Up the Creek (1984)

up the creek

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: Win the raft race.

Bob McGraw (Tim Matheson) is a lazy college student who has taken out over 30 student loans under false names that has allowed him to remain in the school for 12 years. When the school’s dean (John Hillerman) finds out about it he threatens to have him expelled unless he and his buddies (Stephan Furst, Dan Monahan, Sandy Helberg) can win the annual raft race, which is something the school hasn’t done in many years. The four agree to do it once the dean promises them free degrees, but they find things to be tough going as not only must they fight the mighty rapids, but also some Ivy League preppies that will sink to any cheating low to win and a team of marines disgruntled at being disqualified.

This film seems like an odd career move for director Robert Butler who had just come off tremendous critical success with his directing of several early episodes of the ground breaking series ‘Hill Street Blues’ as well as his creation of the slick ‘Remington Steele’ TV-series and the dark/edgy Night of the Juggler film yet here he reverts back to his Disney roots doing a sort of updated, raunchy 80’s version of his Medfield College films that starred Kurt Russell. Unfortunately this one isn’t half as clever and entertaining as those were and in a lot of ways just as silly and childish. The only thing he gets right is the filming done on the Deschutes River in Oregon, which manages to have a few nifty shots of the rafts going down the rapids, but that is about it.

Matheson is the one thing that manages to hold it together playing an amusing caricature of a slacker that remains on-target throughout. Jennifer Runyon as an attractive blonde that he meets up with is gorgeous and perfect eye candy even though she has no nude scenes despite being the hottest female in the film. Furst has a few funny moments in a clichéd role of a gluttonous, overweight character, but it’s the dog named Chuck that ends up being the real scene stealer especially during a diverting game of charades.

Unfortunately the film is unable to hold the balance between being silly and raunchy. In fact after the first 20 minutes there is very little adult humor or nudity at all and what we get left with is a live action cartoon that is more lame than funny. The repetitive hijinks by the competing teams are campy and tiresome and the fact that Matheson and his crew are constantly able to rebuild their inflatable raft after it gets repeatedly destroyed makes no sense. The film would have worked better had it scraped the dumb humor altogether and focused solely on the race as that is the only time that it ever gets even slightly interesting.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 6, 1984

Runtime: 1Hour 36Minutes

Rated R

Director: Robert Butler

Studio: Orion Pictures

Available: VHS, DVD-R, Amazon Instant Video

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