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Caddyshack DVD Review (30th Anniversary)

Caddyshack movie poster Caddyshack

Theatrical Release: July 25, 1980 / Running Time: 98 Minutes / Rating: R

Director: Harold Ramis / Writers: Brian Doyle-Murray, Harold Ramis, Douglas Kenney

Cast: Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Rodney Dangerfield (Al Czervik), Ted Knight (Judge Elihu Smails), Bill Murray (Carl Spackler), Michael O'Keefe (Danny Noonan), Sarah Holcomb (Maggie O'Hooligan), Cindy Morgan (Lacey Underall), Scott Colomby (Tony D'Annunzio), Dan Resin (Dr. Beeper), Henry Wilcoxon (Bishop Pickering), Elaine Aiken (Mrs. Noonan), Albert Salmi (Mr. Noonan), Ann Ryerson (Grace), Brian Doyle-Murray (Lou Loomis), Hamilton Mitchell (Motormouth), Peter Berkrot (Angie D'Annunzio), John F. Barmon Jr. (Spaulding Smails), Lois Kibbee (Mrs. Smails), Brian McConnachie (Scott), Scott Powell (Gatsby), Ann Crilley (Suki), Cordis Heard (Wally), Thomas Carlin (Sandy McFiddish), Chuck Rodent (Mr. Gopher)

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I still rank the two summers I spent caddying at a golf club as the least pleasant work experience of my life. They were fresh in mind the first time I saw Caddyshack. Though they didn't strongly sharpen my appreciation of the film, they didn't really have to, because I found enough to enjoy in this 1980 comedy widely considered one of the funniest of all time.

Caddyshack was the third film written by Harold Ramis, a job he shared with his Animal House co-writer Douglas Kenney and Ramis' fellow "SCTV" scribe Brian Doyle-Murray. Ramis alone also directed the film, his first of eleven features to date.

In caddying for the Zen playboy Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), young Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) receives some interesting wisdom. With loud clothes and wisecracks, Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) easily stands out among the typical members of Bushwood Country Club.

Caddyshack tells the story of the colorful personalities who share the fairways and clubhouses of Bushwood Country Club. Ostensibly the protagonist, Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe) is a hard-working caddy. His hopes of attending college are growing dim; even with his cookie jar of earnings, his large Catholic family won't be able to afford tuition without him receiving a scholarship. Uncertain of his future, Danny sets his sights on the club's one available caddy scholarship.

Doing so requires him to suck up to Judge Smails (Ted Knight, "Mary Tyler Moore"), a respected golfer who grows flabbergasted when on-course behavior doesn't live up to his standards. One golfer falling far short of the judge's standards is Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), a rich, crude loudmouth
whose nearby construction project is deemed the cause of the course's gopher problem. Assigned to eliminate the pest (there may just be one) is assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray), an oddball with aspirations who takes the task quite seriously.

Also in the mix are Ty Webb (top-billed Chevy Chase), a philosophical playboy who may be Bushwood's top player but doesn't keep score; Lacey Underall (Cindy Morgan), Judge Smails' promiscuous, head-turning niece from New York; and Danny's Irish girlfriend Maggie O'Hooligan (Sarah Holcomb).

While always mindful of Danny's coming-of-age crossroads, Caddyshack serves up comedy with characters, situations, and above all else, an anything-goes atmosphere. Its mix was an instant crowd-pleaser. Earning back its budget several times over, the much-watched, much-quoted film quickly etched a place in the cultural zeitgeist alongside Animal House and The Blues Brothers as modern marvels taking funnymen from "Saturday Night Live" to heights and distances that weekly sketch comedy TV couldn't.

Ted Knight's stuffed shirt Judge Elihu Smails is inevitably the villain of this anarchic comedy, whom Danny must schmooze in hopes of getting a caddy scholarship. In her first of two cult classic appearances, Cindy Morgan plays Lacey Underall, the Judge's vamp of a niece who's in town from Manhattan for the summer.

Initial critics weren't bowled over and Caddyshack didn't receive a single award or nomination.
But it soon became recognized as a classic as fit as any movie for wearing out a VHS in the format's early days. Part of the reputation may be thanks to the assembly of comic talent that would come to be seen as historic with the advancement of careers. For Ted Knight, the most seasoned and established cast member, this would easily become his most prominent film role, nicely complimenting a TV legacy that would subsequently grow with "Too Close to Comfort", the final project of his 62-year life. For several of Knight's colleagues, Caddyshack was a springboard that would lead to other exciting things.

Chase, who it's tough to believe left "SNL" just a few weeks into its second season, would stand as one of the biggest comedy movie stars of the 1980s. In that decade, he headlined three Vacation films (the outer two, still considered classics) among other well-regarded works. Moviegoers' good will for Chase took a sharp decline in the 1990s, from which only now does he seem to be recovering. Right up there with Chase as one of the '80s' biggest draws was his Weekend Update successor Bill Murray, whose ongoing collaborations with Ramis would produce a goldmine of laughs and high grosses. Even today, as someone whose latest work is more likely to turn up in an art house than a multiplex, Murray commands ample respect for his dramatic and comedic chops.

