Caddyshack (HD DVD)
Warner Bros. // R // $28.99 // August 22, 2006
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 28, 2006
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Everyone loves Caddyshack. People who have never seen Caddyshack love Caddyshack. Hell, people who hate Caddyshack love Caddyshack. Like Animal House before it, this is one of those movies that's so firmly embedded in the fabric o' pop culture that even though I was pre-pubescent the last time I watched Caddyshack from beginning to end, I still felt like I knew every frame by heart. Giving it another look all these years later, Caddyshack isn't the endless parade of laughs you think you remember, but it holds up a lot better than most '80s comedies.

There really isn't a plot. Or one main star. Or...anything. Caddyshack kinda strings together a few thin, mostly unrelated subplots for an hour and a half and change. Rodney Dangerfield plays an obnoxious schlub who can't spell nouveau riche but managed to rake in millions in real estate anyway, whittling away a bunch of his free time at the local snooty country club. Al quickly butts heads with the stodgy Judge Smails (Ted Knight), who happens to be the brown nose-ee that broke caddy Danny (Michael O'Keefe) has to impress to land a college scholarship. Al and Th' Judge decide to tee off in a, forty, no...thousand dollar golf game to settle their score, bringing in deadpan zen golfer Ty Webb (Chevy Chase) as Al's partner in grime. Oh, and Smails has a nubile young niece from Manhattan who'll get spreadeagle at the drop of a whatever, and Danny struggles with his relationship with a homelier girl and her goofy Irish brogue, and the pit-stained assistant greensman (Bill Murray) takes increasingly devastating measures to rid the course of that damned gopher, and...yeah, like seventeen other things.

Caddyshack goes for snickers (or Baby Ruths) more than really big laughs, not cramming the comedy into a few huge setpieces but into throwaway lines of mostly-improvised dialogue and your standard fart/dick/balls gags. This isn't the type of movie where I'm cracking up a couple times a minute, but the clunkier comedy isn't groan-worthy, and there's enough hee-larity that I almost never felt bored. The pacing does slam on the brakes whenever it focuses on any sort of story (the scenes between Danny and his bonnie Irish lass are total deadweight), and the nitpicky bastard who lives in my tummy tells me I should bitch about there not being enough interaction between so many of the main characters. Sure, it's low-brow, hit-or-miss, and scatterbrained, and the whole "caddyshack" angle could've been ditched entirely, but a strong cast of talented comics and the fact that it's so gosh-darn endearing make Caddyshack seem a lot better than it really is.

Video: My expectations were kinda low for this 1.78:1 high definition presentation; this is a low-budget, quarter-century-old-plus comedy, after all, and Caddyshack has always looked lousy on cable. The HD DVD is a bit inconsistent but looks surprisingly decent overall. Don't be turned off by its extremely soft and grainy opening moments (the same goes for any shot with optical effects, really) 'cause the quality greatly improves once Danny steps foot on the golf course. Fleshtones look awfully ruddy at times, and there are a handful of shots that are mostly indistinguishable from what you'd expect from a well-mastered DVD, but for the most part, it's reasonably crisp, free of any nicks or specks, fairly colorful, and decently detailed.

There were quite a few shots where I felt as if I could count each individual blade of grass or each strand of fur on the not-a-gopher if I were in that obsessive-compulsive sort of mood, although the further back the camera is, the worse the movie looks. No, this disc isn't quite as spiffy as something churned out in the past ten years (such as that other golf comedy, Happy Gilmore, f'r instance), but the high def spit-'n-polish it's gotten makes Caddyshack look seven or eight years more recent than it really is, and the shots of the gopher zipping through his subterranean tunnels look like they could've been filmed last Wednesday. This HD DVD won't curl any toes, but it's better than I was expecting.

Audio: This latest wave from Warner -- The Searchers and Caddyshack -- is the first to include the films' original monaural audio on HD DVD. Comparing the two tracks, the Dolby Digital Plus 5.1 remix for Caddyshack doesn't stray too far from the green. The bulk of the audio is anchored front and center, letting the upbeat Kenny Loggins tunes and a few scattered sound effects leak into the other channels. There are a few smooth pans tossed around for good measure, although they're mostly environmental. Dialogue sounds raw and dated, though smoother in the remix than in the original mono. A few lines of dialogue get a little buried in the mix, but it's intelligible enough throughout. There aren't any crystalline highs, and music aside, the subwoofer only caughs up a couple of low-frequency belches (if you've seen the movie before, you can pinpoint precisely where they are). 'Salright.

Monaural dubs are served up in French and Spanish, and subtitles are offered in all three languages.

Supplements: Aside from an ancient-looking anamorphic widescreen trailer, the sole extra is the half-hour doc "Caddyshack: The 19th Hole". Assembled seven years or so ago for DVD, "The 19th Hole" interviews a bunch of the surviving key cast and crew, including director Harold Ramis, giant-spider-obsessed producer Jon Peters, actors Chevy Chase and Cindy Morgan, and a few of the more recognizable caddies. They spend most of the time talking about how the cast got along and the scoopfuls of improvisation on-set, and quite a few outtakes are interspersed throughout. I liked it and all, but I kinda wanted more.

Conclusion: Caddyshack isn't the greatest comedy to come out of the 1980s or anything (that nod goes to Fletch), but it still holds up pretty well all of these years later, and it's definitely one of those Animal House-ish "you have to see it at least once..." landmarks. With as sparse as the extras are, you might be better off just catching Caddyshack in high def on HDNet Movies or InHD, where it's been in fairly heavy rotation lately, but...hey. I'll still slap a Recommended on it.

Standard image disclaimer: the pictures scattered around this review were lifted from the official movie site, which was built back when the bevel tool in Paint Shop Pro was a new, amazing thing, and they don't necessarily reflect the appearance of this HD DVD. They're just to make the review look less bland 'cause plain-text reviews are a harbinger of the devil.

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