Caddyshack (1980)

*. Even at the time (not while it was in theatres, but on VHS a few years later) I didn’t “get” Caddyshack. A lot of my peers did, and they watched it endlessly while memorizing half the script. But I can’t remember finding anything about it funny then and today it plays even worse. And yet it’s fondly remembered by many, a book was even written about its production, and it was named by ESPN as “perhaps the funniest sports movie ever made.” I think that “perhaps” is being asked to do a lot of work.
*. There’s no real plot, but rather just some shenanigans at a posh golf club. The basic framework is stooge comedy, of the kind writer-director Harold Ramis would specialize in. He’d written Animal House and Meatballs, and this would be his directorial debut, before having a hand in Stripes, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Ghostbusters. Along with some recurring playmates like Bill Murray, these movies were all based on the idea of snobs vs. slobs (a tag-line from the ads for Caddyshack). Spoiler alert: the slobs win. Things really are that simple.

*. So the regular kid Danny (Michael O’Keefe) is a caddy wanting to get ahead in the world by kissing the asses of rich old people. But, and this is important, snobs and slobs aren’t defined by their wealth because we have Rodney Dangerfield as a super-rich party crasher and Chevy Chase as more of what we’d recognize today as a cool rich dude. Poor Ted Knight has to carry the banner for Old Money elites, and he is seriously mocked and degraded. A slob sinks his yacht. A slob sleeps with his niece. A slob hits him in the nuts with a wayward drive. This latter insult was the only time I laughed in the whole movie, which tells you how unfunny the rest of it is and also reinforces that I think this kind of thing is hilarious.

*. Bill Murray plays Elmer Fudd chasing a gopher that is digging up the fairways. It’s a truly awful performance, though he does have one good line about receiving a blessing from the Dalai Lama. Rodney Dangerfield steals all there is to steal of a show with his usual shtick (which wasn’t that well known at the time). Chevy Chase is weirdly subdued and frankly hard to read.
*. As per usual for films of this type and at this time there’s drug humour, and scatological humour (a chocolate bar dropped in a pool is mistaken for a turd, or “doody”), and gratuitous nudity. So gratuitous that Cindy Morgan objected to it, but the producer told her she had to do it or she’d never work again.
*. I know I’m getting grumpier as I get older, which is why I started off by saying that I didn’t think there was anything funny about Caddyshack even when I was a teenager. The fact that it hasn’t dated well while it’s stature as a comedy classic has only grown can I think be attributed mainly to nostalgia among those who grew up with it. They don’t make movies like this anymore, and that’s something that some people regret. I don’t see it as good or bad, but only dismiss Caddyshack as being the kind of thing that was really popular once. That popularity now only seems a historical curiosity. The slobs won and became the new snobs. Then they got old.

14 thoughts on “Caddyshack (1980)

    1. Alex Good

      Is Booky the big Chevy Chase fan? Or is it just Dix?

      This is a lousy movie, even worse than I remember. I don’t know what people saw in at the time, much less now. I thought Chase was good (enough) in a few movies, but he’s a weird sort of present absence here.

      1. Alex Good Post author

        Well, since Booky is off doing the whole Vacation thing he must be living the Chevy life now. He may even go to Walley World.

  1. Bookstooge

    Nope. Chevy Chase was a deal breaker but then all the nudity and crassness didn’t weigh on the positive side either.
    But I’m definitely with Fraggle and the Anti-Chevy crowd…


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