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'Caddyshack' (1980): A Review

"Be the ball, Danny..."
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As the first hints of spring began to linger about, one’s thoughts turn to brighter, sunnier activities than those that have been enjoyed (or in some instances, endured) these past few months. One of those said spring activities is Golf, and few films about the gentlemen’s sport have proven to be as enduring and entertaining as the late Harold Ramis’ 1980 cult classic, ‘Caddyshack’. In a classic pitting of ‘The Snobs’ versus ‘The Slobs’, Ramis’ ‘Caddyshack’ tells the story of Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a young caddy at Bushwood Country Club who hopes to earn a scholarship from the snobbish Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight), who owns the country club where he works.

Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) a crude and eccentric millionaire who has interests in purchasing Bushwood, soon earns the ire of Judge Smails, and after several grievous encounters between the two, results in a team golf-matching, pitting Smails and his equally snobbish friend Dr. Beeper (Dan Resin), against Czervik and Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), the free-spirited and easy-going son of one of Bushwood’s co-founders. Meanwhile, Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), the less than lucid groundskeeper, is tasked by his boss with ridding the golf course of the most crafty and devious gophers to ever burrow through God’s green earth.

Ramis’ debut film might, at initial glance, look a bit too messy to be coherent owning to the vast number of plots and sub-plots involved. But the jokes, quotes and great performances make you forget about all that, and soon after the start of the film one doesn’t really care that the “plot” is about as loose and disconnected as your average Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker production. The film owns most of its success to the performances of the actors and the near endless quotable dialogue provided to them.

Although the name Chevy Chase might not inspire much confidence nowadays when it comes to “cinematic comedies”, at the time of Ramis’ debut film Chase was at the top of his game, and proves it with his performance in ‘Caddyshack’. His deadpan and sardonic delivery of some of the most nonsensical advice and bizarre comebacks makes a number of his quotes some of the most memorable and hilarious.

Equally memorable is the performance of the late Rodney Dangerfield as the crude and rude Al Czervik, his constant insults directed at the snobbish Judge Smails and tactless observations of others making his performance crude, juvenile, and utterly hilarious. Speaking of Smails: Professional stuffed-shirt Ted Knight does a fantastic job of playing the film’s villain. Uptight, racist, pretentious, Knight holds nothing back and does his job perfectly as he portrays one of the most easily hated people on Earth and, in doing so, makes the heroes’ triumph that much more satisfying.

Finally, there’s Bill Murray, whose performance as the inept and half-insane Carl Spackler provides us with a sub-plot whose outcome is actually anticipated by the audience (rather than serving as mere filler). Between his now oft-quoted ‘Cinderella’ monologue and his irrelevant interactions with the other characters, Murray manages to take a minor subplot and transform it into a string of comedic sketches that, at times, rival that of the film’s ‘main’ plot.

Although far from perfect in terms of plot structure and character development, Ramis’ film (and its cast) are so entertaining and funny that these aforementioned defects go more or less unnoticed as one sits back and takes in all of the film’s memorable quotes and performances. ‘Caddyshack’ might rely more on “caricatures” than “characters”, and spend more time with “set-pieces” than with “plot”, but when film is as funny, ridiculous and entertaining as Ramis’ ‘Caddyshack’ is, who cares? Just sit back, watch, and have yourself a good time.

Find the nearest Blockbuster (assuming they still exist) near your home so you can rent this film almost immediately. Or, if you prefer that movies came to you instead, set up a Netflix account and start your ordering as soon as possible.

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