It took eight years for a sequel to Caddyshack to get made, perhaps the greatest “hijinks ensue” movie ever made. I say that phrase because it’s such a simple concept: a quick statement like “A day in the life of a golf course…and hijinks ensue.”
The beauty of the original film is that despite the out there characters like Chevy Chase’s Ty Webb and Rodney Dangerfield’s Al Czervik, the story is really about the struggles of Danny Noonan (Michael O’Keefe), a working-class kid forced to follow the whims of the incredibly rich in the hopes that he can work toward a better life. It also comes from actual life, as writer Brian Doyle-Murray, his brothers Bill and John, too — was a caddie at Indian Hill Club in Winnetka, Illinois. His brothers Bill and John Murray, and director Harold Ramis had all been in Danny’s caddy shoes at one point. Most of the people in the movie were all based on actual members of the clubs that they had worked at.
Ramis told the A.V. Club that he went in with the right intentions: “They said, “Hey, we’ve got a great idea: The Shack is Back! And I said, “No, I don’t think so.” But they said that Rodney really wanted to do it, and we could build it around Rodney. Rodney said, “Come on, do it.” Then the classic argument came up which says that if you don’t do it, someone will, and it will be really bad. So I worked on a script with my partner Peter Torokvei, consulting with Rodney all the time. Then Rodney got into a fight with the studio and backed out. We had some success with Back to School, which I produced and wrote, and we were working with the same director, Alan Metter. When Rodney pulled out, I pulled out, and then they fired Alan and got someone else. I got a call from [co-producer] Jon Peters saying, “Come with us to New York; we’re going to see Jackie Mason!” I said, “Ooh, don’t do this. Why don’t we let it die?” And he said, “No, it’ll be great.” But I didn’t go, and they got other writers to finish it. I tried to take my name off that one, but they said if I took my name off, it would come out in the trades and I would hurt the film.”
This moment of wondering why this movie is being made and feeling is that it’s the wrong idea? That will come up throughout the discussion of this movie.
So instead of Rodney, we get Jackie Mason. Sure, they’re both older Jewish comedians who married much younger women late in their lives, but that’s about all they have in common. Rodney’s character was an everyman who seemed to be using the audience as his therapist, bemoaning the way he was treated with lines like “I know I’m ugly. I said to a bartender, “Make me a zombie.’ He told me that God beat him to it.” To me, Mason always felt like he was lecturing the audience, somewhat above it*.
Dan Aykroyd is one of my favorite actors, but he’s basically coming on to be Bill Murray. And while Jonathan Silverman and Michael O’Keefe are somewhat interchangeable, there’s a large divide between Robert Stack and Ted Knight. And that’s no slight to any of these actors, but when you’re placed in the same exact role as a movie that is beloved, you’re going to get compared. After all, Ted Knight is my favorite villain in any movie. He’s perfect in his role. And while I love Robert Stack, I can only see him in heroic roles or parts that make fun of his heroic nature.
I mean, I love Randy Quaid, but his role was written for Sam Kinison, who would have destroyed audiences with that part.
To be fair, Dangerfield was to be in this, but a month before production, he bailed, realizing that it wouldn’t work. He kept adding to his contract, demanding final cut and royalties and getting everything he wanted, except to be released from the film. This all ended up with him facing a $10 million dollar lawsuit.
But there still needed to be a movie.
As for director Allan Arkush, he told Sports Illustrated “I should have never made this movie! What was I thinking?” He told us — in an interview we were honored to get to conduct — “You should never make a movie for the wrong reasons. You should only make movies about something where you know no one else can make it better than you.”
So what’s it all about, you may ask.
Kate Hartounian (Jessica Lundy, who was in Bright Lights, Big City and Vampire’s Kiss the same year this was released), the daughter of real estate developer and working man Jack (Mason), seeks to improve her social status by following the advice of her friend Miffy Young (Chynna Phillips) and asks her dad to join the Bushwood Country Club.
Of course, seeing as how her dad builds housing that normal people can afford, he doesn’t fit in with club members like Chandler Young (Stack), his wife Cynthia (Dina Merrill, Operation Petticoat) and Mr. Jamison (an always welcome Paul Bartel).
Sure, hijinks ensue, but it’s hard to get behind the blustering Mason, who strangely attracts Diane Cannon, making this into something of a science fiction movie. The gopher can now talk (someone get Frank Welker in the booth stat!) and Chevy Chase shows up for all of five minutes, most of which consists of him being a sexist boor to scare off multiple women in a scene that may have seemed funny in 1988 but seems beyond gross in 2021 (I know, I know — let’s not place our modern values on movies from the past; I’m also the guy who brings you all sorts of aberrant Italian and Spanish gut-churning filth, right?!? But maybe I just agree with the “medium talent” assessment of Chase).
The hardest thing to deal with in this movie that it’s made by incredibly talented people placed into a thankless struggle to make something halfway decent. I mean, Harold Ramis and PJ Torokvei (who wrote Armed and Dangerous, Back to School, WKRP in Cincinnati and Real Genius) wrote the script with rewrites by Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman, who wrote Who Framed Roger Rabbit together**.
The thing that really sticks out to me is that Caddyshack works whether or not you play golf, but if you love the game, you can see the nuances and enjoyment of the sport within the movie. In the sequel, golf just seems to be something in the background, other than the miniature golf course finale that closes the movie.
I guess you should add the phrase, “Don’t remake Caddyshack” to other important lessons like “Never fight a land war in Asia” and “Never go against a Sicilian when death is on the line.”
In our aforementioned chat with the director, this movie was summed up quite simply:
B&S: So why Caddyshack II?
ALLAN: Yes, exactly. Why Caddyshack II? There are no more questions to be answered.
*Indeed, Arkush said –after seeing Mason perform two nights in a row — “I started to get a very different impression of him. The thing that occurred to me was that he didn’t connect with the audience in any sort of personal way. That’s not necessarily a good thing for someone who’s supposed to be your lead. At least when Rodney says, “I get no respect,” there’s an empathy that he evokes from the audience.”
**To be fair, they also wrote Wild Wild West and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, so perhaps…