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Featured DVD Review: Up the Creek

February 10th, 2012

Up the Creek - Buy from Amazon

Up the Creek is one of many Slobs vs. Snobs films that populated the 1980s. Animal House helped invigorate the genre in 1978, but there were countless examples of the genre in the following decade. Caddyshack, Meatballs, Revenge of the Nerds, Real Genius, The Sure Thing, etc. The story of the rich and popular vs. the underclass and outcasts is a classic one, but Up the Creek is not one of the better known examples of the story. (In fact, there are no reviews on Rotten Tomatoes.) So is this a buried gem that is finally getting a chance to be rediscovered? Or should it have remained buried.

Inside Out

The film begins with us being introduced to four students at Lepetomane University: Bob McGraw, the cool guy; Max, the wannabe ladies man; Gozer (Stephen Furst), the overweight slob; and Irwin (Sandy Helberg), the nerd. They are being hauled before the Dean, Dean Burch. Lepetomane U is widely considered the worst institute of higher learning in the country, and for good reason. The university has never won a championship in anything, and none of their alumni have ever earned an award of note and Dean Burch wants to change that. They are being volunteered to participate in the intercollegiate whitewater rafting race with threats of blackmail if they refuse and promises of diplomas if they win. It's too good an offer to refuse. So the four of them head off to the race, (along with Chuck the Wonder Dog).

While we wait for them to get there, we are introduced to some of their rivals, including a group of preppies, led by Rex Crandall (Jeff East) from Ivy University, who, with the help of an alumni, Tozer, plan to cheat their way to victory. They are not the only ones who are willing to use less than honorable means to achieve victory. Washington Military Institute has won the race three years in a row and will stop at nothing to continue that streak. Meanwhile, we also meet Rex's very soon to be ex-girlfriend, Heather Merriweather (Jennifer Runyon). Bob happens to be nearby when the big breakup occurs and gets in the middle, thus making Heather his potential romantic entanglement and Rex his biggest rival.

With the setup complete, we get to the race. There's a bit of a gap between the setup and the start of the race, which is filled with some jokes and the occasional boob (it's that type of movie) but that's a good place to stop the plot summary.

Up the Creek was a guilty pleasure of mine when I was much younger, but it has been a long time since I've seen it. I will admit there were parts that didn't quite live up to my memories, like the beginning with Dean Burch. John Hillerman is an excellent actor and I have no complaint with anything he did. However, the scene makes no sense. The school is the worst in the country. Winning a whitewater rafting race is going to change that? Really? Nope. It's merely a weak setup for an underdog / Slobs vs. Snobs competition. This competition could have been just about anything and in other similar films has included golf, skiing, etc. The nature of the competition is actually quite an asset to the film. Granted, it only changes a few of the jokes, but the whitewater race is actually well done and delivers good action and plenty of nice scenery. There are a few classic scenes in the movie, including Chuck the Wonder Dog's charades, the over-the-top cheating by Ivy University and Washington Military Institute, not to mention plenty of one-liners delivered by Tim Matheson.

In fact, most of the acting in the film is surprisingly good for the genre. Not only does John Hillerman have an appearance in the beginning, but the four competitors from Lepetomane U. includes two actors from Animal House and another from Porky's, which are classics from the genre. I'm not saying Up the Creek is as good as those two films, but it has more than enough to satisfy fans of the genre.

On a side note, Jennifer Runyon should have gotten more work. She's been retired from acting for close to 20 years, but I would love to see her in another movie.

The Extras

The only extra on the DVD is the trailer. However, this is more than I was expecting.

The Verdict

Up the Creek isn't a unique film and overall a lot of it will feel familiar and in many ways it is a typical R-rated 1980s comedy with several gratuitous boob shots in between the jokes. However, just because it doesn't break much new ground, that doesn't mean it doesn't generate a lot of laughs along the way. It has been a long time since I've seen it, more than 20 years. ... This of course means the last time I saw it, I was in my mid-teens. ... Don't tell my mother I was watching R-rated movies back then. I'm certainly glad I got to relive the film on DVD and I really doubt I will be alone.

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