I need a break from action/sci-fi/superhero movies. Let’s take it easy for a bit. We’re nearing the start of summer, and I think looking back at a lighthearted “summer” movie is in order. And no movie makes me think of summer more than 1980’s Caddyshack.
Caddyshack, which details the wacky shenanigans taking place on a golf course one summer, represented something of a planetary alignment in terms of the comedic talent it brought together. It united writer/director Harold Ramis (Animal House), the SNL talent of Chevy Chase and Bill Murray (as well as Bill’s brother Brian Doyle-Murray, who also has writing credit), and legendary “No-Respect” comedian Rodney Dangerfield. To that end, this movie was practically pre-ordained to be funny; and it didn’t disappoint.
Much of the humor lies in the memorable characters that Chase, Murray, and Dangerfield portray; particularly in the quotability of their dialogue. Chase plays a carefree golfer, skilled and possessing a very relaxed philosophy, who utters many an amusing line of pseudo-wisdom–such as “a flute with no holes is not a flute, but a donut with no hole is a danish,” and “be the ball,” when describing how to play golf. Murray plays a low-IQ groundskeeper determined to catch a gopher who has made his home beneath the golf course, and provides us some great, silly monologues, such as his supposed encounter caddying for the Dalai Lama or his imaginary Cinderella story winning a golf match. And then there’s Dangerfield’s loud-mouthed developer, who wills himself into the club and annoys its leadership with his one-liners and comedic insults. Memorable quips from him include “Oh, this your wife, huh? A lovely lady. Hey baby, you must’ve been something before electricity” and his spontaneous, “So what!? So let’s dance!” before jamming to Journey in the middle of the golf course. There’s a zaniness to these personalities that has to be appreciated.
That other guy on the poster is the stuck-up head of the club, played by Ted Knight. I’ll be honest: I don’t know this actor very well and am not familiar with anything he’s done outside of this movie. But he’s pretty good here, getting amusingly annoyed by all of the nonsense around him and spouting his own funny lines. I’ll always remember the silly poem he says before christening his yacht:
“It’s easy to grin, with your ship sailing in, and you’ve got the stock market beat.
But the man worthwhile, is the man who can smile, when his pants are too tight in the seat.”
With characters so indelible and quotable as these, it’s strange to think that none of them are technically the protagonist of this story. That honor goes to Michael O’Keefe as Danny Noonan, a middle class kid trying to qualify for a caddy scholarship so he can attend college and make something of himself. While he’s not exactly a deep character, nor is he anywhere near as entertaining as the people I described above, I relate more to Danny than anyone else in this movie. Though I have never worked at a golf course, I did work at a private swim club for several summers; and the various issues that Danny encounters on a daily basis–annoying club members, wacky club management, tense relationships with coworkers, to name a few–draw many parallels to my own summer experiences. Many a time in past summers at the swim club I would think to myself that I was experiencing Caddyshack-moments. And that’s also why I associate this movie most with summer.
I also know I’m not alone in relating to the film this way. I’ve heard this same thing from many others who have seen the movie; and of, course, many of the plot points of the film are based on the real life experiences of the people who worked on it. It’s worth noting that Caddyshack, though a moderate success when it came out, was somewhat indifferently received initially. It took a while before it became thought of as a classic, a point that Harold Ramis refers to here. I think I sort of understand why that was the case: sometimes it takes time for people to appreciate certain types of comedy and characters, and it’s only in revisits that we see how funny they are. Beyond the humor and the quotability, though, I think that what has ultimately contributed to this film having staying power is the fact that people can relate to it and draw parallels to their own lives in terms of their summer jobs. People see themselves in it, to some extent, and that encourages keeping it around.
Anyways, enjoy the impending start of summer, everyone, particularly those of you who work summer jobs. That said, I hope most people’s summer jobs don’t involve them having to deal with something as explosive as this.