Blog Directory CineVerse: The snobs vs. the slobs, explained

The snobs vs. the slobs, explained

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Searching for meaning in "Caddyshack" is a little like trying to find the answers to deep existential questions on the back of a cereal box. But look harder and you'll actually find themes and merits buried not so deep below the surface in Harold Ramis' 1980 comedy classic. Our CineVerse group dug a few shallow gopher tunnels last night and extracted the following:

What makes Caddyshack such a memorable and beloved comedy?

  • It has infinitely quotable lines, including “Na-na-na-na-na-na-na”; “So I got that going for me. Which is nice”; “Be the ball.” “Whoa, did somebody step on a duck?” “How about a Fresca?”; “Now I know why tigers eat their young”; “Thank you very little”; “Cinderella story. Outta nowhere”; and “It’s in the hole.”
  • It combines winning elements from many different film comedy subgenres, including:
    • the screwball comedy, in which the idle rich get their comeuppance;
    • slapstick, involving exaggerated physical or clumsy actions and humorously embarrassing events;
    • farce, as exemplified by using a gopher puppet and the Busby Berkeley-inspired swimming pool dance;
    • parody/satire, demonstrated by mimicking the Jaws attack in the water, using music from the Ten Commandments when the bishop is golfing in the storm, and seeming to spoof The Shining’s break-through-the-bathroom door moment;
    • gross-out humor, demonstrated by the Baby Ruth gag, vomit-in-the-car joke, betting on booger eating, etc.; and
    • anarchistic comedy, in the vein of the Marx Brothers.
  • In fact, the secret to this film’s success is that it’s a modern attempt at a Marx Brothers movie, with Rodney Dangerfield’s wisecracking anti-establishment character standing in for Groucho; Chevy Chase’s ladies’ man and piano-playing character representing Chico; Bill Murray’s slapstick-centric goofball character who gets most of the big laughs invoking Harpo; and Ted Knight and his ilk serving as the stuffed shirt conservative types (such as the kind played by Sig Ruman) whom the Marx Brothers always get the best of.
  • This movie stands out today as politically incorrect, irreverent, and an attention-getting product of its times—the early 1980s, when grown-up comedies weren’t afraid to, for example, show nudity and sexist situations, ample drug and alcohol use, and crude humor primarily geared toward male viewers. Today, we still have gross-out crude humor, but with fewer boobs and objectification of women more equal opportunities for male and female funny characters.

Themes at play in Caddyshack include:

  • Class and social warfare. We have the underdogs vs. the establishment; the snobs vs. the slobs, which was the film’s tagline; the working class vs. the WASPs; and Catholics (like Danny’s big family) vs. Protestants (Bushwood’s elite members).
  • The usurping of the old establishment by a new irreverent order
    • Jim Windolf, writer for The Observer, wrote: “…the baby boom’s ferocious need to overturn the World War II generation, a need that came under the heading of defying convention or shocking the bourgeoisie or, simply, rebellion. Again and again, Mr. Ramis set up straitlaced institutions (the Omega Theta Pi fraternity in Animal House ; the country club in Caddyshack ; the U.S. Army in Stripes ; the American family in National Lampoon’s Vacation ; bureaucrats and librarians in Ghostbusters ) and then put Bill Murray or Chevy Chase or John Belushi into Establishment-trampling mode. They spoke in a jivey, irony-laden language that the audience understood, but the old-guard villains didn’t.”
    • Director Harold Ramis said in an interview: ““When we were working on Caddyshack , (cowriter) Doug Kenney said he always wanted to do a kind of really smart adult Disney movie–as American as Disney films, but really embodying all our values. And Caddyshack clearly had a big social message–you know, the outsiders and the wackos are the good guys.”
  • Adopting a Zen Buddhism approach to life, as demonstrated in Ty’s advice to “be the ball,” and determine your own destiny.

Works inspired by Caddyshack or that come to mind after watching it:

  • Golf Balls
  • Dorf
  • Happy Gilmore
  • Who’s Your Caddy?
  • Other gross-out comedies like Animal House, There’s Something About Mary, Kingpin, Dumb and Dumber, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Austin Powers, and others

Other films made by Harold Ramis

  • National Lampoon’s Vacation (director)
  • Groundhog Day (writer/director)
  • Analyze This and Analyze That (writer/director)
  • National Lampoon’s Animal House (writer)
  • Stripes (writer)
  • Ghostbusters (writer)
  • Back to School (writer)

  © Blogger template Cumulus by 2008

Back to TOP