An everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about look at a cult movie whose reputation has grown in the four decades since its initial release.
Entertainment Weekly film critic Nashawaty (Crab Monsters, Teenage Cavemen, and Candy Stripe Nurses: Roger Corman: King of the B Movie, 2013) ventures that Caddyshack (1980) first took shape as a kind of lesser entry in a flurry of films born of the nexus of Saturday Night Live, the National Lampoon, and massive piles of cocaine: The Blues Brothers, Meatballs, Animal House, etc. It was also a more pointed exercise in class warfare at the outset than when it eventually emerged, many drafts later, to critical indifference. Putting on his Peter Biskind hat, Nashawaty connects this subversiveness to more serious films such as Mean Streets and Easy Rider while seeing it as a generational repudiation of comparatively treacly fare such as Clint Eastwood’s orangutan comedies and the Smokey and the Bandit franchise. Though born of the free-wheeling, madcap cohort of fledgling director Harold Ramis (who called the movie his “$6 million scholarship to film school”) and writers Brian Doyle-Murray and the doomed Doug Kenney, Caddyshack was thoroughly vetted by studio hacks—fortunately, no one listened to them. Nashawaty steers readers through now-familiar scenes, such as Bill Murray’s near-lethal wielding of a pitchfork and Chevy Chase’s suave twitting of the uber-rich Ted Knight, brought to warp speed with the arrival of Rodney Dangerfield. What is constantly surprisingly, and most pleasantly so, is how these scenes could have been very different had other roads been taken—e.g., had the overburdened Bill Murray not found a spare few weeks to film and not been given free rein to improvise or had the casting director been able to land Mickey Rourke in the place of Michael O’Keefe for the central (though, in the final product, somewhat diminished) role of Danny Noonan.
The book doesn’t quite hit the insightful levels of those by Scott Eyman or David Thomson, just as the film isn’t quite The Maltese Falcon. Still, Nashawaty provides an eye-opening pleasure for Caddyshack fans.