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Newsday's original 'Caddyshack' review: Average example of B-movie gag film

Rodney Dangerfield in "Caddyshack."

Rodney Dangerfield in "Caddyshack." Credit: Getty Images/Hulton Archive

This is a lightly edited version of former Newsday movie critic Joseph Gelmis' 1980 review of "Caddyshack."

"Caddyshack" is a lush-budget, B-movie farce in a golf setting. The gags are all organized around the things that could go wrong -- crashers, gophers, overzealous groundskeepers, caddies -- at a place designed to be the sanctum of mean-spirited rich chaps.

The new comedy is a loosely woven fabric of caricatures and burlesque situations enhanced by a cast of heavyweight performers. Chevy Chase is in fine fettle as a glib idler and golf bum. In one of the film's highlights, he blindfolds himself with a handkerchief and does a takeoff of "The Force" from "Star Wars," proceeding to drive the ball across the rough and into the cup sightless.

This is the kind of broad slapstick comedy that pits a top comic actor like Bill Murray against a mechanical gopher for an adversary. But as the slob groundskeeper whose attention is constantly being distracted by wicked thoughts about middle-aged women in golfing shorts, Murray prowls the greens as an outrageously amusing menace.

The cutting edge of the comedy is subversion. "Caddyshack" has a pompous, hypocritical target -- the establishment types like the corrupt judge (Ted Knight) who runs the country club to exclude undesirables. The chief subverter is Rodney Dangerfield, impeccably cast as a cheerfully vulgar multimillionaire visitor who violates every taboo of the club members.

In the course of 90 minutes or so of comic conflict, there are some wonderfully inventive sketches, some tacky scenes and a gratuitous huffing and puffing scene with a nude torso in view. It's as if "Caddyshack" weren't sure it could get by on laughs alone and had to add a nude shot for insurance.

"Caddyshack" is an above average example of the over-inflated B-movie gag film genre because of its expert performances. But eventually it's just a missed opportunity to use the talents of Chase and Murray for something funny and substantive.

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