds. A boat scene could have been removed and the movie would be no worse off (it allegedly causes is the final straw in the bad blood with the judge, but we don’t need it to have the last golf match happen). Some of the kids scenes are less powerful because these kids clearly don’t have the talent of a Murray or a Chase. They are saved somewhat by the Caddyshack boss, who is played by co-writer, and Bill Murray brother,  Brian Doyle-Murray.

CADDYSHACK is just, simply, one of those easy favorites which rewards multiple viewings. What it lacks in structure it makes up for in humor. It is one of those movies with five or six bits that you could pull out and let stand on their own. It was made for You Tube more than two decades before anyone had ever heard of You Tube. It may be one of those films you had to seen already since it has not aged particularly well. And if that is the case, I’m glad that I am already on the bandwagon.



The bonus is for the improv work, especially by Dangerfield, Murray, and Chase. Major sections of this film were invented on the fly, including the Murray ‘Cinderella Story’ and a bunch of the Chase seduction scene. You can feel the immediacy and inventiveness in the dialogue.




~ by johnlink00 on March 6, 2014.

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