Movie Review: Caddyshack

There are a million reasons to like “Caddyshack.” It’s pound for pound the most quotable movie of all time, and it features a scene-stealing performance from Rodney Dangerfield, not to mention the perfect breasts of Cindy Morgan. But here’s the catch: as funny as it is, “Caddyshack” is not a great movie. The story is seriously lacking in focus, plot devices appear and disappear without a word, and many of the supporting characters simply can’t act. (Ahem, Spalding) This is why the movie was so poorly received by critics upon its release in 1980, and they were not wrong. Missing the point, perhaps, but not wrong.

Set at the stuffy Bushwood Country Club, young caddy Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe) needs to make some money, or he’s doomed to a life at the lumberyard. When he discovers that the annual caddy scholarship is up for grabs, Danny reluctantly subjects himself to its benefactor, the boorish Judge Smalls (Ted Knight), even though he’d rather spend time with the younger and mysteriously rich Zen golfer Ty Webb (Chevy Chase). Smalls, meanwhile, is annoyed by the presence of garish real estate magnate Al Czervik (Dangerfield), and ultimately a class war erupts at the club, with Danny torn on which side to choose.

The above paragraph describes next to nothing about the movie itself, but that goes back to the earlier comment about the story. Most of the characters interact around the other characters, but rarely with them. Heck, Danny’s girlfriend Maggie (Sarah Holcomb) might be a figment of Danny’s imagination for all we know, since she doesn’t interact with anyone else in the movie. The story also dangles preppy slut Lacey Underall (Morgan) for roughly an hour, at which point she vanishes without helping advance a single story line. Likewise, there is one scene between Chase and Bill Murray’s spacey greens keeper Carl, and its sole purpose is to get the two in the same room together. Granted, the scene is funny, as is Chase’s scene with Morgan, but both are superfluous. Most of the movie is superfluous, if we’re being honest.

But man, is there some comic gold in those pointless scenes. Chase does here what he’s always done best, which is playing straight man to the insanity around him, though his blindfolded putting sound will live on golf courses forever. Dangerfield is, well, Dangerfield, and that’s just what the part needs. O’Keefe is very likable as Danny, but ultimately the movie belongs to the late, great Ted Knight. His portrayal of Smalls is the textbook definition of pomposity, making him the perfect foil for everyone else in the movie. Murray’s Carl comes a close second for laughs, though one wonders how much better his role would have been if he spent more time interacting with human actors rather than the animatronic gopher. Everyone remembers the lines from his speech about golfing with the Dali Lama, but does anyone remember that he’s carelessly holding a pitchfork to a caddy’s neck the entire time?

So yes, “Caddyshack” is a far from perfect movie, but it works, and as a bonus, the movie’s contributed more quality quotes per minute to the pop culture lexicon than any other movie. So it’s got that going for it. Which is nice.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)
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