Friday, 2 June 2023

Caddyshack (1980)


Off-List: Caddyshack

The first off-List movie for 1980 is “Caddyshack”. For many people I need say no more. For the rest, this is a classic (as in VERY classic) comedy by Harold Ramis about… golf.

The setting of “Caddyshack” is the Bushwood Country Club and particularly its golf course. This is a posh country club with two kinds of people: those who play and those who serve. Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) is a young man who is saving up for college being a caddy. The country club sponsors a college scholarship and Noonan is jockeying for it. This means sucking up to Judge Smails (Ted Knight), director of the scholarship program, co-founder of the club and a total dick.

Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) is a very wealthy golf bum who practically lives at the country club, plays without keeping score and just tries to live as easy as possible. He is a friend of Noonan and pretty girls, such as Smail’s niece, Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan).

Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) is a real estate developer with way too much money. His visit to the country club is disrespectful in the extreme and he manages to piss off the establishment to a degree where it can only be settled through a high stake four-some on the golf course: Czevik and Webb against Smails and Dr. Beeper (Dan Resin).

Carl Sparcler (Bill Murray) is a not quite stable greenskeeper who is waging a war against a gopher that is messing up the golf course. His means of fighting the gopher gets rather extreme as the gopher keeps evading him.

Condensed, the theme is the servants against the rich snobs, a sort of repeat of “Animal House” but on a golf course. Mostly, though, it is the various characters goofing around with often tenuous connection to any main story. In fact, seen from the outside the movie is a bit of a mess. Hung up on a story about Noonan trying to get a scholarship, the movie digresses so much into vignettes that there is a real danger of losing focus and indeed upon release, “Caddyshack” was panned for being exactly that, a mess.

What saves “Caddyshack” is that all these digressions are tremendously funny. In isolation, even priceless. Ty Webb’s date with Lacey Underall, Carl’s war on the gopher, Czernik’s motormouth insulting everybody and their mother, Smails hunting Noonan though the house with a golf club and so many more fantastic scenes. Sure, they tie together very poorly and when remembered, it is the scene and not the context that is recalled. In this way, it is almost a precursor to the spoof movies, except that the jokes here stay within the plausible.

I learned, watching the extra-material, that the original script was primarily the Noonan story, but on set the comedic heavy-weights went on an improvised rampage and produced so much gold that it supplanted much of the original story with stuff that is often tangential to the intended direction of the movie. Murray did not even have lines going into the movie and if you look closely, his storyline only connects with the main storyline at the very last moment of the movie.

It has been many years since I watched “Caddyshack”, could be as much as thirty years, and what I remembered was only bits and pieces. Well, now I understand why they were bits and pieces. I also remember it as being funnier than I found it this time round. I do not think it has aged poorly, I think it is just me expecting more. The curse of rose-hued memories…

“Caddyshack” is comedy-classic even if most of the participant have done better stuff since. It is a very easy watch as you do not even have to pay attention and I can only recommend it. It really belongs on the List.



  1. This is a rare comedy that mostly holds up. Not everything does (like, say, Ghostbusters), but it's still worth watching, which isn't true of a lot of comedies from the same era.

    1. It is surprising how well it holds up given the mess of filming. The improvisation is fun, but almost derails the movie.

  2. As someone born in December of 1980, this film is a staple in the family household along with National Lampoon's Vacation. It is truly one of the greatest comedies ever that not only still holds up bit is quotable to death. Harold Ramis should be given a lot more love considering that he helped create 4 comedy classics in the span of four years starting with this one then Stripes, National Lampoon's Vacation, and Ghostbusters.

    1. The list editors are not particularly fond of comedies. Instead of selecting a number of great movies, the comedic stars often get just one movie as representative of their work. Ramis got both Ghostbusters and Groundhog Day so he is already ahead of the game, but you are right, all four belong on the list and I would add Animal House, which Ramis had a share in.