Chicago Sun-Times

IN A WILD CAST, IT’S DANGER­FIELD WHO WINS OUR RE­SPECT

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‘CADDYSHACK’ ★★½

Orig­i­nally re­viewed July 28, 1980

This week marks the 40th an­niver­sary of the highly quotable cult com­edy, the di­rec­to­rial de­but of Harold Ramis. It’s show­ing at iPic the­aters in Bol­ing­brook and South Bar­ring­ton start­ing Thurs­day.

‘Caddyshack’ never finds a con­sis­tent comic note of its own, but it plays host to all sorts of ap­proaches from its stars, who some­times hardly seem to be oc­cu­py­ing the same movie. There’s Bill Mur­ray’s self-ab­sorbed crazi­ness, Chevy Chase’s laid-back be­muse­ment and Ted Knight’s apoplec­tic over­play­ing. And then there is Rod­ney Danger­field, who wades into the movie and cleans up.

To the de­gree that this is any­body’s movie, it’s Danger­field’s — and he mostly seems to be us­ing his own ma­te­rial. He plays a loud, vul­gar, twitch­ing condo de­vel­oper who is think­ing of buying a coun­try club and us­ing the land for hous­ing. The coun­try club is one of those ex­clu­sive WASP en­claves, a haven for such types as the judge who founded it (Knight), the ne’er-do-well club cham­pion (Chase), and the manic as­sis­tant groundskee­per (Mur­ray).

The movie never re­ally de­vel­ops a plot, but maybe it doesn’t want to. Di­rec­tor Harold Ramis brings on his cast of char­ac­ters and lets them loose at one an­other.

There’s a vague sub­plot about a col­lege schol­ar­ship for the cad­dies, and an­other one about the judge’s nu­bile niece, and con­tin­u­ing war­fare waged by Mur­ray against the go­phers who are dev­as­tat­ing the club. But Ramis is cheer­fully pre­pared to in­ter­rupt ev­ery­thing for mo­ments of comic in­spi­ra­tion, and there are three es­pe­cially good ones: the cad­dies in the swim­ming pool do­ing a Busby Berke­ley num­ber, an­other pool scene that’s a scat­o­log­i­cal satire of “Jaws,” and a se­quence in which Danger­field’s gi­gan­tic speed­boat dev­as­tates a yacht club.

Danger­field is fun­ni­est, though, when the movie just lets him talk. He’s a Henny Young­man clone, filled with one-lin­ers and in­sults, and he’s great at the coun­try club’s din­ner dance, abus­ing every­one and mak­ing rude noises. Sur­vey­ing the crowd from the bar, he uses lines that he has, in fact, stolen di­rectly from his night­club rou­tine (“This steak still has the mark of the jockey’s whip on it”). With his bizarre wardrobe and trick golf bag, he’s a throw­back to the Grou­cho Marx and W.C. Fields school of in­sult com­edy; he has a vi­tal­ity that the movie’s younger co­me­di­ans can’t match, and they suf­fer in com­par­i­son.

Chevy Chase, for ex­am­ple, has some won­der­ful mo­ments in this movie, as a stu­diously ab­sent-minded he­do­nist who doesn’t even bother to keep score when he plays golf. He’s good, but some­how he’s in the wrong movie: His whimsy doesn’t fit with Danger­field’s bla­tant scenery-chew­ing or with the Bill Mur­ray char­ac­ter. Mur­ray, as a slob who goes after go­phers with ex­plo­sives and en­ter­tains sex­ual fan­tasies about the women golfers, could be a refugee from “An­i­mal House.”

Maybe one of the movie’s prob­lems is that the cen­tral char­ac­ters are never re­ally in­volved in the same ac­tion. Mur­ray’s off on his own, fight­ing go­phers. Danger­field ar­rives, dev­as­tates, ex­its. Knight is busy im­press­ing the cad­dies, mak­ing vague prom­ises about schol­ar­ships, and launch­ing boats. If they were some­how all drawn to­gether into the same story, maybe we’d be car­ried along more con­fi­dently. But “Caddyshack” feels more like a movie that was writ­ten rather loosely, so that when shoot­ing be­gan there was free­dom, too much free­dom, for it to wan­der off in all di­rec­tions in search of comic in­spi­ra­tion.

Con­clu­sion after all of this: The time is ripe for a Rod­ney Danger­field movie.

 ?? WARNER BROS. ?? The he­do­nist club cham­pion (Chevy Chase, from left), a snooty judge (Ted Knight) and a brash condo de­vel­oper (Rod­ney Danger­field) share the links at Bush­wood Coun­try Club in “Caddyshack.”
WARNER BROS. The he­do­nist club cham­pion (Chevy Chase, from left), a snooty judge (Ted Knight) and a brash condo de­vel­oper (Rod­ney Danger­field) share the links at Bush­wood Coun­try Club in “Caddyshack.”
 ??  ??

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