With some of the biggest names in comedy behind its production, Caddyshack may very well be the funniest sports movie of all time.
I first saw the film several years ago while on my mission to watch all 100 films chosen by the American Film Institute’s 100 Years, 100 Laughs in 2000. I decided to give the film a re-watch not just because it’s a classic sports film but also in light of the recently published book, Caddyshack: The Making of a Hollywood Cinderella Story, by Entertainment Weekly‘s Chris Nashawaty.
Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is a regular caddy at the Bushwood Country Club. He saves up the money he makes as a regular caddy for Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). It’s when he learns that there’s an opening in the caddy scholarship program in which Danny decides to suck up to program founder Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). While all of this is going on, greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) is working to get rid of the gopher problem.
Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) manages to disrupt the status quo. He’s as unprofessional as it gets, even for an amateur golfer. Everyone knows you never heckle a golfer when they’re trying to hit the ball. Yet that’s what Czervik does, much to Smails’ dismay. The heckling reaches the point in which Smails throws a golf club and injures a member of the club. Not one to miss an opportunity, Danny takes the fall for it in hope of winning the scholarship. The things that people will do!
The film isn’t without some slapstick moments when Smails catches Danny in bed with his niece, Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan). This comes as Smails and his wife (Lois Kibbee) are expecting friends over for tea. Watching Smails chase Danny through his house may have been the peak hysterics of the film if it weren’t for Bill Murray’s Spackler.
Murray especially makes great use of the six days he worked on set. All of Murray’s lines were completely improvised with Ramis feeding him stage directions. Yes, this even includes the classic Cinderella story moment. If he hadn’t been flying back and forth from New York, the film would surely have had more Murray.
Going into the film, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray were breakout players on Saturday Night Live. However, the two had some previous tension given Chase’s ego going into his guest-hosting stint in 1978. It’s a shame that the two only have one shared scene with dialogue. Because of their feud at the time, it makes perfect sense to keep the two at distance.
Among the elder cast members, Ted Knight was just coming off a run on the popular series, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Rodney Dangerfield, a complete opposite of the MTM vet, was a popular stand-up comedian at the time. It’s because of this that Dangerfield, who gets no respect, plays the role like a stand-up delivering zingers rather than an actor. The cast alone would have driven the film at the box office if it weren’t for the June releases of Airplane! and The Blues Brothers.
Harold Ramis’ directorial debut may be messy at times but Caddyshack‘s zany moments are enough to overcome the faults.
DIRECTOR: Harold Ramis
SCREENWRITERS: Brian Doyle-Murray & Harold Ramis & Douglas Kenney
CAST: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe, and Bill Murray
Warner Bros. Pictures released Caddyshack in theaters on July 25, 1980. The film is currently available on Blu-ray.