Dyan Cannon

Caddyshack II (1988, Allan Arkush)

Now it makes sense–Rodney Dangerfield was originally going to come back for Caddyshack II, but then fell out over script disputes and Jackie Mason came in, persona in hand, to fill in. I kept wondering who writers Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei envisioned in the lead role while writing the script.

My history with Caddyshack II is probably more amusing than the movie itself (not really–it’s a dumb movie, but it’s got a bunch of funny stuff in it). When I was a kid, I wasn’t allowed to see R rated movies, so instead of Caddyshack, I watched Caddyshack II. If I remember the first one correctly, they’re about on par with each other (no pun intended).

What Caddyshack II has going for it is the performances. Mason’s effective and often funny. He’s not a good actor, but he’s doing his schtick and it works. He’s so amusing, it’s believable when Dyan Cannon finds him beguiling. It shouldn’t work–I mean, Dyan Cannon was married to Cary Grant (which may or may not be part of the joke)–but it does.

The movie opens, rather smartly, with its younger cast though. Chynna Phillips, Brian McNamara, Jessica Lundy and Jonathan Silverman are all in the opening scene. I’d forgotten how appealing Silverman could be in his young everyman performances. It’s a solid opening–even after the menacing “An Allan Arkush Movie” credit a few moments before–almost entirely based on Silverman’s appeal, Phillips’s fantastic bitchiness and Lundy’s somewhat disguised warmheartedness. McNamara is okay in these opening scenes, maybe some of his best stuff in the movie, given he’s usually the butt of the jokes.

Throughout the film, these established personas for Phillips, Lundy and Silverman create frequent genial amusement. They never–except maybe Phillips–get the laugh-out-loud jokes, but they’re solid throughout. Silverman went on to some–very measured–success, Phillips did the music thing and Lundy disappeared for a while. The three of them ought to do some kind of a reunion (I think McNamara’s gone on to better performances).

The older actors–Robert Stack, Dina Merrill, Paul Bartel–are fine. Actually, Merrill’s great. Stack’s funny in the “I’m watching Robert Stack do this or that” and Bartel’s solid as always in his small role. He’s funnier rolling his eyes than most people are slipping on banana peels. Cases in point, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd and Marsha Warfield. Warfield’s the only one in the entire movie I feel bad for–it’s one of her few film credits and it’s a lame performance. It’s stunt casting. Chase is a lot better than Aykroyd and Chase is still terrible–Aykroyd’s beyond bad, constantly upstaged by the animatronic gopher. Admittedly, the gopher effects are pretty good and the little rodent is always getting into amusing situations–but still. Aykroyd bases his whole performance on what someone foolishly thought was a funny voice.

The movie falls apart a little halfway through–there are so many narrative jumps, I wonder what they cut–when Mason turns the golf course into an amusement park… but whatever. It’s not supposed to be good… it’s supposed to make you laugh for ninety minutes and smile afterwards. It probably succeeds.

And the less said about the desperately unfunny Randy Quaid, the better.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Allan Arkush; screenplay by Harold Ramis and Peter Torokvei, based on characters created by Brian Doyle-Murray, Ramis and Douglas Kenney; director of photography, Harry Stradling Jr.; edited by Bernard Gribble; music by Ira Newborn; production designer, William F. Matthews; produced by Neil Canton, Peter Guber and Jon Peters; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Jackie Mason (Jack Hartounian), Robert Stack (Chandler Young), Dyan Cannon (Elizabeth), Dina Merrill (Cynthia Young), Jonathan Silverman (Harry), Brian McNamara (Todd Young), Marsha Warfield (Royette), Paul Bartel (Mr. Jamison), Jessica Lundy (Kate), Chynna Phillips (Miffy Young), Randy Quaid (Peter Blunt), Chevy Chase (Ty Webb), Dan Aykroyd (Capt. Tom Everett), Anthony Mockus Sr. (Mr. Pierpont) and Pepe Serna (Carlos).


The Last of Sheila (1973, Herbert Ross)

The Last of Sheila has the most constantly deceptive structure I’ve seen in a while. Watching the time code on the DVD player (and on the laserdisc and VHS players before it, and the clock for televised films even before those inventions) really changes the way one experiences a film. I’m always telling my fiancée we watch films at home and see them at the theater. It’s a measure of control. One can pause, rewind–and stop (I guess this website is more about video-watching than theatergoing, otherwise it’d be called The Walk Receipt or something–it’d actually be called The Golden Ticket after a particular theater’s refund ticket). Anyway, during The Last of Sheila I kept frequent note of the time. It’s a mystery with a cast of familiar stars going somewhere and… mystery ensuing. Since it’s a closed location (a yacht) and Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins wrote (don’t know why I’m attributing this assumption to them, but I am), I figured it’d be stagy, like an adapted play. Obviously, I shouldn’t have made that assumption, just because the film’s all about Hollywood people. The film isn’t traditional–one could sit and use the time code alone to discuss how the story works. Lots of things happen at the thirty minute mark and then a lot happens around ninety minutes. It’s a two hour movie. Even with that frequent observation of the time code, I couldn’t tell where The Last of Sheila was going. I guessed at the culprit, but I never guessed at the eventual resolution, or how the film got there. It’s remarkable, especially since the film started out with director Herbert Ross doing all the lame stuff I associate with his name and it’s incredibly unfortunate Sondheim and Perkins didn’t go on to anything else. It’d be impossible for them to have topped Sheila, because one would have expected it from them–and the casting is incredibly important in ways I can’t possibly discuss without spoiling something–but I would watch a film, written by those two, about two kids who decide to open a pickle-farm. I imagine it would have been wonderfully effective.

As I said, talking about the cast is difficult, but there are some people I can point out. Obviously, Joan Hackett is quite good, but so is Ian McShane, who was once young and slim. James Mason is good. James Coburn I’ve never been able to figure out. He’s good in some stuff, but in other stuff he’s unbearably campy. I thought he was going to go campy for Sheila, but doesn’t. The only weak actor is Raquel Welch, who’s essentially playing herself. She can’t do it.

I was going to say one would have to be familiar with some film history to fully appreciate The Last of Sheila, but that judgment was wrong. It’s just a really good mystery. Even if the locations (and sets) bring more to it than Herbert Ross did.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed and produced by Herbert Ross; screenplay by Stephen Sondheim and Anthony Perkins; director of photography, Gerry Turpin; edited by Edward Warschilka; music by Billy Goldenberg; distributed by Warner Bros.

Starring Richard Benjamin (Tom), Dyan Cannon (Christine), James Coburn (Clinton), Joan Hackett (Lee), James Mason (Philip), Ian McShane (Anthony) and Raquel Welch (Alice).


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