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Episode 159 - Caddyshack (w/ Alex Schmidt)

Episode 159 - Caddyshack (w/ Alex Schmidt)  

27 members have voted

  1. 1. Should "Caddyshack" enter The Canon?

    • Yes
      11
    • No
      16


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Alex Schmidt of The Cracked Podcast joins Amy to discuss the 1980 comedy film “Caddyshack.” They’ll discuss Danny Noonan’s character arc, the pedigree of Chevy Chase, and how the film forged the foundations of modern American comedy. Plus, we’ll hear about old money versus new money, the sadness of Rodney Dangerfield, and the backstory behind the Bill Murray-Chevy Chase feud.

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There's a common discussion in film--though, not necessarily exclusive to it--on how well comedy ages. As a younger millennial, there are plenty of older comedies that I adore, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand the appeal of Caddyshack. Without being hyperbolic, I've spent years revisiting Caddyshack over and over. I've lost count of how many times I've tried to watch and force myself to enjoy this film, and it's painfully unfunny. For me, only a handful of comedic beats hold up at all.

 

Maybe if the film around the comedy worked, that could salvage it, but the film is a mess. Structurally, Caddyshack feels so scattershot and uneven that there's barely any coherence or thrust. Someone like Danny is ostensibly the lead, but the film has no sense of him as a character, not to mention that Michael O'Keefe is a veritable mannequin for his entire time on screen. And though I don't necessarily disagree with the discussion on privilege or class dynamics, none of it matters if the movie around it doesn't work.

 

So, this is a hard no.

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I've always thought Caddyshack was 2/5ths of a funny comedy. Dangerfield and Murray make me laugh (maybe with the exception of Spackler's misogynistic shtick); Chase, Knight, and O'Keefe don't. Even as someone who loves quite a few messy 80s comedies, Caddyshack has never been one I want to revisit. I wish that I found the film as funny as others. If I were to watch a rambunctious 1980 comedy with SNL alumni, I would prefer The Blues Brothers by far. Sorry, but I have to go with no.

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Easy entry based on the social impact. The movie is extremely quotable and, as mentioned at the beginning of the podcast, you have either seen this movie or you have made a conscience decision to not watch it. There are a limited number of movies that you can say the same for and all of them at least deserve consideration for induction into the Canon.

The structure of the film is a mess and it's pretty clear they were making major script changes after filming started. That aside, the brilliant comedic talent in this squeezed every drop of funny out of this. It's a damn funny movie and that's a function of the talent, direction (or lack there of), script (or lack there of), and concept. Creating a sports comedy movie without it getting to silly or too niche isn't easy but this works regardless of your knowledge of the sport. It's funny for anyone.

Also, cocaine!

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Perhaps it's a generational thing, but I'm also one of those folks who doesn't really find Caddyshack all that funny. (The only things I remember out and out laughing at were Bill Murray's antics and the bit where Chevy Chase tosses the tequila shot over his shoulder and snorts the salt.) That said, I also remember Caddyshack being an influential comedy, so I'm voting yes on those grounds. (I am altogether aware that my perception of the movie could be entirely swayed by my age.)

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I'm also a person who doesn't "get" why Caddyshack is seen as an all-time classic comedy in some circles. I do think it might be one of those "you had to be there" things. The anarchic comedy of the 70s probably felt like a breath of fresh air after the staid stuff these guys had grown up with in the 50s and 60s, but to me a lot of it feels TOO unmoored (Monty Python excepted).

 

I see the comparison to the modern comedies of the Judd Apatow school, but to me the best of those movies have refined the approach and given it better shape. They are heavily improvised, but most of these movies are at least somewhat organized around a theme and a central plot. Anchorman is about Ron Burgundy learning to respect women, his new co-host Veronica in particular. The 40-Year-Old Virgin is about a group of friends trying to help the main character get laid and/or find love. Bridesmaids is about a female friendship starting to fray because of depression and jealousy, but that comes back together in the end. In these movies, all of the funny scenes are in some way related to this central plot. They might digress for a little while, but they always get back to the point. Not sure I see that in Caddyshack; if anything, the movie seems to actively avoid ever having a plot to follow, like when Danny's girlfriend reveals she's pregnant and then the next time we see her she's not . . . and that's it.

