Judge Ryan Keefer takes drugs every day and steps on ducks quite a bit himself.
Our reviews of Best of Warner Brothers: 20-Film Comedy Collection (published July 14th, 2013), Caddyshack (published June 8th, 2010), Caddyshack: 20th Anniversary Edition (published April 7th, 2000), and Caddyshack (Blu-ray) (published September 7th, 2011) are also available.
The slobs against the snobs.
How great is Caddyshack? Its expectations seemed low at the time, but the movie's fanfare and lore have surpassed anything the film's creators could have hoped for. It spawned a sequel (which was forgettable), a restaurant (which I hear is pretty good), marked what could be stated as the last true funny movie with Chevy Chase, and introduced the rest of the non-Saturday Night Live viewing world to a lanky guy from Chicago named Bill Murray. So in going from 480 lines of video to 1080 lines, does the humor go away?
Facts of the Case
Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe, Ghosts of Mississippi) is a young caddy at the Bushwood Country Club with dreams of becoming a lawyer, but without the means and resources (read: money) to do it. He caddies for Ty Webb (Chase, Spies Like Us), an extremely talented but mysterious golfer. Ty's play grabs the attention of Judge Smails (Ted Knight, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), who has recently been burned by the rude, crude and obnoxious behavior of real estate mogul Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield, Back to School). In the meantime, the groundskeeper of the course, Carl Spackler (Murray, Lost in Translation) has been notified that there are gophers plaguing the greens and fairways, and after being initially burned by one, he goes through some various covert actions designed to take them out.
Caddyshack is the best example of putting (not the golf stroke) a group of talented comedians together in one setting and giving them the chance to show off to make things even funnier that what's on the written page. And when you get razor sharp wits like Chase (remember, it was 1980) and Murray together, throw in an older established voice like Knight and mix it all together with one of the one-liner greats in Dangerfield, you've got yourself a comic beef stew unlike any other. And with a group like that, since the natural urge is to try and one-up each other, to see some great comedy come from it is something to behold.
Moreover, what Anchorman may have done for overly vain local television news anchors, Caddyshack has done that, and then some. Ask most anyone on the PGA Tour (yes, even Tiger Woods) to do a Carl Spackler, and most everyone can not only do it, they'll also give you their favorite Carl line to boot. "License to kill gophers by the government," "when you die on your deathbed you will receive total consciousness," or whatever you choose. I won't recite all the lines because well, we could be here all day, couldn't we? The difference between an ad-libbed movie like Anchorman or the Austin Powers series of films is that at least when the actors get a chance to go off, it's done in controlled bursts. It always seems like today's comics (Will Ferrell, I'm looking at you) go a little bit too long on some of their tirades, but done in quick hits, then you get "I've sentenced boys younger than you to the gas chamber. Didn't want to do it, felt I owed it to them."
This new high-definition version of Caddyshack comes in a 1080p presentation, and is slightly adjusted from its 1.85:1 anamorphic version to a 1.78:1 version. The presentation itself isn't too bad, I could really pick on the condition of the greens on some of the close-up shots, but some of the whites, particularly in the opening credits and (of all places) on Spalding's hat look a little bit brighter than expected. It didn't detract from the overall picture, which looked good for a 25-year-old film, but they are things to watch out for. Compared to seeing the film recently on a high-def channel, it doesn't look as good as that, but it's fine. The Dolby Digital Plus soundtrack is OK if not unspectacular, because most of the stuff is dialogue, there's not much to hear. Although I can say with reasonable certainty that Kenny Loggins' music has never sounded better.
The only extra feature to speak of on this HD DVD is the same one that's been on the standard def DVD for quite a while. The documentary, entitled "The 19th Hole," features interviews with director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) and Chase, along with some of the supporting characters like Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan, Tron), Tony D'Annunzio (Scott Colomby, Jack Frost) and executive producer Jon Peters. No participation from O'Keefe or, even more surprisingly, Murray. I find it a little bit funny that Chase talks about how great it was to work with Murray when the two were less than friends during the Saturday Night Live years. And come on, let's get an elaborate version with everyone's participation!
The Rebuttal Witnesses
Exactly at what point will Warner come to their senses and give Caddyshack the deluxe treatment it so richly deserves? To date, aside from this old, incomplete documentary, a commentary with (any of the following) Ramis, Murray or Chase would be good. For starters.
Regardless of the lack of quality, Caddyshack is not only essential for any fan of golf, but for any fan of comedy. One would hope they catch up to common logic and put together a great version of the film that would satisfy all involved, but it's getting incrementally better, now that it's on HD.
Not guilty. This justice has to get back on the course; he's a Cinderella story, about to become the Masters champion.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
• Documentary Caddyshack: The 19th Hole, Featuring Outtakes, Other Rare Footage and Reminiscences by Chevy Chase, Harold Ramis and Others
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