“What you are about to see has a mechanical gopher in it.”
Recently I was having a bit of a playful, and at times aggressive, back-and-forth with a friend over our top 50 films of all time. While we disagreed at almost every turn (of course his list had Speed and Pretty Women and not Jaws, Unforgiven, King Kong, or Gladiator). What we did seem to agree upon was that neither of us was willing to allow very many comedy films into our lists. There’s something about a very good comedy that doesn’t fit with the likes of The Godfather or Gone With The Wind. Caddyshack wasn’t on either of our lists. But Caddyshack did make AFI’s funniest films back in 2000. I suspect it made a lot of lists over the years. It should. It’s a very funny film.
Harold Ramis has put together a pretty impressive collection of good comedy films in his career. But it all began with Caddyshack. It was his first motion picture and one of his classics. It was really a film that began as something entirely different than what it became. The original story had the focus entirely on the young caddies, hence the name. Somewhere along the line, however, the film ended up with so many huge names in the supporting cast that the supporting cast was soon the headline cast. I mean, think about it. You don’t put the likes of Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, and Bill Murray in the background and expect that they will remain there for long. In fact, Bill Murray’s part was the least-developed character in the entire script. Yet 30 years later it is Carl’s battle with that mechanical gopher that most of us remember from the movie. The truth is that just about the entire script was eventually tossed out of the window, and over 80% of he movie is pure improvisation by the big-name comics.
Someone once asked me what Caddyshack was about. Can you believe that there was a human being who had not seen the movie? I remember trying to change the subject then. Now, as I write this review, where I usually give a little plot synopsis, I’ve got nothing. I’ve seen the movie a dozen times, and I still don’t know what it’s about. I remember moments like the gopher war with Carl, or the candy bar in the pool that is mistaken for Mr. Hanky. Those are the things I remember. There’s something about a young caddy looking for a mentor and a college scholarship. Other than that? Nothin’.
Harold Ramis might not have had any experience when he tackled the movie. That’s not what he needed, obviously. He was smart enough to populate his little farce with the right personalities and let them do their thing. You don’t direct Caddyshack. You merely oversee the mayhem. It’s a classic today, and deservedly so.
If you already have the film on DVD, there is no reason to pick up this version. It’s not a new remaster or anything like that. It’s a re-release of the 19th Hole Anniversary Edition from 1999.
Caddyshack is presented in its original aspect ratio of 1.85:1. This has actually always been a rather dull-looking film. It retains its soft focus and dull colors in this transfer. Occasionally some color manages to break through, usually having to do with Dangerfield. Mostly, this is a lackluster affair with average black levels and noticeable print damage and grain. There is a Blu-ray, but Warner didn’t deem a review copy in that format as a good enough investment. More’s the pity.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 is as dull as the image. You can hear the dialog fine, but there is no atmosphere or ambient life to this presentation. Of course, it’s that dialog that makes this film so fall down funny. So, it works just fine.
The 19th Hole: (30:59) This retrospective was made in 1999. The cast and crew mostly reminisce and tell great stories about the production. The piece includes outtakes. There’s some good fun to be had here as well.
It’s been a long time since I revisited the Caddyshack scene. I’m amazed at how much I had actually forgotten. The truth is that there are a lot of forgettable moments in this film. The real question is why? Are they forgettable because they suck? Or, are they forgettable because some of this other stuff is just so good and sticks with you for decades? I’m thinking a little bit of both. I was amazed at just how little there really is of Carl and the gopher. Heck, as I remembered, what seemed like most of the film revolved around that war. It didn’t. But that’s just like this film. There is so much that is what I like to call “stick to you funny” that the rest might as well not even be there. There was a sequel, but it never came close to the original. This one is worth having, if you haven’t already picked it up. I’m still laughing so hard that “they’re gonna lock me up and throw away the key”.