“The Snobs Against The Slobs!”
Director: Harold Ramis
Cast: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray
Synopsis: An exclusive golf course has to deal with a brash new member and a destructive dancing gopher.
It’s difficult to understand why Caddyshack continues to receive so much love from movie-watchers. Even though it was the kind of movie that I would, at eighteen, have expected to enjoy when it was first released, I remember being singularly unimpressed. It was ok, but it was nothing special and yet, if anything, its reputation seems to have grown in the intervening years, with many of its lines becoming social culture touchstones. Returning to it after thirty-five years, I thought time might have changed one of us, but no: it’s still ok, but it’s still nothing special.
There’s not much of a plot to speak of, and Caddyshack has some difficulty deciding just who its lead character is. Initially, it looks as if it will be Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a young caddy at an exclusive golf club who hopes that sucking up to the club’s founder, Judge Smails (Ted Knight – Psycho, MASH) will earn him a scholarship. But then the movie seems to get distracted by the other characters vying for attention. There’s Rodney Dangerfield as a boorish property developer who delights in needling the pompous Smails, Chevy Chase as a laid back playboy who catches the eye of Smails’ sexy niece, Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan), on whom Danny also has designs despite bedding – and possibly impregnating – Irish waitress, Maggie (Sarah Holcomb). Finally, there’s Carl Spackler (Bill Murray – Zombieland, Moonrise Kingdom), perhaps the film’s most iconic character, who wages a one-man war against the gopher that’s ploughing a network of tunnels around the course.
The reason so many characters battle for screen time is that director Harold Ramis more or less gave the likes of Chase, Murray and Dangerfield free rein to ad lib whenever they felt the urge, meaning that Danny Noonan effectively becomes a supporting player in his own movie. But the trouble with improvised comedy is that it’s rarely – if ever – as funny as the scripted variety, and those occasional off-the-cuff moments which do manage to raise a smile are tempered by the near-certainty that they are moments that could have been so much better if refined and rehearsed. For all that, Caddyshack does have an amiable quality about it, thanks in part to its rambling structure. It certainly makes no demands of its audience, which it is clearly keen to please, and is free of the politically-correct anxiety that so often shackles modern movies.
(Reviewed 3rd April 2015)