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USA 1980
Directed by
Harold Ramis
99 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Director and co-writer Harold Ramis’s comedy well represents the youthful hedonism and spirited iconoclasm of the early 1980s and was understandably a smash hit in its day although somewhat ironically it is the performances by it mature-aged stars rather than its younger players that make it watchable today.

The film is a freewheeling assemblage of gags held together by a story about a young caddy (Michael O’Keefe) from the wrong side of the tracks who is trying to wheedle a scholarship to college by ingratiating himself with the club’s pompous president (Ted Knight) but can’t resist the charms of the latter’s sex-kitten niece (Cindy Morgan).

The story itself stands for little and O’Keefe an actor who both before and after this worked almost exclusively in television has no screen charisma but what is fun is Knight's apoplectic histrionics as Judge Elihu Smails whose wealthy WASP world is unravelling principally at the hands of Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield) a boorish property developer who delights in insulting the old world cosiness which Smails exemplifies. Observing all this with bemusement is Chevy Chase’s Zen aphorism-spouting club champion whilst assistant grounds keeper, Carl (Bill Murray), is engaged in an ongoing Looney-toons like battle of wits with a gopher

Chase’s laid-back ironicism provides a perfect foil to Knight’s apoplectic outbursts whilst stand-up comic Dangerfield, although he gets no co-writing credit, seems to be using his own material, an endless streams of W.C.Fields-like one-line insults delivered with twitching nerviness and in eye-gougingly loud attire. Ramis, who had written the 1978 low-budget hit Animal  House also gives us a couple of amusing action set-pieces in the form of a satire of the shark attack from Jaws (1974), and a sequence in which Czervik’ s huge speedboat destroys Smail's sloop.  Even the gopher-battle is engaging enough thanks to Murray’s characterisation of Carl as a dim-witted slob with sexual fantasies about older women golfers (the actor would go on to star in Rami's 1993 smash hit Groundhog Day).

FYI: There was a 1988 sequel, Caddyshack II, that had only a tangential relationship to the original and sank like the proverbial.




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