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Blu-ray Review: Caddyshack

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One would be hard-pressed to state that Harold Ramis' debut directorial effort, Caddyshack, is the comedic equivalent of Citizen Kane. The story is weak, working best as comedic scenes rather than a film as a whole, and the basic "snobs vs. slobs" premise wasn't original even for Ramis who had used the same concept in different settings as the writer of both Animal House and Meatballs. But, what Caddyshack is, is an hysterical film whose parts certainly function better than its whole.

Rather than containing a single strong main story throughout, the film tells several separate tales about members of, and workers at, the Bushwood Country Club. These characters include millionaire weirdo Ty Webb (Chevy Case), real estate mogul Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), rich uptight snob Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight), Smail's niece Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan), assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), and caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe).

As stated in both of the excellent documentaries which accompany the Blu-ray release (one of which is making its home debut here and runs an astounding 80-odd minutes), the film had initially been conceived of as focusing on the caddies and their lives. However, once Chase, Dangerfield, Knight, and Murray came on, their star power and humor caused the focus to shift more to the adults. While that shift did lead to the older members of the cast getting more screen time and some of the funniest moments in the film (which were improvised, not scripted), it caused the caddy story to fall by the wayside. Not having the other film – the caddy film – to judge against, one can't really say whether it would have worked out to be a better movie than what eventually was released. However, the movie we are left with is truly funny and has some incredibly famous and quotable lines.

While there are certainly some stories that are followed throughout the film – Danny's struggle to figure out what he wants from life, Carl's attempts to kill the gopher – the film is really a series of sketches that feature the same characters. It's no less funny for that, but it is not really the strongest of tales. It is a movie of moments, and the moments work exceptionally well.

Everyone who has seen the movie more than once almost certainly has their favorite character and/or line. There's Ty Webb's "be the ball," Carl's pretend play-by-play while whacking flowers, Carl's Dalai Lama story, Judge Smails' poem for launching his boat, Bishop Pickering (Henry Wilcoxon) turning to atheism, and just anything Rodney Dangerfield says during the film (to name a few). Plus, Caddyshack opens with Kenny Loggins singing "I'm Alright" which starts the movie off on the exact right, upbeat note, and the dancing gopher doesn't hurt either.

There are, almost certainly, those out there who will still deride Caddyshack for its loose storyline, limited number of characters with arcs, and the repeated scenes and hints to the movie that Ramis and his co-writers Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney originally thought they were making (like the would-be relationship between Danny and Sarah Holcomb's Maggie O'Hooligan). But, that's the same sort of snobbery that the slobs in the film fight against. Caddyshack is an incredibly funny movie and features excellent comic talent near the top of their game.

The new Blu-ray release contains the two aforementioned behind-the-scenes documentaries. Though the actors, Ramis, and the producers who appear in both pieces do have a tendency to tell the same stories in both, there are different folks included as well in the two documentaries which does give them a different flavor. The longer one, "Caddyshack: The Inside Story" is definitely a must-watch (even if Chase and Murray aren't in it). The release also contains a trailer, but that's it in terms of extras.

As for the visual and auditory quality of the Blu-ray… this is a comedy from 1980. The studio has done a great job removing dust, scratches, specks, dirt, and all other manner of imperfections from the visuals. There are some shots (particularly long ones) that do look overly grainy, but that's kind of nitpicky for a film like this. The colors are good, the detail is good (better in some scenes than others), and it certainly looks better than the most recent DVD release of the film. The exact same is true of the sound, a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. One won't notice pops or other auditory anomaly and there is a minimal amount of static, but it's not the most in-depth sound design either. You're not going to use this to show off to your friends how great Blu-ray can be, but you won't be disappointed with it either.

As with the game of golf itself, Caddyshack is a timeless comedy. While the hairstyles, outfits, and equipment may be outdated, the basic perceptions about country clubs has changed little over the course of 30 years. Discounting things like clothes, it is easily believable that similar (though not quite as funny) things still happen every summer.

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About Josh Lasser

Josh has deftly segued from a life of being pre-med to film school to television production to writing about the media in general. And by 'deftly' he means with agonizing second thoughts and the formation of an ulcer.
  • http://www.lynnvoedisch.com Lynn Voedisch

    Phew…I thought for a moment that you were going to diss this film, this all-time great, this classic film of on-the-green wackiness. Say what you will about the script, it is absolutely inspired comedy. And what made it so much better was that Ted Knight really did hate Rodney Dangerfield, so the uppity, how-dare-you humor is for real. How can you not love when Dangerfield plows his yacht into the country club and then goes into the pro shop, dissing all the tchotckes for sale, ending up plopping a silly hat on Knight’s head, leaving him ready to hyperventilate. And Murray! He’s a show in himself, tossing plastic explosives shaped like “furry little animals” for the gopher to play with into holes blown into the carefully manicured lawn.
    And I just love the gopher at the end, boogie-ing to the beat of “I’m Alright,” while the whole place goes up like the Viet Nam that Murray escaped.
    What better movie? Ramis is a genius. This thing rocks.