Although he turned 58 during Caddyshack's filming, veteran standup Rodney Dangerfield enjoyed a career peak in response, getting to write and star in a couple of movies (including the Ramis-penned hit Back to School) while extending (and, in a good way, undermining) his "no respect" mantra.

Not everyone enjoyed prominence in the wake of the film. Cindy Morgan appeared in the effects-driven Tron, which seems to make a greater case for cult classic status every day, but little else of note beyond a number of "Falcon Crest" episodes. Michael O'Keefe has never again had as focal a part, but he's remained steadily working, including a recurring stint on mid-'90s "Roseanne" and turns in such respected recent dramas as Michael Clayton and Frozen River. Meanwhile, co-writer Douglas Kenney, one of the Harvard alums who founded National Lampoon magazine, died just a month after this film's opening, the result of a cliff fall during a Hawaiian respite marked by drugs and depression.

Not fully sane assistant groundskeeper Carl Spackler (Bill Murray) molds clay sculptures of critters to lure and eliminate the course's elusive gopher.

You've probably noticed that this review has leaned much more to the informative side than the analytical one. That is because while I do enjoy Caddyshack and greatly appreciate its stars and the big career boosts this gave them, the movie hasn't aged the best. In general, comedy films have shorter shelf lives than their dramatic brethren. Comedies that are embraced swiftly and voraciously seem to lose their luster more quickly than usual. Perhaps they are so in tune with a specific time that for subsequent audiences, the amusement just can't live up to expectations that have been so highly raised.

Caddyshack is far from the only esteemed comedy of yore that has underwhelmed me in modern viewings.
Its more exalted contemporaries Animal House and Airplane! have left me much colder. By comparison, Caddyshack's disappointments barely even qualify as such and only became pronounced when approaching with a critical eye.

Every lead actor supplies some spark, from muttering Murray and understated Chase to Dangerfield's firecracker and Knight's classical stuffed shirt. Fun moments abound, including Murray's tall tales and that animatronic gopher dancing to Kenny Loggins' still righteous theme tune "I'm Alright." But nothing strikes me as truly hilarious or better than diverting in an agreeably juvenile way. The film seems to be a generation ahead of me in its sensibilities. Among golf comedies, Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore does much more for me both in terms of laughs and story.

Among Caddyshack's retrospective accolades are placement on three American Film Institute countdowns; the film was ranked 71st on AFI's 2000 "100 Years... 100 Laughs" list and 7th among sports films in 2008's genre-minded "10 Top 10", while Carl Spackler's "Cinderella story" flower bulb-driving self-announcing came in at #92 on 2005's "100 Movie Quotes" program. In 2006, cable channel Bravo's much-disputed all-time "100 Funniest Movies" list placed the film second behind Animal House.

Caddyshack inspired a sequel in 1988's much-maligned Caddyshack II, for which only Chevy Chase reprised his role, this time joined by the likes of Jackie Mason, Dan Aykroyd, Dyan Cannon, and Robert Stack.

An animatronic puppet credited as Chuck Rodent plays Mr. Gopher, who dances to Kenny Loggins' "I'm Alright" at the beginning and end of the film.

Just in time for Father's Day, Caddyshack gets a third DVD release, this one carrying as low a price tag ($12.98 SRP) as any new major studio catalog reissue. Though the case itself carries no moniker, Warner accurately refers this to as a 30th anniversary edition in certain press materials. Strangely, though, this DVD varies from the movie's previous, 2000's 20th Anniversary disc (put on moratorium last summer in anticipation of this), in the mildest of ways.

Even odder, effort seems to have been taken to disguise the few differences of this new release from the prior package. The front cover art is unchanged and the back cover is given a bare minimum of revisions. Of course, the DVD seems somewhat of an afterthought this time around, arriving as it does alongside the film's Blu-ray debut. Coming four years after the film's release on HD DVD, that Blu-ray carries twice the list price of the new DVD and its centerpiece supplement, a feature-length documentary, is irrationally and frustratingly kept exclusive to it.

Still, though it may look like it, this DVD is not a mere repackaging of the former one. Read on to find out what's changed.

Buy Caddyshack: 30th Anniversary Edition DVD from Amazon.com DVD Details

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English), Dolby Mono 1.0 (French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Subtitled in Japanese
Release Date: June 8, 2010
Single-sided, dual-layered disc (DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $12.98
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Blu-ray Disc and On Demand

VIDEO and AUDIO

Caddyshack looks pretty terrific here in its 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Higher quality film was apparently used on the gopher soundstage scenes, but here there is little difference between this and neighboring material. A couple of the golfing scenes aren't as sharp as others, but most are immaculate and unexpectedly vibrant for a low-budget comedy of this age.