 

Maybe that's the point here, mucking with all our narrative expectations, but for me it hurts the movie to not have a strong through-line to follow. I find some of Caddyshack funny, mostly the stuff with Dangerfield and Murray, but it's never risen to the level of greatness for me. I considered voting Yes anyway, just because the movie and the group that made it heave clearly had a strong influence on future film comedies . . . but as mentioned on the podcast, Animal House is already in. Not sure I need to vote for another Lampoon effort unless I truly see it as a great film. I'm voting No.

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As always, comedies are tough because different people laugh at different things. Personally, I find Caddyshack generally hilarious, as Dangerfield, Chase, Murray, and Knight all work well comedically for me.

 

However, story purists will rightfully point out that the film is a structureless, arcless mess. As becomes clear after watching A Futile and Stupid Gesture, the writers likely didn't intend any of their films to have any structure or arcs and instead threw in whatever made them laugh. As a result, the comedy is all there is to judge it on. (That and the Kenny Loggins use, of course.)

 

As far as the connection to the use of ad-libbing in 2000s comedies, I don't put the blame on this film specifically as much as I put the blame on Bill Murray, who ad-libbed the majority of his lines not just in Caddyshack, but also in Stripes, Tootsie, and the Ghostbusters films.

 

And in all, with Animal House and Ghostbusters already in the Canon, I don't think we need anything more from this era. Personally, I prefer Animal House over Caddyshack and I prefer Stripes over Ghostbusters, but my strongest vote would be for another nice long moratorium on episodes covering 80s comedies.

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Thinking about this week’s podcast emphasizes again how rare it is to find a thoroughly good semi modern comedy. When I catch one on cable I can maybe watch an hour then turn it off before I have to sit through the parts that don’t work.

 

I love Bill Murray and he gives Ghostbusters its memorable scenes but it’s not a great movie. It’s maybe half a good movie. The best parts of Lost in America are genius but I never watch the last third. There are scenes in Stripes and Private Benjamin that are classic but overall they don’t work. I hate Animal House full stop.

 

For now I’m sticking with There’s Something About Mary as the best overall comedy of my adulthood years.

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I roll my eyes when Chevy Chase is mentioned but the truth is that I very much enjoyed his movies in my childhood and teenage years. I like Caddyshack for all it’s many flaws. But I also love Foul Play and Seems Like Old Times. They have some very dated and lazy parts but I loved them as a kid and they hold up for me. I remember sort of liking Fletch and Funny Farm but it’s harder to love the Chevy Chase character as you and he age. But he was super popular for a reason.

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I had a surrogate big brother who slipped films my way during my adolescence as my taste began to develop.

 

Before dropping this on me, he described the infamous "Baby Ruth" sequence. To hear Tony's breakdown (right down to imitating Bill Murray and the WASPy old woman fainting), it was comedy perfection. Alas, the actual scene failed to live up to that recreation from my dear friend.

 

The film itself. Well, as one who grew up with a healthy diet of 70's & 80's era comedies, I never got the appeal of Caddyshack. When your leads are all acting like they are in completely different movies, it's not hard to imagine how this is such a Goddamn tonal mess. Perhaps the older, more experienced Ramis (who delivered a comedy masterpiece in Groundhog Day just a decade later) could have made this work? Again, alas.

 

A firm, hard no.

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I too grew up watching CADDYSHACK and it shaped many of my young comedic sensibilities. I still really enjoy it though years of exploring its history has made me discover that what makes the film such a fascinating little milestone in comedy history is because its success was almost entirely accidental. As was touched in the episode a bit, Ramis, Doyle-Murray, and Kenney barely knew what movie they were making. Cocaine may have played a part in that, but there was enough script for about 3 movies, and so much was added on top of that in the midst of shooting do to improvising and discovering new ways to utilize their starry actors, all of whom were initially supposed to be glorified cameos, basically doing background comedy to the real stars of the film, Danny and the Caddies. The stories behind the evolving of the film are fascinating and would almost be enough to grant it Canon entry, but I really don't know if we need another one of these. We have an example of Doug Kenney's National Lampoon brand of comedy with ANIMAL HOUSE. We have vintage Bill Murray with GHOSTBUSTERS. Part of me enjoys CADDYSHACK more than either of those movies (mostly for nostalgic reasons), but the purpose of the Canon is to not just create a list of films we like. No, we are creating a syllabus for a world that has forgotten the history of cinema and needs to be presented with examples of its most important representations of classics and varied genres. That's not to say that the Canon can have only one Hitchcock movie, one Capra movie, one Kurosawa movie, etc, but for what CADDYSHACK represents, I think we have it covered. And should we really give too much credit to a comedy that happened to be really funny in spite of so much working against it? I do think a lot of this is great comedy, but they also kinda got lucky.

