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Greenskeeper Carl Spackler is about to start World War III - against a gopher. Pompous Judge Smails plays to win but nubile niece Lacey Underall wants to score her own way. Playboy Ty Webb shoots perfect golf by becoming the ball. And country club loudmouth Al Czervik just doubled a $20,000 bet on a 10-foot putt.
For more about Caddyshack and the Caddyshack Blu-ray release, see Caddyshack Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on June 7, 2010 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Chevy Chase, Rodney Dangerfield, Bill Murray, Michael O'Keefe, Ted Knight, Sarah Holcomb
Director: Harold Ramis
» See full cast & crew
Caddyshack Blu-ray Review
'Caddyshack' arrives on Blu-ray in an above par presentation.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, June 7, 2010
Motion pictures supposedly killed vaudeville in a sort of bloodless murder that left a lot of victims but very few complaining witnesses. The old style vaudevillian entertainment of quick vignettes ultimately made its way to sketch based television variety shows like Sid Caesar's and Milton Berle's in the early 1950's, but, save for a very few examples, it never became a staple of the silver screen. How odd, then, that as late as 1979, in the wake of the huge success of National Lampoon's Animal House, that film's co-writer Harold Ramis should reinvent the idiom for the much beloved comedy Caddyshack, which he similarly co-wrote and also directed. One almost expects there to be gorgeous girls holding placards announcing the various acts and skits as Caddyshack wends its way through a largely formless hour and a half, an inchoateness fostered by the improvisatory predilections of several of the film's stars, chief among them Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. What had started out as a coming of age story revolving around a sweet-faced caddy named Danny (Michael O'Keefe) rather quickly evolved into a vignette-laden farce with Chase as millionaire playboy Ty Webb, Murray as sadsack greenskeeper Carl Spackler, Ted Knight as snob extraordinaire Judge Smails and a twitchingly manic Rodney Dangerfield as lowlife real estate developer Al Czervik. Not exactly a seamless blending of acting styles, to say the least, but probably a major reason Caddyshack's ramshackle humor has made it one of the best remembered comedies of its era. Looking back now from three decades' hindsight, one might be tempted to ask: does it deserve its reputation?
Bill Murray quickly achieved renown on Saturday Night Live as the first real post-Chevy Chase superstar, a "wild and crazy guy" (to paraphrase the famous SNL skit with Dan Aykroyd and Steve Martin) who did everything from sing a lounge lizard version of Star Wars to mess around with Gilda Radner's Lisa Loopner as nerd icon Todd. That may not have endeared him to Chase, who at that point in the late 1970's had burst free of the confines of the small screen to attain a certain surprising degree of big screen success in the Goldie Hawn comedy Foul Play. But it's noteworthy that both Chase and Murray honed their chops in that most vaudevillian of 1970's television shows, Saturday Night Live, a show that in those early days at least fostered an anarchistic spirit that often meant the printed script was the first thing to go in the pursuit of bigger laughs. That same ethos permeates Caddyshack, despite the original intent of co-writers Ramis and Bill's brother Brian Doyle-Murray, along with producer Doug Kenney, to fashion a gentle comedy based on the Murray brothers' own caddying experiences on the courses outside of Chicago.
While Chase and Murray at least were comedic improvisatory peas in a pod, despite their personal animus, and Dangerfield's standup experience probably made him more facile than most in being able to deal with the madness, despite Caddyshack being his first film, evidently Ted Knight didn't take too well to the chaotic shenanigans that regularly beset both the filming and the after-parties. Strangely, Knight may have been the only uptight one on the set, despite the cast being diverse enough to feature silent film icon Henry Wilcoxon as a golfing Priest. Add in a first time director and inexperienced producer, and the term "disaster film" begins to rear its ugly head, and not in a Poseidon Adventure way. In fact it was Ramis and Kenney's enormous success with Animal House that kept Orion at least partially at bay and allowed the filmmakers to chart their own crazy course with Caddyshack.
And so what are we left with after 30 years? Does Caddyshack still deliver the comedic goods? The answer is largely "yes," perhaps surprisingly so. While large swaths of the film really fail to make much sense, especially Danny's home life and his relationship with the thickly accented Maggie O'Hooligan (Sarah Holcombe), O'Keefe's natural good-natured manner helps to overcome the lingering questions of exactly what's going on some of the time. Some of the bits frankly fall flatter now than they probably did in 1979 and 1980, with their juvenile emphasis on vomit and poop jokes. But throwaway lines like Murray's hysterical monologue about caddying for the Dalai Lama still can provoke belly laughs, as can some of the byplay between Chase and O'Keefe and Chase and blonde bombshell Cindy Morgan. While Dangerfield seems to have wandered in from a Borscht Belt nightclub, his one-liners are frequently hilarious and he blends surprisingly well with the putatively "hipper" cast. Knight's own uptightness works perfectly for his character, though the actor who famously sought to get out from under Ted Baxter's shadow still channels some of the smug superiority of that erstwhile newsman in this portrayal.
It's Caddyshack's very unorthodoxy which has probably endeared it to audiences who quite frankly were probably teens or not much older when they first saw the film. While the remnants of that first draft screenplay focusing on Danny and his attempts to better himself sometime clash incoherently with the insanity of the screwball antics of Murray, Chase, and company, that mish-mash in and of itself becomes lovable, like the scraggly dog that follows a kid home and ingratiates itself into a family's heart. It may not be a purebred, but its very unkemptness is part of its appeal. This disheveled aspect also allows Caddyshack to rise above some of its stereotypes, both within the caddy community and the supposed adults playing the back nine.
