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Caddyshack (1980): The Gopher’s Better than the Golfers!

Harold Ramis’s “Caddyshack” is often considered a comedy classic, and a quintessential slice of 1980s golf course silliness. However, what happens if you don’t particularly like this classic? Could it be that you, the viewer, are defective? This is exactly what I wondered after seeing “Caddyshack” for the first time. I wondered if I was defective. Was my sense of humor broken? I indeed wondered if I was missing something, especially when I’m fully capable of liking other zany comedies. Still, to me, the only mildly interesting thing about “Caddyshack” is that little gopher running around, and maybe a few lines from Bill Murray’s character, Carl Spackler.

The movie was (and still is) undeniably cartoonish, much like Rodney Dangerfield’s comically bulging eyes and obnoxious personality. Still, I found myself eliciting only light chuckles here and there. Where were the belly laughs? The guffaws? The crazy little gopher’s antics just weren’t enough to elevate this supposed slice of sports comedy brilliance. Then I realized a possible strike against it: What if the problem’s that I’m just not into sports? It could be that it’s only for golf fans, right? However, that doesn’t sound right, as I’m not much into baseball, either, yet I really like “A League of their Own.” Could it simply be that it lacked nostalgia value to me, because I hadn’t seen it when I was younger? That sounds plausible at first, yet, oddly enough, I thought “Masters of the Universe” was unintentionally funny after seeing it for the first time ever this year (also, I was never big into “He-Man”). So let me try to explain why it doesn’t work for me.

A Story That Goes Nowhere

“Caddyshack” doesn’t come across as very cohesive, even though it kind of is. This is a pretty common aspect of madcap comedies, but here it just doesn’t work for some reason. Too many elements just seem randomly strung together, but not in any compelling way. There is a drama scene between Danny (Michael O’Keefe) and his girlfriend Maggie (Sarah Holcomb), but it almost seems like an afterthought, and quite out of place with the rest of the movie. Danny also has a fling with Lacey (Cindy Morgan), the niece of the country club’s co-owner, Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). At first it seems like Danny’s in serious trouble, yet nothing becomes of it. Sure, Lacey appears topless, which is something, but the conflict between Danny and Judge is just another aside.

Then you have Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, who goes around basically antagonizing Judge. It’s obvious that, for whatever reason, we’re supposed to side with Mr. Dangerfield (and let’s face it, that might as well be the character’s name). However, Czervik juts comes across as a big, dumb bully. It actually makes his wisecracks less funny, and he would have been better as a more purely villainous character than some random, rich, jokey jerk. It all just comes off as random. The same is true of the legendary candy bar scene, which actually is a bit funny, but not enough to save the whole movie. Finally, Chevy Chase’s character, Ty Webb, is just plain boring. He also beds Lacey, which makes one wonder: Is the Gopher next on her to-do list?

The Gopher Hunt: The One Element that Definitely Works

Caddyshack
Photo credit: Orion Pictures

Honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds, this movie should have been way more focused on Spackler’s gopher hunt. It’s the one part of the movie that clearly has focus, and was always rife with comic potential. In fact, it kind of delivers. Spackler also happens to be the most interesting, dynamic character in the film, with a determination and drive that more easily engages the viewer. In fact, he and the Gopher have become the de facto mascots of “Caddyshack.”

Who in their right mind would think of Danny when they first hear “Caddyshack”? Practically no one, that’s who! In fact, even the actor who played him probably thinks of the Spackler scenes first and foremost. Granted, the title could also conjure thoughts of Rodney Dangerfield, or the dated sounds of Kenny Loggins. However, almost every aspect of this live-action cartoon gets supplanted by Speckler’s mad pursuit.

Do I Hate “Caddyshack”?

This review comes across as negative, and will undoubtedly annoy hardcore fans of the film. I offer them an assurance that, no, I don’t really hate this film. In fact, this review wasn’t littered with hate-filled ranting about how politically incorrect things are in retrospect. I wouldn’t say the actors are talentless, and it seems like Ramis had his heart in the right place. The problem is, I just don’t know where that place is. “Caddyshack” is an aimless comedy, but it’s something I will likely revisit some day. Who knows? Maybe it will grow on me, which actually has happened with certain films, TV shows, songs, etc. While I’m not yet a member of the “Caddyshack” country club, I may some day get in. Though, let’ts be honest, it would help if I didn’t find golf boring.

What are your thoughts on “Caddyshack”? Let us know in the comments!

About Wade Wainio

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