Caddyshack: Comedy To a Tee

Ladies and Gentlemen, Presidio Sports presents the first of a brand new series of sports movie reviews.

The series will follow all the new releases appearing in the theatres and also revisit the classics that we’ve all grown to love dearly.

We start with Caddyshack because it’s a staff favorite and is a must for any sports movie library.


It’s hard to dislike a movie that begins and ends on a dancing gopher, and luckily enough the 1980 hole-in-one hit Caddyshack brings a lot more to the table than even just that. While at first glance Caddyshack may seem like a typical crass comedy, it embraces a range of humor and characters that put it just a swing above the rest.

Caddyshack was released in the summer of 1980.

At its simplest, Caddyshack is the story of down-on-his-luck caddy Danny Noonan’s (Michael O’Keefe) attempts to balance his life with those of the rich, eccentric golfers he works for. Broke but aiming for law school, Danny is set on winning the Caddy Scholarship even if it means sucking up to Bushwood Country Club’s insufferable founder Judge Smails—a task not to be taken lightly!

Danny’s story is sweet and simple, and Danny himself a very likeable character, but he pales in comparison to the strange cast that surrounds him. When thrown into the mix with the likes of Ty Webb (Chevy Chase), a philosophizing playboy golfer who insists on giving Danny advice like, “A flute without holes, is not a flute. A donut without a hole, is a danish” while putting barefoot, it’s a wonder Danny makes it out of this film alive. Things only get zanier when Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield), a rich land developer interested in turning the country club into a series of condominiums, shows up on the scene and drags both Danny and Ty into a golf bet against the Judge himself.

What makes this film such a joy to watch, even 30 years after its release, is the sheer range of the humor. Rodney Dangerfield supplies the snappy, fast-talking one-liners reminiscent of the Cary Grant age of screwball comedies, and Bill Murray’s slightly—okay, totally—psychotic groundskeeper Carl Spackler is just off-the-wall hysterical. Even the scatological humor in this film consists of more than just empty fart jokes, although there’s a fair share of those as well. The classic scene of the “turd” in the pool is a fine Jaws parody that makes its humor all the more resounding.

Caddyshack’s many subplots and bit pieces allow not only all kinds of humor—from the crude and vulgar to the witty and satirical—to come together but also allow its many big-name comics to perform to the best of their ability. Their characters are well rounded, with their separate fears, concerns, and quirks, and it’s the meshing of these characters that provides for much of the laughs. There’s something very genuine in Ty’s relationship with Danny that makes their interactions more than just surface funny.

In directing the film Harold Ramis permitted the actors plenty of room to improvise and alter what was written and arguably some of the best scenes of the film came out of this freedom. Many of Bill Murray’s gut-busting monologues were unscripted, and the famous “Cinderella boy” scene was entirely Murray’s creation.

One of my favorite scenes, however, takes place solely between Chevy Chase and Bill Murray after Ty shoots his golf ball into Carl’s “home”. The scene serves no main purpose to the plot on the whole, but is an utterly delighting bit of comedy that reunites two fantastic Saturday Night Live stars in a scene that feels like a sketch right out of the show’s glory days.

Amidst all this comic mayhem, Danny’s sentimental story gets a little lost, and his tense romance with Sarah Holcomb’s Maggie O’Hooligan feels out-of-place. But then again a little sentimentality may be necessary to balance out the absurdity otherwise abundant in the film.

If I have any real complaints about this film, they can be boiled down to this: I don’t believe there was enough dancing on Rodney Dangerfield’s part. I would have liked if he’d put that state-of-the-art golf bag radio to a little more use.

All in all, I give Caddyshack a good four and a half dancing gophers out of five. (Sorry Carl.)