Movie Man: ‘Caddyshack’ is very funny — not very good
“Caddyshack” and “National Lampoon’s Animal House” are forever linked in the pantheon of movie comedies, and for good reason. They were written by the same guys (Doug Kenney and Harold Ramis, with an assist from Brian Doyle Murray in “Caddyshack”). The surprise success of one (“Animal House”) begat the other (“Caddyshack.”) And they both embody, more than any other two films, the slob-versus-snob style of American movie comedy.
But, after watching the new “Caddyshack” Blu-ray — and the new documentary, “Caddyshack: The Inside Story” — I realized that while, yes, “Caddyshack” is a gut-busting collection of endlessly quotable scenes, it’s really not much of a movie.
“Sacrilege!” you say. “Burn the heretic!” you say if you’re a really, really devoted fan. But hear me out: Like every other American male born between 1960 and 1980, I’ve seen “Caddyshack” dozens of times, and I can recite its lines with the best of them. I agree it’s Chevy Chase’s finest screen appearance, that Rodney Dangerfield is a riot, that Bill Murray delivers a wonderfully offbeat performance and that Ted Knight manages to steal the movie away from all of them. But while all those scenes are funny — hilarious, even — it’s the rest of the movie that, I’m sorry to say, stinks.
And “The Inside Story” reveals why. It’s not a great documentary — its TV roots show, with endless repeats of lines after the commercial breaks (that aren’t included, of course), and it doesn’t talk with the movie’s four biggest stars, Chase and Murray (too famous) and Knight and Dangerfield (too dead). But it does go into endless detail about the development of the story, and we see how the tale of young Danny Noonan and his quest to win the caddie scholarship turned into endless scenes of a dancing gopher.
Don’t get me wrong: The glimpses we see of the extended Noonan script look snooze-inducing, but at least it would’ve been a story, and one based on the Murray family’s actual experiences, to boot.
That gopher stuff might have made the potheads giggle back in 1980, but it’s downright embarrassing now. And it interrupts the genuinely funny stuff involving Chevy, Rodney, Ted and Bill (in his non-gopher scenes). But, aside from that caddie scholarship, it’s the closest thing to a plot “Caddyshack” has to an actual plot.
Compare that to “Animal House.” Sure, it’s very funny with plenty of quotable scenes (though arguably not as many as “Caddyshack.”) But that doesn’t matter, because “Animal House” is a real movie, with an actual story and genuine suspense about how it’s all going to turn out. The toga party and road trip are a lot of laughs, but when the Omegas beat up Otter or Dean Wormer threatens to send them to Vietnam, it’s not funny — and it’s not supposed to be. For all its burping and barfing, “Animal House” takes great pains to set up its character and situations so at the end, when our beloved Deltas finally get glorious revenge on their enemies, it’s more than just funny — it’s exciting.
“Caddyshack,” for all its laughs, never comes close to the same feeling because, at its sloppy little heart, it’s just a collection of jokes. Great jokes, yes, but not much more. That’s why DVD (or, in this case, Blu-ray) is the perfect format for “Caddyshack.” You can watch all the classic bits with Rodney and the gang and skip all the scenes with the gopher.
By the way, there’s only one performer who appears in both “Animal House” and “Caddyshack”: It’s Sarah Holcomb, who plays Pinto’s underage girlfriend in “Animal House” and Noonan’s Irish girlfriend in “Caddyshack.” Now you know!
Will Pfeifer writes about DVDs for the Rockford Register Star. Contact him at email@example.com or 815-987-1244. Read his blog at blogs.e-rockford.com/movie man/.
From the vault: Fore (ha!) more golf movies
There aren’t many great golf movies (“Caddyshack 2”?) but there a few — and some great golf scenes:
“Tin Cup” (1996) Kevin Costner stars in this woefully underrated film about a washed-up golf pro who snags a spot in the U.S. Open. Written and directed by Ron Shelton (“Bull Durham”), it has one heck of an oddball ending.
“National Lampoon’s Animal House” (1978) Otter (Tim Matheson) offers golf tips to Boon (Peter Riegert) while tormenting the hated Neidermeyer. Trivia note: Chevy Chase was originally considered to play Otter.
“Goldfinger” (1964) James Bond plays a memorable round of golf with the title villain, driving him into a rage when he switches balls on him and wins on a technicality.
“Happy Gilmore” (1996) It wears out its welcome long before it’s over, but at least it includes a hilarious battle between Adam Sandler and Bob Barker.
Make room in your collection
Some new DVDs out Tuesday:
“The Book of Eli”: Denzel Washington wanders the postapocalyptic wasteland in this stylishly directed action film.
“Collapse”: Deep thinker expert Michael Ruppert reveals why civilization stands on the brink of disaster. Look for a review in next week’s Movie Man column.
“Communion”: Christopher Walken gets abducted by aliens. Supposedly based on a true story.
“MacGyver” — The TV Movies: I’m guessing this was released to cash in on that “McGruber” movie — which bombed at the box office. Oops.
“Mystery Train”: Director Jim Jarmusch examines the legend and lore of Elvis in this fascinating film.
“The Secret Life of the American Teenager: Season 4”: Now that all these episodes are coming out on DVD, it won’t be a secret anymore.
“Yo Gabba Gabba: Clubhouse”: A children’s show so wild it might entertain you, too.
“Youth in Revolt”: Michael Cera plays a kid with an evil alter ego in this adaptation of the popular novel.
Various Artists, “Now That’s What I Call Music! 34”: Now that’s what I call a long-running, profitable CD series.
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, “Mojo”: Here’s what Petty himself says: “‘With this album, I want to show other people what I hear with the band.” Sounds good to me.
Soundtrack, “Toy Story 3”: And the “Toy Story” marketing juggernaut continues.
Devo, “Something For Everybody”: The band releases its first album in two decades, with a selection of songs chosen by fans.
Steve Miller Band, “Bingo”: Too bad this album isn’t a collection of covers of the song “B-I-N-G-O.”
The Stanley Clarke Band, “The Stanley Clarke Band”: And the Imaginative Album Title of the Week Award goes to ...
Sources: dvdtalk.com, tophitsonline.com