At 25: “Caddyshack II”

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July 22, 2013 by billysparrow

caddyshack_ii

Caddyshack II

Released: July 22, 1988

Starring: Jackie Mason, Robert Stack, Jessica Lundy, Dyan Cannon, Chynna Phillips, Brian McNamara, Jonathan Silverman, Randy Quaid, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd

Eight years seems like a long time to wait to do a sequel. And that’s because it is. But that did not stop “Caddyshack II” from being made and inflicted upon the public. Nor was it considered a stumbling block that there would be exactly one actor and one character (Chevy Chase as Ty Webb) returning from the original. I mean, moviegoers are surely going to be more interested in a sequel to a beloved movie if it has an almost entirely new cast and a tenuous link to the storyline of the original, right?

And, of course, there’s nothing like bringing in a proven box office star and a beloved entertainer to put asses in seats. And the producers found their man in the magnetic superstar that is Jackie Mason, whom 1988 filmgoers adored for his star cameo in 1979’s “The Jerk” (his character’s last name in that movie is the same as it is in this one…callback!) and his memorable screen time as, according to IMDB, “Jew #1” in 1981’s “History of the World: Part I.” I mean, who was a hotter comedic commodity than Jackie Mason in 1988? (To be fair, 1988 and 1989 were the years where someone decided that Mason was going to be the Next Big Star; witness the ill-fated “Chicken Soup” TV show he starred in with Vanessa Redgrave–I know, it’s hard to believe that twosome didn’t click with America).

With all this going for it, how could “Caddyshack II” miss, in both the hearts and wallets of the American people? Well, it did. It made a little over $11 million, significantly less than the originals and was not exactly uniformly beloved.

Of course, I loved it. This does not shock you, does it? If it does, this is obviously the first of these “At 25” things you’re reading. Welcome!

To clarify, though, I loved it when I was 11 (a point at which I probably hadn’t seen the original in its unedited entirety), and, as I might have noted previously or you have gleaned from careful reading and/or a keen understanding of the aging process, I am no longer 11 years old. I know, I’m sad about it, too.

But while I would like to completely tear apart “Caddyshack II” as a 36-year-old, I am hesitant. So I will only partially tear it apart. With love.

When I say that only one actor/character returns from the original “Caddyshack,” I am disregarding a few asterisks. First of all, the gopher is back. Exciting, right? What? No, it’s not? Well, then “Caddyshack II” might not be for you, as it is a movie that seems to be geared toward people whose favorite part of “Caddyshack” was, in fact, the gopher. I do not know any such people, but I’m sure they’re out there. It takes all kinds.

But, more important than the gopher’s return: Kenny Loggins is back with another theme song! It would be asinine to say “Nobody’s Fool” tops “I’m Alright,” but it’s not too shabby and, as with “I’m Alright,” it is impressive that Loggins shoehorns catchphrases from/about the movie (e.g., “back to the shack” and “be the ball”) into a song that seems like it probably wasn’t written for the movie. And as I sit here and read the lyrics, I am not sure what he’s talking about at all in certain parts of the song. I’m seeing this as a lyric on a few different websites and I can’t imagine this is correct, but if it is, it’s one of the odder verses to a song I’ve ever heard:

My hallucination may come as some surprise
You may try to deny it
You’re amazed when the clown slaps you in the face
Leaves you dumbfounded there in his way (yeah)

I’ve listened to the song several times now and I can’t completely discredit this reading. You decide. I can only listen to this song at loud volumes so many times before I am evicted.

Speaking of things that, like clown slaps to the face, can leave you dumbfounded. how about Jackie Mason and Dyan Cannon as your lead romantic characters. Box office gold, no? Cannon’s film resume was a little stronger than Mason’s, but by 1988 she was largely a TV-movie and Laker-home-game staple, which makes her an interesting choice for a romantic lead in a major motion picture. Luckily for the viewer, there are precious few actual moments of romance shown (though Cannon’s impressive torso gets some solid screen time). This might be the best decision the producers made. I guess this is their funniest scene, particularly for those among you who love horse farts, which I suspect is most of you.

And if you do love horse farts, you might also be into Dan Aykroyd’s work in “Caddyshack II,” as it possesses a similar odor. As Captain Tom Everett (aka Mr. Sanderson), Aykroyd is, I suppose, intended to take the place of Bill Murray’s Carl Spackler. It’s not a great switch. In fact, Aykroyd is so over the top and annoying that you start to think he hates Bill Murray and is mocking his performance in the original. Or perhaps it was an act of psychological subterfuge and Aykroyd wanted to make this fake Carl so unbelievably tiresome and awful that it would elevate people’s opinion of and respect for Murray’s Carl to undreamed-of heights. Sure, let’s go with that.

In 1988, I didn’t mind the overacting too much (I probably loved it), but in 2013, I could see how one (one who looks an awful lot like me) might be a little annoyed by it.

But enough of the bad of “Caddyshack II.” Let’s take a look at the good. First there is a scene I carry with me almost every day. And that is this:

In the pre-Internet days, when these things could not be readily verified at a moment’s notice, I thought he was saying “fonzaloon,” but the Internet has corrected me and told me it is actually “fonzanoon.” Either way, it is a fantastic word to know and think of when encountering someone you suspect to be a fart-bubble biter. Which happens surprisingly often.

And then there is the single reason why I cannot in good conscience call “Caddyshack II” an unwatchable movie. And that is the fact that Randy Quaid is in it. And he is not going through the motions like Chevy Chase (though Chase gets off a few good lines) or doing some bizarre pseudo-impression like Dan Aykroyd. No, he is giving it his all as Peter Blunt, providing nearly every memorable moment in “Caddyshack II,” including this one.

Who’s better than Randy Quaid? No one.

And while no Ted Knight, Robert Stack does a fine job as Chandler Young (Brian McNamara and Chynna Phillips are also not too shabby as his children; it’s Phillips’ finest work on film). The only time I laughed out loud during the “At 25” viewing of “Caddyshack II” was during this scene, in which Quaid is good but Stack’s reaction is even better.

At least I think it’s Stack. Maybe it was a wedgie stunt double. In any case, Stack too is to be commended for not mailing it in. (To be fair, Mason doesn’t seem to be mailing it in either; he’s just tough to take over the course of 97 minutes.)

In doing some Internet research (i.e., reading Wikipedia and IMDB; what, you want me to spend hours thoroughly researching “Caddyshack II”?), I discovered that Rodney Dangerfield was in fact intended to be the star of the movie but he bailed and Mason was a last-minute replacement. Harold Ramis, who cowrote the original as well as “Caddyshack II” (and seems proud of one of those things), offered up the following in an AV Club interview:

With Caddyshack II, the studio begged me. They said, “Hey, we’ve got a great idea: ‘The Shack Is Back!'” And I said [moans], “No, I don’t think so.” But they said that Rodney [Dangerfield] 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 over his contract 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 [Allan Arkush]. 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 goes a long way to explaining “Caddyshack II.” It definitely has the feel of a movie that was haphazardly thrown together in the hopes that something good would somehow emerge. Those dreams, alas, were not fully realized, though there are a few moments here and there (mostly there, occasionally here) that save it from being a total disaster.

“Caddyshack II” is certainly one of the more mystifying sequels in film history (let’s go ahead and make a rule now that gives you five years to make a sequel and then it’s illegal after that). Is it also one of the most terrible sequels in film history? Perhaps. But because I liked it so much as a kid (and I think I might have the movie poster somewhere), if I were to say so, I’d be being a bit of a fonzanoon, no?

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