Caddymaster Lou Loomis (co-writer Brian Doyle-Murray, far right) officiates the film's big climactic game, which pits Ty (Chevy Chase) and Al (Rodney Dangerfield) against Dr. Beeper (Dan Resin) and Judge Smails (Ted Knight).

I clearly recall my first Caddyshack viewing was of the film's unimpressive fullscreen original DVD. This new presentation is far superior to that one. I can also now confirm that this 2010 disc offers significant improvement over the widescreen 20th Anniversary DVD. The solid picture is drastically better, having been scrubbed clean to reveal terrific detail and rich, wonderfully vibrant colors. The extreme remastering doesn't seem to betray the film's original look, but return to its freshest state, eliminating the faded hues, grain, artifacts, and wear & tear that marked both DVDs before it. It's especially curious that the case doesn't specify the remarkably enhanced picture quality.

The case does point out that the sound is remastered and there is no doubt about this, since the new Dolby Digital 5.1 track clearly differs from the previous DVD's mono presentation. It too qualifies as an improvement, but one less than faithful to the theatrical presentation. The film's music is excessively loud and crisp here, contrasting with the hushed dialogue that ensures volume-toggling. The peaks are much more pronounced than on the old DVD's mono track. The dialogue is often thin and unextraordinary, but that is how I remember the film to always have been and doing A/B comparisons to the 20th Anniversary disc, one definitely notices the new DVD's improved speech clarity. Though the move from one channel to 5.1 is unmistakable, we still get a mix that's heavily anchored to the front, even in the bursts of Journey and Kenny Loggins. Purists might object that the more authentic, less peaky Dolby 1.0 English track is no longer offered here and I see no good reason why it isn't.

Director/co-writer Harold Ramis is among the interview subjects looking younger than they do today in the 1999 retrospective documentary "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole." A long uninterrupted outtake of Chevy Chase and Bill Murray's memorable yet hastily-conceived only scene together is shown in "The 19th Hole." With golf club listings and movie sound bites, the DVD's recycled main menu displays more creativity than most of Warner's newest DVD menu screens.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS and PACKAGING

As stated above, the 81-minute 30th anniversary documentary "Caddyshack: The Inside Story", which debuted on the Biography Channel in December 2009, has been kept exclusive to the Blu-ray. That leaves us with two bonus features from the previous DVD.

The more substantial one is "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole" (30:55), a shorter documentary produced in 1999, when such retrospectives had not yet become the standard. The piece interviews Chevy Chase, Cindy Morgan, writer/director Harold Ramis, producers Mark Canton and Jon Peters, and supporting actors Hamilton Mitchell, Scott Colomby, and Anne Ryerson. The big omissions --
namely, Bill Murray and his brother Brian, Michael O'Keefe, and a still-living Rodney Dangerfield -- were and are pretty glaring, but this documentary makes do with what it has, reflecting largely on the stars and what they brought to the picture. Besides some nice production anecdotes and reflections, we get to see some surprisingly presentable alternate takes of scenes in the film (and one deleted scene occasionally inserted for TV airings), most featuring the improvisational Murray and the longest pairing him with Chase. That robust runtime allows much ground to be covered and "19th Hole" never stops being interesting.

Besides that, we get Caddyshack's memorable theatrical trailer (2:32), which illustrates how far movie marketing has moved in 30 years from telling to showing (I kind of prefer the telling).

Another bonus that had appeared on both of Caddyshack's previous DVD releases -- bios and selected filmographies for Ramis and three stars -- has been dropped, none too surprisingly as studios have moved away from text-based extras.

Surprisingly not recycled, the DVD's menus display greater creativity than Warner's boring recent selection screens and even a little improvement from the comparable 20th Anniversary screens. The main menu is joined by sound bites from the film and listings appear on golf clubs and scorecards. The disc itself has artwork that niftily makes it look like a golf ball.

Rodney Dangerfield gets the film's closing line in the boarish part that made him a star.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Caddyshack is less entertaining than I remembered it to be and less hilarious than its classic comedy reputation suggests. While I do enjoy the film, I find that Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, and writer/director Harold Ramis would all create stronger, more enduring works in the years to come, from the good Vacation movies and both Ghostbusters films all the way through Groundhog Day.

Warner's 30th Anniversary Edition DVD has modest upgrade value if you own the previous disc more explicitly labeled a 20th Anniversary. The audio and especially the video have been improved somewhat drastically, although the disappearance of a faithful mono track disappoints. It is also unfortunate that the new Biography documentary doesn't show up here. On its own merits, this is an alright package with very good picture and a solid retrospective piece. The low-priced disc is worthwhile for a fan's overdue first-time purchase or in the unlikely chance you've only got the film's original 1997 fullscreen DVD. Otherwise, you're probably either happy with your 20th Anniversary DVD or stoked to pick up the concurrent Blu-ray debut, into which more effort clearly has gone.

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Reviewed June 2, 2010 / Updated June 29, 2010.



Text copyright 2010 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1980 Orion Pictures and Warner Bros., 2010 Warner Home Video. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.