MGM // 1985 // 96 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Naugle // February 12th, 2012
Up the creek...and without a paddle!
Overly confident Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson, National Lampoon's Van Wilder), food addict Gonzer (Stephen Furst, Animal House), incompetent womanizer Max (Dan Monahan, Porky's), and geeky Irwin (Sandy Helberg, School for Scoundrels) are four of the worst students in America at one of the worst colleges in the country. When the school's dean (John Hillerman, Magnum P.I.) bribes the young men into partaking in an intercollegiate rafting race with other local colleges to win the college some pride, Bob and his friends find themselves on the adventure of a lifetime. Attempting to out maneuver jealous boyfriends, crazy militants and the raging rapids, our intrepid heroes valiantly try to win the race before their college days become history.
Up The Creek is exactly how you'll feel if you spend your hard earned cash on this monumentally unfunny dud. Languishing in out-of-print limbo for the better part of what seems like forever, this mid-80s teen screwball sex comedy is finally available to those who don't have the bandwidth to download Hardbodies 2.
Subpar doesn't begin to describe Up The Creek. The movie's editing, acting, pacing, and characters are all weaker than Dustin Diamond trying to hold up a ten pound paperweight. There wasn't a single moment when I was invested in these characters or their plight; the film feels like it was cobbled together from about two dozen other, far better teenage sex comedies. It's as if the filmmakers took Revenge of the Nerds, Animal House, and Porky's, stripped them of their humor and titillation, and added some rafting sequences.
Tim Matheson spends most of the movie acting smug and narrating the film. Also, by "narrating the film" I mean his character literally talks to himself narrating his actions like he's in a private detective movie. It's one of the oddest character quirks in recent memory, and not a very good one at that. Stephen Furst plays the fat character who likes to eat, and little else. Dan Monahan tries to get laid. Sandy Helberg is the nerd who spends most of the movie acting like a nerd. If I'm making this movie sound stock and clichéd, that's the point. It's just a flaccid collection of scenes you expect from movies like this -- requisite female breasts, snobby elitists vs. underdogs -- wrapped around the backdrop of whitewater rafting.
Up The Creek feels like a made-for-TV movie that goes nowhere fast. The rafting scenes hold all the excitement of watching your kid brother go down a waterslide. Director Robert Butler (whose The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes should tell you all you need to know about his background) constructs this film without any eye for detail; it's flat, lifeless and boring. When the film should just go bugnuts crazy, it backs off. When there are opportunities for real comedy, they're missed by a mile. It feels like nobody was actually trying and just going through the motions for a paycheck. Faint praise goes to the soundtrack, featuring a fun title track by rockers Cheap Trick. It's not much, but it's something positive.
I've seen a lot worse movies than Up The Creek, but none quite so disappointingly boring. I'm ending this review with a short story. When I was a kid I remember seeing the video box (remember those?) for Up The Creek each time I went into our local Hollywood Video. It looked like so much fun; kids partying and drinking on top of a raft shaped like a naked woman on a river in the summertime...how could that be bad? Well, I'm here to tell my ten year old self not to get your hopes up. In 2012 you'll finally get to see Up The Creek, and the saddest part is the video box was the highlight.
Up The Creek is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen. Fans of this film will be both happy and disappointed with this transfer; while it's probably a miracle that this movie has even seen the light of day, the picture quality is hardly anything to write home about. The transfer sports a lot of grain and isn't as clear as most catalog DVD titles. For the material it's appropriate but as a general DVD release it's not very good. The soundtrack is presented in what appears to be Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (no mention is made on the package). The mix is very front heavy without much dynamic range. There are no alternate soundtracks or subtitles.
The only extra feature included on this disc is a theatrical trailer for the film.
Up The Creek isn't worth your time...unless you feel the need to see every single '80s movie ever made. And even then, keep this one on the bottom of your list.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 96 Minutes
Release Year: 1985
MPAA Rating: Rated R