Try as he might, Judge Clark Douglas continually fails to be the ball.
At last, a comedy with balls!
"A flute without holes is not a flute. A donut without holes is a Danish."
Facts of the Case
Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe, Michael Clayton) is a caddy at a local country club. His goal: to win a caddying competition and earn a college scholarship from the uptight Judge Smails (Ted Knight, The Mary Tyler Moore Show). Meanwhile, we also follow the exploits of playboy golfer Ty Webb (Chevy Chase, Community), grubby assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray, Lost in Translation) and flamboyant party animal Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield, Back to School). Due to a series of rather contrived circumstances, all of these individuals soon find themselves participating in a snobs vs. slobs golf tournament.
The great thing about Caddyshack is that it contains enough tremendously funny moments to make viewers forget the fact that it isn't a very good movie. Honestly, it's one of the more shoddily constructed popular comedies of the 1980s, as the film feels like a patchwork quilt of scenes from three or four separate productions rolled into a single feature-length casserole. Some of it works, some of it bombs, but there are enough genuinely enjoyable scenes in the mix to leave most viewers feeling satisfied.
Intriguingly, the one major character no one really remembers is Danny, ostensibly the film's lead. That's partially due to Michael O'Keefe's blandly forgettable performance, but also due to the fact that the film's original screenplay was altered considerably over time. Initially, the film was to be a gentle coming-of-age story with some lightweight comedic elements, but eventually it transformed into a four-part showcase for the film's bigger stars (Chase, Murray, Dangerfield and Knight). As such, Danny's earnest dramatic scenes feel incredibly out-of-place in the film, as they seem transported from a more realistic, vastly less goofy flick. Additionally, a large amount of time is spent building up the "Danny wants a scholarship" subplot, but the film more or less tosses that aside during the final act for the sake of focusing on things like destructive gophers and large-scale explosions set to a disco version of Tchaikovsky's "1812 Overture."
It's just as well, as the film works best when it sticks to the diverse yet consistently broad comedy. Each of the key actors bring their own distinctive personality to the table and acquit themselves quite nicely. Chase's line delivery is subtly hilarious, as his gift for delivering absurd lines in a quietly matter-of-fact manner is accentuated beautifully. I love his early exchange with Danny:
Ty (in a concerned tone): "Danny, do you take drugs?"
Dangerfield's comic material is much louder and ridiculously over-the-top, but the enthusiasm with which Dangerfield embraces his role is kind of endearing. The comic stomps through the film performing his standup routine; tossing out jokes regardless of whether or not they're applicable. "A lot of people in here," he gasps, "Look at that one. Last time I saw a mouth like that, there was a hook in it!" He's not referring to any specific person shown in the film; it's just a good line and he feels compelled to use it. On other occasions, Dangerfield will randomly turn on some noisy pop music and start dancing and waving his arms around wildly. His random need to underscore his reckless behavior with groovy tunes is strangely reminiscent of Jack Nicholson's version of The Joker (whose capability for evil was only matched by his fondness for the songs of Prince). Dangerfield also gets to conclude the film with a jubilant non-sequitur: "Hey everybody: we're all gonna get laid!"
Meanwhile, poor Ted Knight is given the thankless task of humorlessly fuming his way through the entire film. Bombastically angry can be funny (see John Malkovich's turn in Burn After Reading), but Knight's doing nothing more than playing a single note at a loud volume. He's decent enough as counterpoint to the other actors, but I've never really found the character that amusing.
For me, the comedic highlight of Caddyshack is Bill Murray's Carl Spackler. The character's loopy monologues have aged beautifully, as Murray tosses out one killer scene after another. Witnessing Murray's quiet play-by-play commentary ("The crowd is standing on its feet here, the normally reserved Augusta crowd—going wild—for this young Cinderella, he's come outta nowhere."), as he whacks flowers with his golf club never fails to make me laugh out loud. Additionally, his now-legendary battle with a certain rodent remains a lot of fun; forever associating Kenny Loggins' beloved "I'm Alright" with the image of a dancing animatronic gopher.
Caddyshack isn't a great-looking film, but this 1080p/1.78:1 transfer gets the job done. The very '80s color palette is vibrant and has an impressive amount of pop, detail is relatively satisfactory and black levels are deep enough. Personally, I think Caddyshack is kind of an ugly movie (director Harold Ramis isn't exactly known for his striking visual style), but it's been preserved well enough. Audio is also fine, with the Loggins tunes making the biggest impression (though the explosive finale packs an impressive punch, too). Dialogue is a shade muffled at times, but never incomprehensible. The biggest and best extra is a feature-length television documentary entitled "Caddyshack: The Inside Story" (80 minutes). The doc covers pretty much every aspect of the film's making, and acknowledges some of the flick's weaknesses even as it engages in the usual self-congratulatory back-patting. The 31-minute documentary "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole" covers similar territory in less comprehensive fashion. Other than that, you just get a trailer.
Caddyshack has never been a great film or even a very good one, but it's certainly easy to understand why it's beloved and well-remembered to this day. I don't think this Blu-ray represents a significant step up from the DVD, but fans of the film should be satisfied by what it has to offer.
Give us your feedback!
What's "fair"? Whether positive or negative, our reviews should be unbiased, informative, and critique the material on its own merits.
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site design and review layout copyright © 2013 Verdict Partners LLC. All rights reserved.