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With: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O'Keefe, Bill Murray, Sarah Holcomb, Scott Colomby, Cindy Morgan, Dan Resin, Henry Wilcoxon, Elaine Aiken, Albert Salmi, Ann Ryerson, Brian Doyle-Murray, Hamilton Mitchell, Peter Berkrot, John F. Barmon Jr., Lois Kibbee, Brian McConnachie
Written by: Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney
Directed by: Harold Ramis
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 99
Date: 07/25/1980

Caddyshack (1980)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Sweet Birdie of Youth

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Given the short shelf life of many rude 'n' crude Hollywood comedies, it's amazing how well Caddyshack stands up after all these years. I think it succeeds for three reasons. The first is that its formula of ordinary, everyday misfits clashing with the evil establishment is still relevant; and anyone who loves this movie most certainly qualifies as a misfit. Secondly, it has an incredible roster of comic talent. And finally, and most importantly, it never seems eager or desperate. It never tries too hard and never bashes the audience over the head with a joke. The movie has the attitude that, "we're having fun, and you're invited to join in if you want."

The movie's hero is arguably Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe), though he's hardly the most memorable character. He's the entry point for all us ordinary schlubs in the audience. He's a caddy by day, and a poor student on the side. His parents want him to go to college, but he can't get a scholarship. As part of his last opportunity, he must suck up to an evil corporate scumbag, and the owner of the Bushwood Country Club, Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). Meanwhile, he gets regular advice from the Zen-like, deadpan Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), a rich layabout and a regular fixture on the golf course. Another wealthy fellow shows up, the obnoxious, loveable, good-time guy Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), who immediately begins pushing the judge's buttons. Finally, there's everyone's favorite, the slobby assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), whose main job is to kill a renegade gopher, though he is also tapped for cleaning unwanted debris out of a swimming pool. Murray is still my favorite, but Chase impressed me here with his cool confidence, something that seems to have gone missing from his later films.

These characters are involved in a series of almost random encounters and set-pieces, most of which involve some kind of destruction or defilement. The point is to get Danny on the golf course, standing up for himself and playing against the judge. This end match matters about as much as the foot race in Meatballs (1979), which is to say not much, but at least it remembers to be funny. The director here is Harold Ramis, making his debut after a successful career on "SCTV" and writing the screenplays for National Lampoon's Animal House (1978) and Meatballs. He seems to have gleaned a kind of deadpan quality from Animal House director John Landis, an understanding and a trust that an audience will get a joke if you just leave it alone. In Caddyshack, Ramis always seems to know how to end a scene, and how to cut away from a joke, just a moment before the laugh comes. It's up to us to laugh, and it works.

Warner Home Video has released Caddyshack on a new Blu-Ray for the film's 30th anniversary. The new HD picture did not really blow my mind; it looks a bit soft, but it's still perfectly acceptable. It comes with an older featurette, and a brand-new feature-length one in HD, with many, many stories about the torrid, debaucherous production. (Though Chase and Murray do not contribute.) The disc also includes a trailer.

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