Sunday 21 April 2013

Obscurity Files - Up The Creek

Picking up where Animal House left off, here's my thoughts on the Tim Matheson led campus comedy, Up The Creek.

Okay, so it's not set on a campus for the most part, but this raft race is unmistakably in the same genre as Animal House, Porky's, etc, and is merely a dressed up school sports day featuring the usual stock characters of jocks and nerds. Tim Matheson plays Bob McGraw, a 35 year old layabout who is happy to spend the rest of his days hiding out at Lepetomane College (named after the 1890's French flatulist), but the crusty old Dean is having none of it. Rounding up the worst students on campus (and by extention, the country) the Dean makes them an offer they can't refuse; enter and win the annual intercollegiate raft race and they all get degrees. Fail, and they get kicked out.

Up against the cheating Aryan bastards of Ivy University, the crazy soldiers of Washington Military Institute and the blonde beauties of Vanity College, the only advantage Lepetomane have is the smart-ass charm of Bob McGraw. Essentially playing the an older, lazier version of the character he played in Animal House, Tim Matheson is teamed with Stephen Furst as Gonzer (another Animal House alumni), Dan Monahan as Max (best known for Porky's) and Sandy Helberg as the nerdy Irwin (a founding member of the comedy troupe The Groundlings, Helberg is notable for being the father of the future king of the nerds, Simon Helberg, AKA Wolowitz from The Big Bang Theory).

There is one more notable cast member, as Heather Merriweather from Vanity U and the object of McGraw's affections, Jennifer Runyon, better known to the entire world as "Ghostbusters Girl".

Appearing in one memorable scene with Bill Murray in 1984's classic comedy as "female student", Runyon also appeared in a couple of '80s comedies like 18 Again and The In Crowd in supporting roles, and was found by one film critic to be so captivating that in 1986, Chicago Sun-Times' Richard Roeper declared her the new Marilyn Monroe. Obviously, that level of fame never came to be after she retired from the big screen in 1993's Carnosaur (the third best dinosaur movie to be released that year), but hey, at least we'll always have Ghostbusters.

Up The Creek is a largely forgotten entry into the campus comedy genre, overlooked in favour of the almighty Animal House, but it's definitely worth seeking out. It may be nearly halfway through the film before they even get near a stretch of water and the outcome of the race may be obvious from the get go, but the other teams are populated by such ridiculous bastards that you can't help but get behind the Lepetomane team.

It sticks to a formula, ticks all the boxes and every single main character is a cliche (the fat one, the nerdy one, the cocky one, the other one), but do you know what? As collegiate jocks versus oddballs comedies go, it's not bad.  It even had a suitably '80s rock anthem to go with it, courtesy of Cheap Trick.

Up The Creek is a ridiculous farce but one with a likable, charming underdog humour. There's not many comedies that could get away with a tagline like "get set to get wet", but here, like the film, it's appropriately daft and smutty in equal measure.

Save from obscurity? Yes.

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