 

The only argument I could make for its inclusion, and what Susan* touched upon immediately above me, is that we don't have a Chevy Chase movie in the Canon. Chevy Chase, for as dismissed and forgotten as he's become now, was at one time one of the biggest stars in America. There weren't many comedy stars like him before his arrival, and there haven't been many since. He deftly juggled a persona that was equal parts charmer, goofball, and asshole. And he was really really great at his height. His movies were box office smashes, he hosted the oscars multiple times, and then, in the early 90's, he basically had 3 bad flops in a row. This started just about a year after the release of NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION, a film still very much beloved by many people today. He took a job hosting a talkshow that probably would have been a disaster for anyone entering the late night fray at that time, and was instantly labeled a comedy relic. This is after a 15 yeah streak of almost nothing but success. Can you imagine Will Ferrell being completely unemployable in Hollywood after only 3 flops? Now on set demeanor and a diminishing list of friends willing to work with Chevy contributed to his downfall, but I still always felt he unjustly had his career yanked out from under him, and at his best, he truly was one of the greats. Now, I wouldn't necessarily pick CADDYSHACK as the best example of his talents (maybe NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, yet another film we probably don't need to admit into The Canon based on its creative talent alone), but I did want to acknowledge his impact on the industry, and remember a time when he was riding high. Despite some firsthand accounts of how he's been to work with recently, I still have a real soft spot for films like FOUL PLAY, SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES, SPIES LIKE US, FLETCH, and FUNNY FARM. As for CADDYSHACK though, it's in my own personal Canon of favorites, but for the time capsule we're creating for society, I think most people can skip it.

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You guys talk about improvised movie comedies, but with no mention of the oeuvre of Christopher Guest, who has made it foundational in a number of classic films. Although the most important of those was not directed by him: Spinal Tap. Spinal Tap hasn't been nominated for the Canon yet, but it should be. I liked Caddyshack more than Amy appears to, and I was expecting to vote yes. But others already mentioned how Animal House* & Ghostbusters are in the canon already and Blues Brothers might be more deserving, and I just noted that Spinal Tap is more important when it comes to improvisation.

*Which might have got in partly because the alternative was letting in Revenge of the Nerds.

 

Country clubs (which were formed before golf became popular in America) were intended to function partly as social clubs, where people mingle with others whose children would be acceptable marriage partners for their own. So the later to arrive eastern european Jews (which I think Al Czervik is supposed to be representative of) would form their own separate clubs from the older ones formed by German Jews (which the eastern europeans weren't allowed into until the midcentury or so). In 1925 Jews were estimated to make up a disproportionate share of all golfers, which would have also been around the times Jewish clubs last hosted the U.S Open or PGA Championship. But given Ramis' stated disinterest in golf, he probably wasn't actually thinking about all those Al Czerviks and where they would play over the decades when he made the film.

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Posted (edited)

Lots of good things have been said, so I'll just add two thoughts that I had while watching it. First, after the opening credits, there is no music for another half hour. Whether it's a song or incidental music, that can really help set a tone for comedy (think of Blazing Saddles, which has brilliant music queues in it). The incidental music is really bizarre and usually pulled me out of the film as a total distraction and out of place despite the great Kenny Loggins songs.

 

Second, the pacing of the movie is really off. Even if it was totally improvised, films can be put together in a coherent way through a good editor, like Scorsese's Raging Bull. This movie, despite some great talent and even some good moments, suffers the most in the editing room. It's a total mess.

 

Okay, three things: it's not bad as a middle of the road comedy. Even if it's behind the scenes are stuff of lore (cocaine!), the movie itself is not that great. It is too long, the comedy is too inconsistent, and the music is really off. I argued for Friday's infinite quotability, which is something this movie does not have at all. It can be funny, but I do not find it quotable. I'm always happy for comedy films to be presented they have (obviously) been under-represented in the film history. But this particular one, is just not as good as its reputation.

