Film Review: Caddyshack
In 1980, Harold Ramis released Caddyshack, which starred Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Ted Knight, Michael O’Keefe, Bill Murray, Sarah Holcomb, Cindy Morgan, Dan Resin, Henry Wilcoxon, Scott Colomby, Albert Salmi, Elaine Aiken, John F. Barmon, Jr., Lois Kibbee, Brian Doyle-Murray, Jackie Davis, Hamilton Mitchell, Chuck Rodent, Kenneth Burritt, and Rebecca Burritt. The film grossed $39.8 million at the box office and the American Film Institute placed it as #71 on its list of top 100 comedy films as well as #7 on its list of Top 10 Sports Films. It was also nominated for the Stinker Award for Most Annoying Fake Accent: Female.
Danny Noonan is a young caddy at Bushwood Country Club with no idea as to where is future will take him and is currently trying to earn a caddy scholarship from the club owner, Judge Elihu Smails. However, conflict arises between Smails and Al Czervik, an eccentric millionaire who wants to purchase Bushwood. At the same time, Bushwood’s Assistant Groundskeeper, Carl, is trying to take care of a rampaging gopher chewing holes throughout the course.
Ramis’ directorial debut, Caddyshack is a wildly entertaining, hilarious and good film. What makes it that way is partly because of the plot. There’s a lot that happens on this golf course that revolves around Smails, who is an angry and elitist jerk going at it with Czervik, who is a jovial jerk that’s enjoyable to be around. Caught in the middle of these two feuding is Danny who really doesn’t know what he wants out of life except that he knows he should go to college. Smails keeps trying to keep Danny under his thumb using the scholarship as a reason to do so while Czervik wants the kid to have a good time. Further, during all of this, Carl is trying to kill the course’s gopher, but continuously gets outsmarted. It all combines to produce a great and memorable film.
The characters are all pretty flat, but this is one of those films where it really works. Take the two main people on both sides of the feud. For one, there’s Judge Smails. He owns the club, prefers Old Money to anything else and doesn’t care if he uses manipulation to get his way, such as how he hangs the scholarship over Danny’s head constantly. Smails also seems to always come across as someone who is perpetually grumpy, though that may be because he’s having to deal with uncouth caddies as well as someone like Czervik who he sees as beneath him, due to the man working to create his own wealth rather than inheriting it.
However, while Czervik is still a better person than Smails, he’s still not all that good of a person. He’s rude and obnoxious but behaves that way he’s trying to enjoy life all he can with the wealth he’s made over said lifetime. Where Smails hangs the scholarship over Danny’s head, Czervik instead gives Danny the money to go to college. Still though, what Czervik is most interested in is having a good time and making so others can as well, seen when he bribes a band to start playing some upbeat music so everyone can start dancing and turning to the people watching the golfing contest at the climax and yelling that they’re all going to get laid. Czervik also seems to dislike the snootiness of Bushwood, stating that he’s not there to become a member but that he wants to think about buying it and turning the land into condos. Notably, that’s what kicks off the final contest.
Then there’s Danny, whose problems about the future are all overshadowed by the crazy zaniness that’s going on at the golf course. He’s just a poor kid who knows he wants to go to college, but doesn’t know what he wants to do or how he’s even going to get to college. Yet, he does seem to figure everything out by the end of the film, getting the money for college from Czervik and realizing that he needs to take responsibility, which comes to a head when Maggie comes to him believing she’s pregnant and Danny immediately decides he wants to help her raise it.
As for the film’s subplot, Carl working to kill the gopher is just pure humor with the man upping the ante every time he fails. He initially tries drowning and then attempts to take it out with a homemade sniper rifle, but those both prove fruitless and he eventually decides to use plastic explosives which destroy the entire course. His daydreams about being a renowned golfer are also funny as he’s hitting flowers with a golf club while quietly giving commentary to himself.