The UnPopular Opinion: Caddyshack

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!


I have a group of friends whom I am able to talk movies with as if it were a second language. We quote films at each other and laugh as we reminisce about the cinematic moments that helped shape out pop culture identities. There are countless films that we agree on that are hilarious and stand the test of time and even some crappy flicks that we unabashedly love despite their poor quality. That is the power of nostalgia. But, there is one movie that every one of them loves and I cannot find a way to appreciate. CADDYSHACK is a movie that has not aged well nor stood the test of time outside of a handful of iconic and funny segments. But, as a whole, CADDYSHACK just does not stand up almost four decades after it hit theaters.

If you look at the list of the American Film Institute's ranking of the 100 funniest movies, CADDYSHACK comes in at 71st. Considering the thousands of films released since the invention of the medium, that should speak volumes about the quality of the film. But, CADDYSHACK is not the sum of it's parts. There are absolutely hilarious moments and scenes within Harold Ramis' movie, but they are isolated and do not comprise a coherent film that is worthy of the fandom surrounding CADDYSHACK. Before you bash me for hating on the various actors in the film, I have a soft spot for the films of Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and especially Bill Murray. I love BACK TO SCHOOL and think that is a far superior showcase for Dangerfield. All of the talent involved with CADDYSHACK have gone on to far more successful projects in the years after the 1980 debut of the film, so why is it held in such high regard? Because each individual component of CADDYSHACK works, just never in unison.

The UnPopular Opinion, Caddyshack, Comedy, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Golf, Sports, Harold Ramis

CADDYSHACK was a movie that writer/director Harold Ramis himself did not love. The late filmmaker was quoted as saying that he was unable to rewatch CADDYSHACK because all he could see were the compromises and mediocrity of the finished film. There clearly could have been a better movie from the core of CADDYSHACK had the filmmakers been trusted enough by the studio to go all out. Ramis, making his directorial debut, clearly had to abide by the company mandate of studio executives and could not make the movie he actually wanted. In the end, we have several bright spots but not the classic that many fans make the movie out to be. While it may be unfair to compare the abysmal CADDYSHACK II to the original, note that the second film maintains virtually the same storyline with a different cast and it falls apart as soon as it begins. 

Not a success when it hit theaters, CADDYSHACK is a testament to the power of home video and cable which is where it found a cult following. Time has certainly allowed the myth of CADDYSHACK to build over the years as well as the clips and quotes that have found their way into the zeitgeist. But, like a trailer that shows all of the best scenes, CADDYSHACK ends up being thirty minutes of greatness in a film that lasts for 100. In fairness, there are still moments in the remaining hour of the film that have not been cherry-picked for YouTube videos but there are so disparate that it becomes virtually impossible to bestow acclaim on the entire film. When I made my distaste for CADDYSHACK known, people began tossing quotes and scenes at me from the movie as justification for it's worthiness. Case in point: Bill Murray's speech about the Dalai Lama. Yes, this is a brilliant scene. All of Murray's scenes in CADDYSHACK involving his character of Carl Spackler are hilarious. but his limited interactions with the cast as a whole comes across as nothing more than a sketch interspersed with the rest of the film.

The UnPopular Opinion, Caddyshack, Comedy, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Golf, Sports, Harold Ramis

It also does not help that every actor outside of Michael O'Keefe and Ted Knight feel like they are in different movies. Rodney Dangerfield's manic and rapid fire delivery has been consistent in every film he has been in but it never quite feels right for this movie. Jackie Mason suffered from the same issue in the sequel but neither comedy legend is doing anything but their tried and true character in the context of this fictional story. Chevy Chase's Ty Webb is another great creation in the annals of Chase's resume and is a perfect blend of his Weekend Update character on Saturday Night Live with his roles in FLETCH and the VACATION films. But, Chase is in the film for such a limited amount of time that he feels tacked on to the movie rather than being an organic part of it. Knight is excellent as the dastardly villain who informed the similar character of Shooter McGavin in HAPPY GILMORE. Even the gorgeous Cindy Morgan as Lacey Underall cannot do more than serve as eye candy rather than be a three-dimensional element to the story. Put all of these together and...well, you cannot put these all together. Like the movie poster, these individual creations are pasted together incoherently to create CADDYSHACK.

There are so many films that I hold in high esteem due to the nostalgia factor they hold for me but I can still recognize that they may not be very good movies. I did not grow up working as a caddy or have any involvement with country club life. Maybe those life experiences would have allowed me to feel more of a connection to the events of the film. But, by that same rationale, I have never hunted paranormal creatures or been in a fraternity and yet I can easily say that both GHOSTBUSTERS and ANIMAL HOUSE are far superior films to CADDYSHACK. The failure of CADDYSHACK from my perspective is that it really just isn't as good as everyone remembers. Those that will say I am wrong, I ask you to view the film again and objectively tell me that it is such a great movie. I would ask that every scene in which you want to boast as proof of the film's quality, ask yourself why it is so good. Is it because you remember watching that scene with your friends or family and have fond memories of prior experiences or is it because the movie works because of that moment of the story. I have a strong suspicion that my opinion will be justified.

The UnPopular Opinion, Caddyshack, Comedy, Ted Knight, Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Golf, Sports, Harold Ramis

CADDYSHACK is a product of it's time. In the early 80s (or late 70s when the film was written and produced), class warfare was a major topic. Seeing the working class buffoon that is Rodney Dangerfield take on the conservative sensibilities of the American country club resonated with the movie-going public of the era. Through the decade and up to the 1990s, CADDYSHACK still represented that same theme of sticking it to the man. It is unfair to judge the film outside of the time in which it was made but if you look at the other films on the AFI list, there are countless created in the decades before CADDYSHACK and the vast majority of them hold up far better in the years since. What ultimately fails within CADDYSHACK is that the improvisational nature of the film and the characters are all edging in on brilliance but they relied on a filmmaker who, at the time, did not have the ability to bring it all together. Instead, CADDYSHACK is best viewed as quick two-minute bursts of brilliance rather than almost two hours of disjointed mediocrity.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com



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