"Great comedy" and "great film" are rarely synonymous, perhaps because comedy, like war, is messy. Sometimes a comedy film's chaos is so well orchestrated as to be almost elegant in its art (like, say, A Night at the Opera), but more often it's rough around the edges, able to deliver the biggest laughs by taking the biggest risks, and sometimes "whiffing." Harold Ramis' Caddyshack could only be what it is because of its messiness: it's a hodgepodge of comedic styles in search of narrative coherence, which it only nominally achieves. But despite being ungainly, Caddyshack is the kind of comedy you can pan for gold in; funny always wins.
The ostensible hero of Caddyshack is teenage Danny Noonan (a likeable Michael O'Keefe), one of a large, lower-middle-class Irish-American brood; by financial necessity (though his pay his paltry), Danny caddies at the Bushwood Country Club. Danny has his eye on the "Caddy Scholarship," the prize for whomever best sucks up to the club's unctuous, self-deluded co-founder, Judge Smails (Ted Knight). Danny looks up to playboy and zen Buddhist golfer Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), who considers Danny his favorite caddy and accordingly offers him advice in golf and life; both men enjoy dalliances with Smails' hot-to-trot neice Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan). Meanwhile, caddy master Lou Loomis (Brian-Doyle Murray) sics dimwitted greenskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) on the gopher that's tearing the grounds apart. And then there's construction tycoon Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), a whirling dervish of sorts who blithely causes wanton destruction through insults and other means (a runaway yacht).
Famously, Caddyshack was thought of as "Animal House on a golf course," but credit Caddyshack for being weirder in its comedy, as in the gleefully strange sequence in which Bishop Pickering (Henry Wilcoxon) has a spiritual experience during a career-best round of golf, then spectacularly loses his religion. Sure, there's a scene in which a Baby Ruth in the club pool is mistaken for a "doodie," but it follows a random Busby Berkeley-style water ballet. Yes, the comic tension rests on the "snobs against the slobs" dynamic pitting the high-society stuffed shirts against social-moré-punctuating comic anti-heroes, but what anti-heroes they are. As the nouveau riche irritant to the perfectly pompous Knight, the jittery, bug-eyed Dangerfield delivers a steady stream of stand-up insult comedy that, though hardly spontaneous, is certainly distinctive, and his dance moves are nothing short of amazing. Chase gives probably his funniest performance, with his "Be the ball" instruction and trademark goofy seduction of Morgan, who, for her part, sexily claims she enjoys "skinny-skiing and going to bullfights." And Bill Murray—whose intended cameo part (with, initially, the story goes, no lines) became the film's highlight as the addled varmint-chaser with his lower lip jutting out, mealy mouth and crooked gait.
Like most of the performers, Murray seems to be in his own picture, in this case a Looney Tune of the Road Runner-Wile E. Coyote variety (at one point, Carl addresses the gopher, "What's up, Doc?"—wrong character, but you get the idea). Nothing can stop that darn gopher, who, in a seeming furtherance of Ty's zen attitude, merrily celebrates his ongoing survival by shimmying as "I'm Alright"—one of three new Kenny Loggins tunes—plays on the soundtrack. Still, Spackler plugs onward, eventually going native, Apocalypse Now-style, as he prepares gopher-hole-sized plastic explosives. Most of Murray's performance is improvised around scenarios bandied with Ramis (who co-wrote the screenplay with Doyle-Murray & Doug Kenney), and it's legendary stuff, in particular his monologue about caddying for the Dalai Lama and his "Cinderella story" color commentary as he hacks off the heads of flowers with a golf club. Arguably the film's best scene is the shoehorned-in meeting of Webb and Spackler, which finds Chase at his best underplaying off Murray (though the pair had famously fought on the set of Saturday Night Live).
Warner delivers a very nice special edition for Caddyshack in its Blu-ray debut, celebrating the film's thirtieth anniversary. The picture quality is excellent: the film looks its age, but naturally so. This is exactly how Caddyshack should look, with a light veneer of grain, accurate color, and fine contrast and black level. The picture is clean and tight, offering more detail than ever before on home video. The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix gives the movie all the sonic oomph it's ever going to get, which is plenty for its humble demands.
Special features are excellent, though Bill Murray is once more all but a no-show. The new feature-length BIO Documentary Caddyshack: The Inside Story (1:20:52, HD) has a salacious tone in digging into the gossip surrounding the film, but it's quite thorough and at least it goes to the horses' mouths by inteviewing a large contingent of players: director/co-writer Harold Ramis, Michael O'Keefe, Scott Colomby, producer Mark Canton, Cindy Morgan, John Barmon, John Murray, Hamilton Mitchell, golf commentator David Feherty, Mark Chiriboga, executive in charge of production Rusty Lemorande, Anne Ryerson, Kenny Loggins, executive producer Jon Peters, studio executive Mike Medavoy, associate producer Don MacDonald, Ramis' assistant Trevor Albert, casting director Wallis Nicita, Peter Berkrot, Dr. Dow, editor William Carruth, extra Mike Sereg, Marcus Breeze, Minerva Scelza, special effects supervisor John Dykstra, puppet maker Joe Garlington, Doug Kenney biographer Josh Karp, composer Jonny Mandel and, in brief licensed interview clips, Bill Murray. The documentary also includes some rare candid photographs from on and off the set.
Returning from the original DVD is "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole" (31:01, SD), an excellent featurette in its own right. In some ways, including the presence of Chevy Chase, this is better, as it's focused a bit more on anecdotes about the film rather than the on-set drama. Also interviewed are Ramis, Peters, Mitchell, Colomby, Canton, Ryerson and Morgan. Better yet, this featurette includes outtakes of Murray and Chase, as well as glimpses of "home movies" taken on the set.
Lastly, Warner includes the film's "Theatrical Trailer" (2:34, SD).
Given the lavish new doc and the significant upgrade in picture quality, this one's a can't miss for Caddyshack fans.
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