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80s classic comedies still earn laughs

Sean Sweeney | Tuesday, January 31, 2006

In the age of comedians such as Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn, it is hard to some to imagine that comedies have been playing in theaters from the time these men were young children. The inspiration for the current generation of comics stems from the movies of the 1980s and stars like Bill Murray, Steve Martin, Chevy Chase and John Candy. Comedies of the 1980s began the trend toward plot-driven comedies seen in cineplexes today and deserve proper recognition and appreciation from all film lovers.

Four comedies stand out as must-see films from the decade.

“Caddyshack” (1980)

This spoof about golf at exclusive country clubs began the decade and set the stage for all other movies that followed. The main plot follows a caddy, Danny (Michael O’Keefe), who attempts to raise money to attend college. The plot is admittedly laughable, and the real comedy in the movie comes in the talent of Rodney Dangerfield, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. Dangerfield plays Al Czervik, a loud, obnoxious golfer who is completely out of place at the club. He completely takes over the scene whenever he is present and offers enough one-liners to keep most comedians busy for a long time. Chevy Chase plays his role to perfection and interacts well against Judge Elihu Smails (Ted Knight). “Caddyshack” marked the real start of Bill Murray’s career after his hilarious portrayal as Carl Spackler, an insane groundskeeper constantly fighting a war with a gopher. Murray truly seems insane in his performance thanks to his slurred speech and crazy antics. Overall, “Caddyshack” is a movie not to be missed.

“Ghostbusters” (1984)

Bill Murray continued his hot streak in the 1980s with “Ghostbusters,” a film following the exploits of three oddball scientists who capture and exterminate ghosts for a living. Joining Murray for this film were “Saturday Night Live” veterans Dan Akroyd and Rick Moranis. The three teamed with director Ivan Reitman (“Old School,” “Animal House”) to create a comedy intertwined with a sci-fi story about ghosts attacking New York City. Murray again steals the show in a movie filled with ’80s haircuts and music. The special effects seem to be begging for laughter as they are not good, but not awful either. The comedy is what drives “Ghostbusters,” and the wild success led to sequels, television shows, toys and many other types of marketing tie-ins. “Ghostbusters” is another quality 1980s comedy that can always be called on for laughs and fun.

“Planes, Trains & Automobiles” (1987)

This third must-see comedy of the 1980s stars Steve Martin and John Candy as two unlikely traveling companions trying to arrive home in time for Thanksgiving. Martin plays a quiet and conservative traveling businessman who encounters the shower-ring salesman played by John Candy. Candy’s character is the complete opposite of Martin’s, and they clash in a series of side-splitting incidents as they bumble their way home. This road-trip film makes one think of Laurel and Hardy skits, given the way Martin and Candy act together. Writer and director John Hughes (“Home Alone,” “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”) turns in by far his best work here in harnessing the energy of the two comedians in a comedy that has rode its way onto the list of great comedies.

“The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad!” (1988)

Leslie Nielsen is known today as one of the all-time comedic greats, in large part for his corny, deadpan comic abilities. Nowhere are these better showcased than in “The Naked Gun,” the first in a series of three spoofs on detective movies. Nielsen became known for comedy from “Police Squad,” but his real talent goes on display here. He plays Lt. Frank Drebin, an incompetent cop who stumbles upon a plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth II on a visit to America. The corny language and sight gags come so fast in this movie that repeat viewings are a must. All spoof movies since “The Naked Gun” draw from and pay homage to its cheesy humor.

It is clear that the 1980s was a time when humor ruled the box office and comic legends were born. These four movies are the all-stars of the generation and have survived as classics to this day. Certainly, there are many other comedies from the ’80s worth seeing, but these four cover the entire decade with all types of humor, from one liners to slapstick. Next time you feel the need for lots of laughs, check out one of these movies, and you will be laughing until your sides hurt.