Ramis, who developed his own vaudevillian chops with his longstanding performing career with Second City, is obviously a neophyte director here with Caddyshack, throwing every gag imaginable at the audience and hoping at least a few stick (as, of course, they do). Ramis stayed in this hyperbolic mode for several years before really hitting his directorial stride over a decade later with the brilliant Groundhog Day, also incidentally featuring Murray in one of his most nuanced and (at least occasionally) understated performances. Here, though, it's largely go for broke, with some awkward staging and framing that reveal a director trying to master his craft while on the job. Ramis' writing has always been one of his strongest suits, and while evidently a lot of the script was either never filmed or was departed from in the improvisatory climate on the film, there's a more solid foundation there than there is from a directorial standpoint.
Any attempt to glean a huge editorial "meaning" out of Caddyshack is probably destined to fall flat. Yes, as discussed in one of the extras supplementing this disc, there's the same "slobs versus snobs" theme that was part and parcel of Animal House. And, yes, there are still at least the vestiges of that initial film about Danny finding his way in the big, wide universe. But like any good vaudevillian skit, these elements are simply set ups for punchlines. Thankfully, Caddyshack has those in droves. With so many gags flying by so quickly, you might feel compelled to yell, "Fore!" Like the crotch shot interchange between Ted Knight and Rodney Dangerfield, though, you're probably just setting yourself up for Dangerfield to comment, "I should have yelled 'Two!'" Yes, the humor is undeniably juvenile at times, but it's also undeniably laugh out loud funny.
Caddyshack Blu-ray, Video Quality
Caddyshack is never going to be reference quality material for a videophile, but my hunch is most fans of the film probably won't care all that much. The film arrives on Blu-ray in a decent enough VC-1 encoded image, in full 1080p and a 1.78:1 aspect ratio. As with its original 1980 theatrical presentation, colors (especially the greens) are incredibly garish, as was the intentional style of the day. The palette here is almost obnoxiously strong, and the Blu-ray supports that with really robust saturation. While the bulk of the film looks sharp (and certainly sharper than an SD-DVD), strangely several soft moments crop up from time to time, typically in shots of the golf course, which may have been handled by a second unit using different stock which the Blu-ray exposes, but also more generally in medium and far shots. On the other hand, details like every hair on that furry little gopher's head is clearly visible, and the lines and pores of the humans' skin argues against any aggressive utilization of DNR. Caddyshack is, like Flash Gordon which I reviewed here recently, an inherently ugly film. It wasn't pretty to look at in 1980 and it's certainly no prettier today in all its high-def glory. If you don't expect miracles, you'll be pleasantly surprised at the image quality here, at least for the most part.
Caddyshack Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Similarly, there's next to no immersive quality for a true audiophile to get excited about with this repurposed DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. For all but a few moments of the film, things are resolutely anchored to the front three channels. That works just fine for Caddyshack, however. Low end is appealingly robust in the opening bars of Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright," and discrete channel usage pops up fitfully in some of the crowded dialogue moments when the screen is full of characters. Rear surrounds kick in only very rarely, including the climactic explosion. There's a surprisingly lame score from one of my favorite film composers, Johnny Mandel, who I'm guessing received a nice, fat paycheck for his work here and basically phoned in some pretty bland cues. This is certainly not the best work of the composer of such classics as "The Shadow of Your Smile" and "Emily," but the underscore is mixed relatively well into the proceedings and is never too obtrusive. Dialogue (with the exception of O'Hooligan's unbelievably thick Irish accent) is clear and easy to understand.
Caddyshack Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Two above average featurettes augment this new Blu-ray release. Originally airing on The Biography Channel, Caddyshack: The Inside Story (80 minutes; 1080i) is an excellently in-depth look at the development and the filming of the movie. You'll finally get some sense of what the original Danny story was all about, why O'Hooligan has that incredibly thick Irish accent, and a host of other questions answered. Almost all of the cast and crew are interviewed, and while the television origins of the piece are evident (lots of recaps coming out of the now excised commercial breaks), it still makes for a really interesting near hour and half. More to the point, if also a bit more generic, is Caddyshack: The 19th Hole (31 minutes; 480p), which does offer the allure of some deleted scenes which aren't in the longer documentary. The original theatrical trailer rounds out the bonuses.
Caddyshack Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Caddyshack is not quite the eternal classic its most ardent fans insist it is. But it is still a very funny film with a hugely disparate group of actors turning in some fine performances. If certain elements of the film haven't aged particularly well, and Ramis' still unsure directorial hand is a bit too much on display, there are enough wonderfully wacky moments to overcome these limitations. This Blu-ray, while never approaching anything near reference quality, is a nice step up from the SD-DVD, and should have fans exclaiming, "At least it has that going' fer it."
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Caddyshack Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Caddyshack Blu-ray Announced for June - March 16, 2010
Warner Home Video has announced Caddyshack for release on Blu-ray on June 8. The Blu-ray edition of Harold Ramis's directing debut will include the feature-length documentary, Caddyshack: The Inside Story, with the movie's cast and creators. Caddyshack was one ...
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