'Caddyshack': THR's 1980 Review

Photofest
Bill Murray in 1980's 'Caddyshack.'
To attempt a critical evaluation of Orion's new 'Caddyshack' is a little like describing the esthetic qualities of an outhouse.

On July 25, 1980, Warner Bros. unveiled the Harold Ramis-directed, R-rated comedy Caddyshack in theaters. The Hollywood Reporter's original review is below: 

To attempt a critical evaluation of Orion's new Caddyshack is a little like describing the esthetic qualities of an outhouse. Its jokes are almost entirely scatological, deriving from such socially questionable practices as farting, vomiting and nose-picking. In one protracted sequence, a chocolate candy bar afloat in a swimming pool is mistaken for a turd, causing the pool to empty in a Jaws parody; it closes with Bill Murray finding the bar and biting into it, causing a nearby matron to faint dead away. Quiet good taste, that's what I like. 

Having established the level of humor in the Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney screenplay, I can only add that its large and manic cast, drawn mainly from television, sustains that level with a chilling persistence, while Johnny Mandel's score seems intent on burying everything beneath its deafening roar. 

Caddyshack is yet another Animal House spinoff (Ramis and Kenney were among the authors of that earlier work and they have a lot to account for). In Caddyshack, the locale is moved from raucous fraternity row to the more staid confines of Bushwood Country Club, where caddy Michael O'Keefe is bucking to win the club's college scholarship. Blustery club president Ted Knight takes advantage of the situation by dime-tipping the boy and using him to mow the lawn, meanwhile extolling the virtues of thrift and good behavior. Playboy Chevy Chase, a virtuoso golfer who's much too laid back ever to keep score, sides with O'Keefe (if anyone). There's to be a big playoff match among the caddies to determine who wins the scholarship, and that's about as much plot as you'll find. 

It's typical of Harold Ramis's direction that O'Keefe's winning ball is tipped into the cup by an enormous explosion, the result of one of the greens-keeper Murray's more simple-minded efforts to rid the course of gophers (which he first interprets as golfers). As the 15th green becomes a crater and an enormous fireball hovers above, one wonders if the mechanics of the gag don't somehow dwarf the gag itself. Similarly, when Rodney Dangerfield's high-powered yacht comes crashing down on Knight's newly christened sailboat, the humor is lost in Knight's obvious pride and affection for his craft. Indeed, it's the one time in the movie that I felt any pity for an otherwise totally unlovable character. 

Chase is affable enough, throwing away lines that should have been thrown away while they were still in the scripting stage; but you have to love his ex-SNL associate Bill Murray a lot more than I do to accept his bathroom humor sight gags and his half-heard, off-the-wall running commentary on every new broad he sees. He's an animal — a cross between a mink and a pack rat — just begging to be caged. By contrast, Dangerfield offers a hearty, old-fashioned vulgarian — loud, lewd and larcenous, but alive. I'd hate to meet him in person, but he gives this movie a sorely needed shot of energy whenever he struts onto the scene.

On the technical side, this Douglas Kenney production is only so-so. Stevan Larner's photography is variable, better for exteriors than inside shots (although some of the nighttime exteriors leave you wondering what in the world is going on). William Carruth's editing, while workmanlike, rarely achieves a sense of comedy timing or tempo; and the songs, three of them by Kenny Loggins, are all so blastingly recorded that it would take a keener ear than mine to discern whether or not they are suitable to the occasion. What is suitable to the occasion? The film's R rating — R as in raunchy. — Arthur Knight, originally published on July 25, 1980. 

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