Comical goings on at an exclusive golf club. All the members are wealthy and eccentric, and all the staff are poor and slightly less eccentric. The main character is 'Danny'; he's a caddy who will do almost anything to raise money to go to college. There are many subplots, including the assistant green keeper's pursuit of a cute (obviously stuffed) gopher. Written by
Crudeness doesn't come much more, well, crude, than 1980's sublime "Caddyshack". In fact, this crazy quilt takes the slob groundwork laid by "National Lampoon's Animal House" and one-ups that collegiate comedy classic by having a carelessly mean, anarchic spirit a mile wide and a foot deep.
It's little surprise that writer/director Harold Ramis and co-writer Douglas Kenney were also scribes on that 1978 John Belushi hit. As "Caddyshack" shows, the classic us-versus-them scat-humor template is alive and well.
But this is not just a crass comedy, it's a HAPPILY crass comedy, that does just about whatever it wants as it casually wanders through it's 90-odd minutes. The DNA of "Caddyshack" resides somewhere in the cinematic in-between world of the aforementioned "Animal House" and a Three Stooges or W.C. Fields picture. There's a giddiness to its nose-thumbing, and a general pleasure in its coarse eagerness to offend.
The screenplay forms a functional spine for what actually amounts to a comedy collision course of witty asides, broad physical comedy, dirty jokes, varied comedic styles and big explosions.
But is there really a screenplay here? The film has such a loose and free-wheeling timbre to it that it would be hard not to fault the viewer in thinking that the film was largely improvised, or at least rewritten by committee on set, scene by scene.
This film was widely *rumoured* to be "under the influence" during shooting, but whatever the cast and crew were "using" seemed to work very much in favor of movie, as the flick turned out to be editorially messy and open-structured, yet well-paced and coherent enough to embrace the variety of comedic opinions squeezed into the picture. This is what you get - a smörgåsbord of laughs. You get a Chevy Chase doing his ironic bit, you have one Bill Murray essaying a bizarre-o mental case, good old Ted Knight going into slow-burn histrionics every scene, and Rodney Dangerfield stealing every scene with large chunks of his stand-up act. This shouldn't work, this mix - but it does. Very well.
Again, the looseness of the pace and tone of the film forgive some of the storytelling framework featuring young go-getter Michael O'Keefe's attempt to get a college scholarship during one crazy summer caddying for Bushwood Country Club's weirdest members. Instead, Ramis, Kenney and (Bill's brother) Brian Doyle Murray set each of these comedians up with sketch-like scenarios for some of their finest and funniest work.
The movie is mean in all the right places - It's the snobs against the slobs, as the advertising says. "Caddyshack" takes barbed pot-shots at the class system, at sex, at religion, at bodily functions. No joke is too risqué, no candy bar too gross to eat from the bottom of a empty pool. It has lots of swearing, nudity for nudity's sake, and insults for the pompous and pathetic. Even through its R-rated mean-spiritedness, it's hard to truly be turned off of the film's antagonistic spirit - it earns it's laughs because it's breathlessly paced and damned funny. This is the thematic mold that the Farrellys and Adam Sandler rarely get right.
"Caddyshack" is endlessly quotable, and surely if you sat around with a few friends anytime in the last 25 years, you could probably spend a good hour reciting lines and scenes that still hold all their glorious funny these many years later.
The movie's best scene? My award goes to the "Night Putting" sequence where Chevy Chase's Ty Webb and Bill Murray Carl the Greenskeeper finally meet up when Chase fires a Titleist through the window of Murray's lean-to shed-slash-residence. This never fails to get big laughs, and it's a real meeting of the minds. A great sequence for the Comedy Hall of Fame, I'd say.
Kenny Loggins' catchy songs ("I'm Alright" anyone?) and the jazzy Johnny Mandel (!) orchestral score add a unexpectedly lovely sheen that spit-shines the crudity of subject and filmmaker's style. They're nice touches.
You can put "Caddyshack" next to "Casablanca" or "Citizen Kane" - not just in the "C" section of your local video store, but as in "Classic". Comedies don't come much funnier than this.
BTW - skip "Caddyshack II". Everything that this one is, that one isn't.
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