Thursday 7 May 2020

Movie Review: Caddyshack (1980)

A comedy set at an exclusive golf club, Caddyshack overflows with often hilarious characters and events. Despite the absence of structure and plot, most of the jokes find their target.

Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) is a caddy at the members-only Bushwood Country Club. The members include laidback businessman Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), an expert golfer who plays for fun, and the much more competitive and highly strung Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). Slightly unhinged assistant groundskeeper Carl (Bill Murray) is tasked with eliminating a gopher burrowing under the golf course.

Danny is desperate to secure a college scholarship and tries to cozy up to members for financial help. The arrival of loud and brash businessman Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) infuriates the Judge, setting the two men on a collision course. Meanwhile the Judge's niece Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan) showers sexual sparks all over the golf course.

A series of sketches only loosely tied together, Caddyshack has no cohesive story to speak of. The origins of the script, co-written by Brian Doyle-Murray and director Harold Ramis, may have been to focus on the misadventures of horny caddies drawn from their own experiences. But by the time the editing and improvisation was done, the film became an uproarious hodge podge of skits, poking fun at the haughty culture and diverse personalities populating a typical country club.

The confluence of comic talent featuring Chevy Chase, Bill Murray and Rodney Dangerfield, each adhering to his own style, is a lightning-in-a-bottle cinematic event. They bulldoze through the movie almost oblivious to each other, which only adds to the throw-stuff-at-the-wall attitude.

Murray spends the film dreaming up increasingly destructive methods to eliminate one gopher. Chase is coolness personified until his game cracks under pressure. Dangerfield's mouth, clothes and equipment are loud enough to threaten the club's entire existence. With able support from Ted Knight and Michael O'Keefe, their scenes of dialogue are often made-up but also inspired, talent let loose on the greens.

The highlights are many, including the classic chocolate bar in a swimming pool, Al's introductory stream of taunts immediately throwing the Judge off his game, and Carl resorting to questionable military tactics to solve his problem once and for all. Snippets of life as a caddy do make into the movie, including hauling oversized equipment and escorting doddering seniors around the course. Meanwhile Lacey just wants to have fun, undermining all of Danny's good work in sidling up to her uncle to secure his scholarship.

As can be expected some sequences just don't work, including a carnage-on-the-water yacht demolition derby. But overall Caddyshack lustily yells "fore!" and claims a deserved birdie.

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