Tag Archives: Tim Matheson

Animal House (1978)

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 7 out of 10

4-Word Review: They like to party!

In 1962 the Dean of Faber College, Vernon Wormer, (John Vernon) wants to rid the campus of the Delta Fraternity as he considers their rundown house and partying ways to be a blight to the University. He works with the clean-cut Omega President (James Daughton) to establish a kangaroo court which has Delta’s charter revoked. The Delta members then seek revenge by creating havoc at the homecoming parade of which both Wormer and his wife Marion (Verna Bloom) are attending.

The film, which was a huge box office hit at the time of its release, succeeds by wisely balancing the farcical humor with a believable setting where many of the scenarios shown were based off of real-life experiences of the film’s writer Harold Ramis and producer Ivan Reitman during their own fraternity years. While the film does devolve at the end to being just a procession of slapstick gags it also manages to provide diverse characters and a genuine college atmosphere, which was filmed on-location at the University of Oregon.

The inspired casting helps especially John Belushi who mostly improvised his part. Although he’s best remembered for his pimple gag I actually laughed more when he cries out like he’s lost some prized possession after witnessing a crate of alcohol go crashing to the ground. His ability to chug an entire bottle of whiskey in one take is impressive and I liked how his character, as crude as he is, was able to convey a sympathetic side in his attempts to ‘cheer-up’ a despondent Flounder (Stephen Furst) after his car gets wrecked.

Tim Matheson is equally engaging as the cool and collected fraternity leader whose dry delivery doesn’t initially hit you as being funny until you go back and actually think about what he has just said. Kevin Bacon is hilarious in his film debut as a member of the snotty Omega Theta Pi who tries to quell a panicked crowd only to get quite literally flattened by them.

It’s also great seeing Verna Bloom, an actress relegated to mostly plain Jane roles, wearing a snazzy brunette wig and playing a sexually frustrated woman who has an amusingly drunken ad-libbed segment. Karen Allen is gorgeous as always playing a ‘good-girl’, but who isn’t afraid to flip someone the finger if she has to. You also get a nice glimpse of her bare ass as well as Donald Sutherland’s, apparently Allen only agreed to show hers if he bared his, and for the record Matheson’s crack gets exposed briefly too.

However, what I took away from this movie the most were the politically incorrect segments. The most extreme one is when Larry (Tom Hulce) contemplates having sex with Clorette (Sarah Holcomb) after she passes out drunk, which would be considered date rape now, but treated merely as throwaway bit here. Then in a later scene Larry tries to have sex with her again only for her divulge to him that she is just 13. Although the actress looks much older and was actually 19 when it was filmed it still gets implied that they went ahead and had sex anyways despite the character’s age issue.

I was alive when this film was released and although there was criticism pertaining to the film’s overall raunchiness these specific segments, which would create shockwaves now, were never brought up. Whether things are better now, or we’ve become too sensitive about stuff that was merely considered ‘tasteless’ back then is a whole other argument. Yet when they say things shown in the ‘70s could never be done now it’s all true, which makes watching this movie and others like it feel almost like you’ve slipped into a different universe.

My Rating: 7 out of 10

Released: July 27, 1978

Runtime: 1Hour 49Minutes

Rated R

Director: John Landis

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Blu-ray, Amazon Video, YouTube

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

A Little Sex (1982)

a little sex 1

By Richard Winters

My Rating: 2 out of 10

4-Word Review: He can’t stay faithful.

Michael (Tim Matheson) gets married to Katherine (Kate Capshaw) after living with her for a year. He had a habit of sleeping around and having a lot of one-night-stands, but makes a pledge to change. However, the temptations are too strong and he ends up cheating on her and getting caught and then spends the rest of the film trying desperately to win her back.

Bruce Paltrow, who was the father of Gwenyth and the husband of Blythe Danner directs this very minor production that is generic and predictable throughout. The story and production values seem better suited for television and this doesn’t even seem like an 80’s movie, but more a remnant from the touchy, feely 70’s. The plot is empty and fails to gain any momentum with dialogue that is stale and boring.

Although billed as a comedy there really isn’t much that is funny and few moments that become heavy-handed and melodramatic. One scene has the couple pretending to make love while under the covers of a bed that is in the middle of a storeroom with the other customers and a very nervous saleslady looking on that had potential, but doesn’t go on long enough. Another segment has some first grade school girls that Katherine teaches intently listening to a video tape of Michael telling them a story. I was amazed at how enraptured the children were because I found the tale to be dull and vapid, but then having all the girls become teary-eyed at the end of it goes overboard.

Capshaw, who has been married to Steven Spielberg for over twenty years and has five children with him, is vivacious in her film debut. She looks beautiful and far better looking than any of the other women that Michael fools around with. Matheson is liable enough, but his character is bland and no ability to carry the film.

The supporting cast comes off better although John Glover and Wallace Shawn are essentially wasted. Edward Herrmann is a delight as Michael’s friend Tommy and has the best lines in the whole movie. Joan Copland is amusing as Katherine’s mother especially when she compares marriage to death in one conversation and then later compares it to war. It is also great to see Wendie Malick playing a sultry clarinetist who is now starring in the ‘Hot in Cleveland’ TV-show and looks like she hasn’t aged a day since appearing in this.

I am a big fan of Melissa Manchester and she has done a lot of great songs, but her opening song here ‘Your Place or Mine’ has to be one of her worst although I did like the extreme close-up of a cigarette being lit and then watching it slowly burn, which is the film’s one and only interesting cinematic moment.

My Rating: 2 out of 10

Released: April 2, 1982

Runtime: 1Hour 35Minutes

Rated R

Director: Bruce Paltrow

Studio: Universal

Available: DVD, Amazon Instant Video, Netflix streaming