Last night on “American Idol,” finalist Crystal Bowersox sang her heart out on a cover of Kenny Loggins’ “I’m Alright.” I’ll admit that I don’t follow the show very closely, but when I heard the news of what song Bowersox chose to sing, my response was immediate. “She wins. She’s the new American Idol.” For you see, “I’m Alright” is the song that opens one of the greatest sports comedies in the long history of movies: “Caddyshack.”
If you’ve seen “Caddyshack,” you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, correct that. Now even. Take a sick day, a personal day, whatever you want to call it. Go to the store. I am certain you can find the movie on DVD for just a few dollars. That’s not to say it isn’t popular; “Caddyshack” is just one of those comedy staples that’s been around so long, people take it for granted.
You’ve got Chevy Chase in his heyday playing a deranged master golfer, a fabulously wealthy playboy whose money and extreme eccentricity gives him a pass on a lot of things people just don’t do in polite society. You’ve also got Bill Murray, playing an equally deranged, pot-smoking groundskeeper who is obsessed with waging war on a pesky groundhog. Rounding out the team of funnymen is Rodney Dangerfield, a loud, obnoxious millionaire and potential new recruit for Bushwood Country Club. The stuffy current members aren’t a fan of his antics, but his bizarre assortment of golf clubs and unfiltered observations endear him to the common man.
With all of this funny, there’s got to be a straight man. Enter Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a young caddy with a (reasonably) good heart and high hopes for earning a scholarship through the country club that will allow him to go to the right school and get on with his life. In order to get the money, he has to suck up to our villain, Bushwood co-founder Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight).
Smails is an angry man, the sort of millionaire who has no problem looking down his nose at the world around him. Compare him to Chase’s Ty Webb, the son of Bushwood’s other co-founder. Webb has a carefree attitude; live and let live, no matter what their net worth is. Smails despises him, but in a friendly way. He’s more aggressive towards Dangerfield’s Al Czervik, who doesn’t have the status of being related to a club founder as protection. Knight’s performance is that of a pitch-perfect ’80s comedy villain.
It all comes together beautifully. “Caddyshack” has a strong overarching narrative, but it’s the individual moments that stick out. Like Ty’s golf lessons. Carl Spackler’s (Murray) frequent run-ins with the gopher. Dangerfield’s amazing Swiss Army golf bag. And of course, the “doodie” in the pool.
Credit goes to the cast of course, but equal credit goes to Harold Ramis. The future Ghostbuster made his directorial debut with “Caddyshack,” which he also co-wrote with Brian Doyle-Murray and Douglas Kenney. So like I said above, if you haven’t seen it before, correct that. Now.
And remember… “Be the ball.”