A Millennial's Take on Caddyshack

It's been a long time coming, everyone, but there's something about me that I've been unable to admit for years. After a lot of denial, self doubt, and soul searching I think I'm finally ready to say it...

   Aren't they just so happy and attractive and diverse and connected and commercialized... Makes me sick.

Aren't they just so happy and attractive and diverse and connected and commercialized... Makes me sick.

I'm a millennial.

In my humble estimation, most of you will react in one of three different ways:

  1.  Dane! You were born in the mid-80's, not long before/after me, how could you possibly be a millennial? We're 90's kids! Right? RIGHT?!
  2. Obviously you're a millennial. You're just like all those other entitled, liberal, SJW cucks; trying to soften the world with "safe spaces."
  3. .....So?

Of course, those responses are clearly exaggerations but I believe most people would fall into one of those categories.

So what does it matter anyway? Well, in my lifetime of being a participation award winning snowflake my exposure to media has been a bit spotty. Movies considered to be classics by the masses have flown by me with startling abundance. Here's a list of "classics" that I didn't see until my mid-to-late twenties: Armageddon, Braveheart, Glengarry Glen Ross, Jaws, Gone With the Wind, The Shawshank Redemption, Apocalypse Now, Blade Runner, The Usual Suspects, Sixteen Candles, Schindler's List, Indiana Jones Trilogy, Rocky, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, The Terminator, Scarface, Interview with the Vampire, The Road Warrior, Cool Hand Luke, Die Hard, The Good the Bad and the Ugly. I could go on, but you get the idea. And this doesn't even account for movies I haven't seen yet, including certain sacred cows for "film buffs" like Lawrence of Arabia, Casablanca, Taxi Driver, The Godfather Trilogy, Stand By Me, most of Hitchcock's films, or anything by Akira Kurosawa.

Now, another untouchable icon has made it into the new list of movies I didn't see until my 30's: Caddyshack. Like the other films I've listed, saying you've not seen Caddyshack is often greeted with incredulity. "I can't believe you've never seen it!" is a phrase I've grown accustomed to, but now when it comes to this particular golden calf of comedy, I'm finally in with the in crowd.

   I have to say, I'm not impressed.

I have to say, I'm not impressed.

I found Caddyshack to be, for the most part, boring and oddly disjointed. You'd think with the comic heavy hitters of Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield, and Chevy Chase that it would be a riot, but it really didn't strike a chord with me. It was a movie I've seen a hundred times with very little new to offer. The plot jumps along in fits and starts, happy to introduce new subplots and then immediately dismiss them or let them fizzle out - I'm looking at you weirdly cynical pregnancy scare - with little bearing on the characters. And the characters are really the problem here, with the stars all seeming like they're playing in totally different movies.

Michael O'Keefe plays our protagonist, Danny Noonan, and he's serviceable. Surrounded by the bigger personalities on show, he doesn't get much room to move, which is appropriate because the role doesn't call for much. Stop me if you've heard this one before... Danny is saving money for college, even though he's not sure what to study and isn't certain that college is even right for him. In his pursuit of a scholarship he has to sell out his morals to a no-good authority figure; but, in the end, under the guidance of a kind mentor, he redeems himself and regains his self-worth by thwarting the plans of... zzz... sorry. 

Bill Murray is the inept assistant groundskeeper for the golf course who's wacky attempts to kill a gopher are sure to delight children of... some ages. Murray usually goes for a more subtle, sarcastic humor in his roles, but his character here is effectively the opposite of that idea, a burned-out moron. The character and his battle against the gopher seem at odds with the rest of the film. He's almost cartoonish in his pursuit of the iconic varmint, and it feels out of sync with the rest of the movie. Apparently, the film was a unsupervised drug-addled mess that found all of it's structure in the editing room, and the Murray/gopher subplot clearly showcases that.

Rodney Dangerfield plays Rodney Dangerfield. Dangerfield's performance is par for the course(excellent work Dane, top notch pun) with the standard mix of his trademark shtick and non sequitur silliness, so there's not really much to be said of his role, other than he does a good job being Rodney Dangerfield. His one-liners are on point, as ever, and he's an excellent foil for Ted Knight's petty, vain, WASPy Judge Smails. But, once again, the character feels as if he's pulled whole cloth out of any other Dangerfield movie, another piece they try to cram into an ill-fitting slot.

The obvious standout is Chevy Chase's Ty Webb. I'm no stranger to Chevy Chase's comedic works, National Lampoon's Vacation is, without a doubt, one the most hilarious and quotable movies I've ever seen, and all of it's sequels with Chase are great in their own ways. His tenure on SNL is legendary and, of course, Three Amigos! is a classic. I even have a soft spot for Funny Farm. But his role in Caddyshack is wholly different. He's not a bumbling buffoon or a straight man to bounce off, he's an entity unto himself, so much that even the characters treat him as a singular force of influence, and defer to him to guide them. Suiting, I think, because Webb really represents the movie as a whole: memorable but unbalanced, appears poised but falls apart under scrutiny, seemingly wise but lacks real substance. He's not a caricature, or one dimensional template applied for plot concerns like so many of the other characters, he feels more real and natural and that's why he feels so disparate from the rest of the cast, again exemplifying a movie that's full of separate pieces frankensteined together. Chase is the reason to watch this movie, his performance is magnetic.

   What? You won a bet on golf. How can you know that? You're creeping me out.

What? You won a bet on golf. How can you know that? You're creeping me out.

So, here's where I bring all that prattle about millennials back. I think that my distaste for Caddyshack comes from the fact that I cut my teeth on movies that were much more focused. The modern film industry is so competitive and demographically minded that they can't afford to be so disjointed. Look at Suicide Squad, it had the same kinds of problems and it's been mercilessly panned. A comedy from the mid-90's onward is often crammed with rapid fire jokes, and beat after beat of funny situations, and that feels like the natural state of movies for me. Call it ADHD culture, or whatever you like, but when I have access to so many things that are clamoring for my attention, a slow paced, trope-filled, incohesive jumble of a film just doesn't cut it as a "classic". 

I'm not saying Caddyshack is a bad movie. It's charming and has some good jokes and goofs in it, I just don't understand the overwhelming praise it receives. I grew up in a world of prepackaged products and quick gratification, and a piece of media that doesn't grab and hold me, had damn well better have a message or theme or story worth slowing down for, i.e. Alien. I'm just more comfortable with something that feels put together on purpose, not a mishmash of conflicting themes and styles.

At the end of this, If you like the movie because it's more free form and loose, that's great! I wish I could enjoy it like you. I'm not looking for reasons not to like things, that part of my life has passed, I'm just more aware of what I do like and less patient for things I don't. An outlook that really does typify what's becoming a more prominent concept, even if it does sound a touch oxymoronic, an aging millennial.