Up the Creek (1984)

3 Apr


Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Up the Creek” is among the “slob comedies” that has been around since 1978’s “Animal House” introduced a group of slobs who got laughs just for being what they were. It even features actors from some of those said “slob comedies”—Tim Matheson and Stephen Furst from “Animal House,” Dan Monahan from “Porky’s,” and Sandy Helberg from “History of the World: Part 1.” The film borrows elements from “Animal House,” “Porky’s,” and maybe even “Meatballs”—we have competition between colleges, booze, parties, bare-chested women, casual sex, and psychopathic enemies. So basically, “Up the Creek” has all the ingredients of a “slob comedy” but the surprise is that it’s still funny and I liked it. It’s not up there with “Animal House,” but it’s much better than “Porky’s.” It’s stupid, but a likable kind of stupid.

In the movie, four students of Lepetomane University (which is said to be “the single worst educational institution in the country”) are chosen by the dean to race in an intercollegiate whitewater rafting race. These four are told that if they win, they are granted a degree of their choice.

These central characters are the usual types—the Relaxed but Wisecracking Leader (Tim Matheson), the Overweight Eating Slob (Stephen Furst), the Horny Ladykiller (Dan Monahan—don’t worry; he’s more likable here than in “Porky’s”), and the Nervous Nerd (Sandy Helberg). The opening scenes aren’t particularly subtle. They each try to shoot a morning crow with different weapons only to hit other things (and people) and in another scene, when the fat guy throws his sandwich out the car window, it hits a motorcyclist and causes him to lose control and fall off the road. But hey, that’s supposed to happen in movies like these, right?

Even though these guys are types, they are quite likable and play their parts with a good deal of enthusiasm. Tim Matheson, in particular, keeps his charm from “Animal House” and has a nice relationship with the Blonde Babe (Jennifer Runyon)…or as nice as a relationship can be in a movie like this.

The rivals of the race are the defending champions from a military academy, who is later disqualified after a terrible sabotage attempt (I love how it goes wrong—the Leader of the good guys throws the grenade back at the thrower saying, “Hey you dropped this”). So they go through ridiculous lengths just to throw off the good guys as revenge for…not being sabotaged? I dunno. Another rival group is from the Ivy League, who of course are blond and everyone’s favorite.

The race is amusing and fun to watch—real effort was put into the filming of the protagonists going through some tough whitewater rapids. Tricky photography and cinematography was used to make those scenes seem real. The amusing bits are when the rival teams are trying their hardest to throw off the protagonists—the Ivy League even has torpedoes. But it wouldn’t be a positive slob comedy if the slobs didn’t find their way back up, now would it?

Uh-oh! I cannot believe I almost forgot to mention the best character in the movie—a smart dog named Chuck, played by Jake (he deserves credit). He understands human emotions and may even be smarter than anyone else in the movie. The movie’s best scene is when the military academy team kidnaps one of the heroes and Chuck has to play charades to tell the others where he is. I loved that scene, I liked “Up the Creek.” It’s silly, goofy, idiotic, and predictable, but it’s still quite funny.

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