Up the Creek
by Jason Coffman
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One of the great things about MGM’s Limited Edition Collection DVD-on-demand service is the fact that while clearing out the vaults, there is no judgment. The goofiest comedy may be next on the slate for a DVD release, or it could be a lost classic. Or it even could be Up the Creek, a prime example of the sort of bawdy post-Porky’s/Animal House collegiate comedy that flourished in the late 70s and early 80s. For genre completists, this new DVD will be indispensable, but what about everyone else?
A young Tim Matheson stars as Bob McGraw, the worst student at the worst college in the entire United States, Le Petomane University. Bob, along with the other three worst students, is offered a deal: If they can win an annual whitewater rafting competition, thereby gaining Le Petomane its first win at anything in the school’s history, they will all be granted diplomas in whatever field of study they want. Convinced, the guys gear up for the competition— Gonzer (Stephen Furst), the boorish drunk who can barely speak, Irwin (Sandy Helberg), the neurotic nerd who is terrified of water, and Max (Dan Monahan), Bob’s best friend. And of course, Bob’s dog, Chuck the Wonder Dog (“voiced” by Frank Welker) is along for the ride, too.
Naturally, there’s a group of super-rich preppies from a rival school that wins nearly every year through blatant cheating. This year they have extra incentive to hate the Le Petomane boys, after team captain Rex Crandall (Jeff East) gets caught cheating on his girlfriend Heather (Jennifer Runyon), who proceeds to hook up with smooth-talking Bob McGraw. Heather and her friends also form an all-girl team, but aside from these three the only other team we spend any time with is an army team that gets disqualified. In retaliation, their team captain Tozer (James Sikking) spends the rest of the movie trying to wipe out all the other teams so no one wins.
Up the Creek is, for the most part, a fairly standard 80s sex comedy. The humor is unsubtle and the jokes are constant. It’s not quite the Airplane school of comedy, but it’s close. There’s plenty of booze and partying on display to inspire the audience to do the same— this would have been a good movie to sneak beer into the theater to watch, but now you can just watch it in the comfort of your own home. And of course, there are topless women. Not too many, though, as if the film had been market-tested to find exactly the right amount of nudity to keep the presumably intoxicated men in the audience (and/or the kids watching the movie later on HBO after their parents went to sleep) interested without seeming overly gratuitous.
Again, if you’re a fan of this era of “slobs vs. snobs” comedy, Up the Creek is going to be a no-brainer. Previously only available on VHS, this DVD represents a significant upgrade in picture and sound quality. If you’re not a fan of this type of lowbrow comedy, you probably never started reading this review in the first place. But if you did, and you’re, say, a big Tim Matheson fan, you may want to give Up the Creek a look. It may not change your mind about the genre, but hell, who knows? With enough beer on hand and the right people to watch it with you, maybe it will.
Up the Creek is available from MGM’s Limited Edition Collection on DVD. The disc features the film in 16x9 letterbox format and includes the film’s theatrical trailer.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and is a regular contributor to Fine Print Magazine (www.fineprintmag.net).
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