A tired old adage indicates “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery,” but when it comes to Caddyshack II the results are the most offensive form of insult.
I don’t revere the original 1980 Caddyshack in the same esteem as many do, but having watched it several times even the most calloused film curmudgeon must admit it has its merits.
Whether you love the quotable quips spouted by Chevy Chase, Bill Murray, Rodney Dangerfield and Ted Knight or simply giggle at the gopher wrecking mayhem on the pristine lines, the first Caddyshack is a pretty funny movie with a subdued sense of working-class heart on display as a poor caddy tries to wrestle a level playing field away from the snooty country club sect.
If nothing else the original Caddyshack had that individualistic anthem “I’m All Right” that set the standard for fun summer films songs for years to come. Between those guitar chords, the spike-haired and bearded Sinatra of movie songs who is Kenny Loggins created a classic that still sets toes tapping more than 35 year later.
When it comes to the sequel, however, most of that is gone.
This time there is no Rodney nor Bill, but the filmmakers kept the setting, the gopher, Chevy Chase and added a new power anthem by Loggins to see what juice could be divined from the carcass in this anemic money grab eight years later.
Legend has it the crew from the first film was hesitant to put on their golf spikes for another round, but respectfully relented when Dangerfield signed on before quickly bailing when the comedian’s input was apparently unwanted by Warner Bros. and the studio replaced him with borscht-belt vaudeville comedian Jackie Mason and wrote the film round this new character. Even Harold Ramis said he wanted his name taken off the project entirely, but he still cashed the check.
The precedent for cannibalistic dining on the bones of the original begins at the very start when the anamorphic gopher from the first film pops up at the entrance of Bushwood Country Club while Loggins intones “Back to the Shack, ooh yeah, nothing suits me better than that… If time has taught me anything, got to learn to be the ball, and I can’t keep from laughing at it all.”
Not so fast, Kenny. I think we’re already in the Danger Zone and we’re gonna crash and burn early.
This time instead of a plucky caddy with a pregnant Irish girlfriend seeking to better his lot in life by winning a scholarship on the links, the story focuses on a middl- class debutante (Jessica Lundy) who wants to fit in with the snotty upper-class golf club crowd. Her father (Mason) does his best to ingratiate himself to the snobs but finds himself financially at odds with them because they want to halt construction of his affordable-housing complex to preserve the historical integrity of riding stables once located on the same lot.
Hilarity doesn’t ensue when Mason perpetuates a tired fish-out-of-water stereotype with his bulging eyes, garish clothes and even louder Yiddish accent, but his backhanded compliments to minorities which are supposed to ingratiate his character actually made me side with the prudish, wealth-obsessed antagonists at the club wanting to get rid of the oaf.
Jonathan Silverman (Weekend at Bernie’s) serves as the surrogate underdog caddie this go around, and Robert Stack (TV’s Unsolved Mysteries) takes over as Ted Knight’s disapproving counterpart from the first film. Things briefly look up when Chase’s Ty Webb resurfaces as the new owner of the golf course, but hope is just as quickly snuffed when the SNL veteran phones in his contribution wearing a distracting earring on his smug mug in what barely equivocates to more than an extended cameo to remind the viewer how much they liked him in the original.
Add Randy Quaid as an aggressive developer and Dan Akyroyd’s covert demolitions expert suffering from PTSD following service in Vietnam (don’t worry, he doesn’t show up to do his worst Murray impression until an hour into the proceedings) and you pretty much have the movie.
Instead of providing some subtle satire on the differences between the people who play golf and the folks who work in the clubhouse, this time the jokes center more on equestrian flatulence (honest) and Mason’s mispronunciations of simple words including “personal” and “perfect” in his annoying Yiddish cadence.
There are a few chuckles to be had when the boorish rich folk find themselves on the other end of their annual “slave auction” helping to build the housing development they so vehemently oppose, but nothing ever happens to get things out of the comedic rough and back onto the fairway.
Mason aims to approach the class issue when he begins a monologue by saying “You know what the most important problem in the world today is? Privilege. People like you who think they are better than everybody else,” but any sense of social commentary is undercut when “The Battle Hymn of the Republic” drones underneath his dialogue and the whole thing just shanks right back into the tall grass.
Chase reemerges to set up the third act where the principle players face off in 18 holes for final ownership of Bushwood after Mason has turned it into Jacky’s Wacky Golf, but by then the whole thing has devolved into shameless callbacks to the first Caddyshack and broad comedy not even Larry the Cable Guy would find funny (and he probably laughed at the horse farts earlier).
The most telling part of Caddyshack II is when Aykroyd and Chase share the screen for one scene. Aykroyd’s character has shot himself in the rear with a poison-tipped crossbow dart and politely asks an indifferent Webb for assistance in removing the armament from his ass and evacuating the toxin from his posterior.
His telling response:
“Let me get this straight? You pull it out, and I suck. Is there any money in it for me?”
Thankfully there was not enough money offered for anyone to ever consider making Caddyshack 3. Imitation is never as good as the real thing, and this thing is full of horse gas, nostalgia for Kenny Loggins withstanding.
- 1 hour, 38 minutes, rated PG
- Director: Allan Arkush
- Starring: Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd.
- Cinema Scoreboard rating: D, because the laughs never get off the first tee.