Edited by DrEricFritz

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I think I would have voted “no” no matter what, but especially because Animal House is already in the canon (a mistake). Alex kept talking about the film’s disjointed nature as a positive, but it’s the reason I never felt engaged by the movie. A hypothetical canon-worthy cut of this film might be possible (one that didn’t scrap the main caddy-centric plot in favour of the big stars), but the film that exists is far from canon-worthy.

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I've been waffling on this because I love Caddyshack, but I just don't think it deserves to be in "The Canon" even if it's in my PERSONAL Canon. Personally, I'd put Meatballs, which tells a similar story but a lot more efficiently and actually focuses on the kids and not the comedians, in The Canon before I'd put Caddyshack and I don't think Meatballs needs to go in The Canon either.

 

okay, so I just talked myself into voting no. Sorry Caddyshack, I still love you in all your weirdness, but I just can't put you in The Canon.

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Like so many other fondly remembered and endlessly quoted films from the 1980s, Caddyshack simply does not hold up in 2018. The film's narrative is a complete mess and it ultimately devolves into a series of admittedly enjoyable riffs by a few comedy legends. It's also hard to root for Danny Noonan, the film's ostensible lead, when he disappears for large chunks of the film.

 

What's the point of making a "Slob vs. Snobs" comedy when we spent more time with the snobs and the slobs are so unlikable (save for Sarah Holcomb, despite sporting the worst Irish accent in history. She was also the mayor's daughter in the infamous pass out scene from Animal House)

 

As a teen in the 90s, this film was indeed a comedy touchstone as well as a gateway to the work of its key players (Ramis, Murray, Chase, Dangerfield). My friends and I would endlessly quote Dangerfield's dialogue to each other, 100% of which is comedy gold. But a relentless barrage of great quotes does not make a comedy classic.

 

If the film is celebrated for its key players, there are far more Canon worthy films of theirs to discuss: Groundhog Day for Ramis and Murray, Fletch for Chevy Chase and Back to School for Dangerfield. In fact, I would argue that Back to School is a far more successful "Slob vs. Snobs" entry than Caddyshack, perhaps the best of the 1980s.

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i remember the first time i saw it. 14 yrs old. with my 2 friends and both of one of their parents. MAN did i want the couch to swallow me away during the golfball polishing scene. didn't quite get the humor till i was in college. and even after it still kept growing on me. now al czervick is a go-to halloween costume of mine. whoa, somebody step on a duck?

 

i vote yes even though i like meatballs better. and easy money. and maybe foul play. but those didn't impact the culture of nerdy impromptu quote sessions and reach near-monty-python levels. and maybe that's a metric worth including. so yeah.

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So far it looks like Caddyshack isn’t going to make it. And the reasons are disappointing. A lot of people blaming their age. But i hate the whole “it’s a millennial thing.” I don’t buy that. I know plenty of millennials who quote Caddyshack as much as my friends and I did as kids. Like MP/Grail, Caddyshack is iconic. Is it all over the place? Yes. That’s the type of comedy that it is and it set the standard for the comedies of today. Also, we shouldn’t be talking about plots or narrative unless it’s a vs. episode due to the fact that The Room’s in the Canon and that film is straight trash. Not niche or a curiosity. Just garbage. But like Alex pointed out, the writers knew exactly what they were doing from the start. The slobs vs. snobs narrative was set when the pristine greens and the classical music were bum rushed by Kenny Loggins and the gopher. And although the racial politics was only hinted at, the people of the post Tiger Woods era forget that if you weren’t a WASP, you were not welcomed at most golf courses. I also thinks it’s unfair to not vote a film in because something similar has already been canonized. What’s that? Are we only voting in one thriller or drama from a certain era? If we already have a French horror film in the Canon is that it for French horror films? Maybe I just don’t understand the rules. I’m voting yes for Caddyshack for it’s iconic status and for being the best of the 80’s silly sophomoric comedies. (Airplane is the best comedy of the 80’s. But that was straight satire). Here’s hoping Caddyshack comes in under par.

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There's a common discussion in film--though, not necessarily exclusive to it--on how well comedy ages. As a younger millennial, there are plenty of older comedies that I adore, but I cannot, for the life of me, understand the appeal of Caddyshack.

"This is an exclusive club, Wang, so don't tell anyone you're Jewish"

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