Caddyshack is one of the classic comedies that ushered in the modern version of the form. Debuting in 1980, the film (along with the previous year's Meatballs) helped create the formula that would remain successful right on up to the present day: Take a minor comedic star, preferably an ex-Saturday Night Live cast member; give him some B-list comedians to run around onscreen with; make the protagonist, if not the comedic star, a teenager; give the plot a goal, possibly surrounding a sporting contest of some sort; throw in lots of wackiness, slapstick, and general nuttiness. The formula is foolproof... works every time.
Caddyshack features Chevy Chase, the undeniable star of the first SNL season, but who left the show (a bit prematurely) to take larger film roles such as this; Bill Murray, himself a late-arriving but beloved cast member, also stars. Rodney Dangerfield appears in his first movie part; he had previously been known only for his standup act. Rounding out the comedic leads is Ted Knight, himself a movie and TV veteran (especially as scene-stealing Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show) as well as the narrator from the original Superfriends.
The plot concerns Danny Noonan (Michael O'Keefe), a likeable young man who comes from a big, blue-collar family who wants him to go to college; the money isn't there, however, and his grades aren't good enough to get him a scholarship. His only chance is to win the caddies' tournament at Bushwood Country Club, the hoity-toity golf club at which he is a caddy to earn college money. Bushwood is a haven for holier-than-thou bluebloods, particularly Judge Smails (Knight), who is nice enough to Danny but only to a point. The caddies and other employees at the club are a veritable zoo of misfits - especially Carl Spackler (Murray), who lusts after the club's elderly lady golfers and spends much of his time trying to get rid of a pesky golfer, using increasingly lethal force. Danny is befriended by Ty Webb (Chase), himself a club member but who rejects the other snobs, and later by self-made millionaire slob Al Czervik (Dangerfield), whose brashness - and volume - interrupt the usually placid doings at the Club. After getting caught in bed with Smails's niece (Shannon Tweed) and almost getting his own girlfriend pregnant, Danny wins the tournament in defiance of opposition and a good time is had by all.
Caddyshack is a much-loved film simply because it's a lot of fun. As a kid, I remember wanting to be able to throw out one-liners like Ty, and also be wacky like Dangerfields' Al Czervik. (Come to think of it, I wanted to bed Shannon Tweed, too.) The movie has lots of good lines and gags, and to this day a quick impression of Bill Murray's character - complete with the talking out the side of the mouth - is enough of a reference for most people to get a laugh. If the film has any sort of underlying theme, it's certainly one of slobs vs. snobs - the have-nots doing battle with the haves on the latter's turf, and winning. (Well, sort of: Ty is too preppy to be a slob, but Czervik is definitely one, despite his millions.)
- Caddyshack was the first film directed by Harold Ramis; he is mainly remembered for being the third Ghostbuster and Murray's pal in Stripes. Other films of his include National Lampoon's Vacation, Groundhog Day, and Analyze This. He is also an accomplished screenwriter.
- The script was written by Ramis, National Lampoon co-founder Doug Kenney, and Brian Doyle-Murray (Bill's brother). A veteran of dozens of movies and television shows, Brian Doyle-Murray appears in this film as the club manager.
- Because they didn't get along, Bill Murray and Chevy Chase have only one scene together.
- Bill Murray improvised many of his lines, which drove his costars crazy.
- Star Wars special effects supervisor John Dykstra helped create the scenes which included the gopher.
- This film is the origin of the phrase, "You two should get a room!" (uttered, of course, by Rodney Dangerfield's uncouth character).