There are few things as integral to the relationship between movies and their audiences as a sense of discovery. In comedy, I'd argue that atmosphere of newness and the unexpected is as important if not more important than in other genres, as it distinguishes unique and new comedic expressions from familiar ones, and observes the cultural and social shifts in what makes people laugh.
The sad thing about many comedies is that once that sense of discovery has been experienced, the entertainment value of the film drops precipitously. For example, no matter how hard you laughed that first time Jack Black's biker punted Ron Burgundy's prized pooch Baxter off of that bridge, it's never quite going to be as funny again, since you know it's coming – and you're even waiting for it to happen. And having seen Caddyshack for the 20th or so time in my life last week, I felt mild disappointment that I no longer chortled with the abandon that once did, because I've spent the better part of the years since I originally watched the movie working lines of its dialogue into my daily conversations.
Of course, that inevitably translates itself into an appetite (or lack thereof) for movies when time comes to purchase them, or in most cases nowadays, purchase them again. And while I still recognize Caddyshack is one of those comedies I'll come back to again and again, I was curious whether its new Blu-ray edition was worth tracking down – hence this week's "Making the (Up) Grade."
What's Already Available: Caddyshack was released a few times on standard-definition DVD, including a version that first came out in 2000. That single-disc set featured a behind-the-scenes documentary entitled Caddyshack: The 19th Hole, production notes, and the film's theatrical trailer.
What's In The New Set: In addition to remastered picture and sound, the new Caddyshack Blu-ray, which was released June 8, 2010, features all of the above bonus features as well as a new feature-length documentary entitled Caddyshack: The Inside Story.
What's The Difference In The Movie Itself: While the new high-definition transfer certainly shows some of the film's age, for the most part it looks really terrific. Harold Ramis, who was a first-time director on Caddyshack, uses simple set-ups and unambitious camerawork to create a believable environment for the film's link-side shenanigans, and the picture quality is vivid, clear and clean, offering a considerable improvement in presentation over previous standard-definition versions.
What's The Difference In Everything Else: Although there's only one addition to the existing slate of extras, The Inside Story provides quality to more than make up for quantity. Shot in the conversational if somewhat sensational style of E! True Hollywood Stories, the 80-minute documentary delves into virtually every scene and sequence in the film. Bolstered by observations and anecdotes from members of the cast and crew – that is, not including Chevy Chase or Bill Murray – the doc provides a 360 degree portrait of the production, with plenty of descriptions that are as funny as the moments they're discussing.
What's The Final Grade: B. Much like the underdog story of its actual production, the survival and later, success of Caddyshack can be attributed to a combination of talent, timing and luck, and in that sense it continues to flourish as one of the funnier movies made in the last few decades. How high one ranks the film on their personal list of funny favorites may make the difference between keeping a previous version and upgrading to this one, but at the very least, Warner Home Video has provided a new and extensive look back at the film that will no doubt extend its legacy, and for the curious, offer another opportunity check out its comedic bona fides.