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OTTER & FLOUNDER GO UP THE CREEK

year: 1984 rating: ***
A year following this neglected outdoor comedy, Tim Matheson would ask Chevy Chase to kill him in FLETCH. Chase was originally designed for OTTER in ANIMAL HOUSE, a part that made Matheson, a former child actor who was growing into various roles like a bad cop in MAGNUM FORCE, a household name... but only where cool people live.

In FLETCH, Matheson looked somewhere in his late thirties, playing an established businessman. Here he's a broke, grungy college slacker and actually looks much younger than in FLETCH but way too old to be a student. But that's probably intentional: He's one of four buddies stuck in a nowhere university sent by John Hillerman's stuffy Dean on a river rafting race, a win garnering not only free degrees but a chance to defeat a quartet of jerky blonde dudes: UP THE CREEK spends the first half partying on land and the second trudging downriver. It's splendidly vapid entertainment most of the way through, providing terrific action shots along the roaring rapids while either the catchy Cheap Trick title track blares, or that theme's variation plays via triumphant orchestration.

Stephen Furst, our second ANIMAL HOUSE alumni, chews scenery as a fat guy who lives and loves to eat... imagine if the passive Flounder took "rowdy fat guy lessons" from John Belushi's Bluto and passed with flying colors. While Dan Monahan, best known as Pee Wee of PORKY'S fame, adds little more than a smiling face. And GHOSTBUSTERS hottie Jennifer Runyan is fitfully pouty as Matheson's conquest, only she's much too easy to win over...

Action Scene
During the crashing of a lodge/tavern, there's not much our cocky womanizer can't accomplish... yet Otter fans know he's a lot funnier with more obstacles to climb. And the expendable fourth banana played the bitter SPACEBALLS nose job doctor who needs to work on his putts... Sandy Helberg is the quirky oddball of the group, and much more likable than funny.

Slowing down the pace is gung ho military zealot, head of a rogue army troop initially hired to thwart the competition: Almost the entire final half centers on this unfunny jerk, especially after kidnapping one of the good guys. After a while you'll wonder what happened to the conceited preppies or their banal beauties (including REVENGE OF THE NERDS "That's My Pie" girl Julia Montgomery): Thus if UP THE CREEK stuck to the rapids and spent less time with unfunny rivals and a charade-playing pooch, it would be a far more satisfying venture. Instead, throughout many VHS-only years and finally Warner Archive DVD-available, CREEK remains in that cinematic purgatory of confusion: was it a failed commercial comedy or an intentionally corny cult flick all along? Either way, despite the flaws, this party still provides a fun, steady beat. To quote a Beatles track: "Turn off your mind, relax and float downstream..." Very sound advice!
Stephen Furst, Tim Matheson, Sandy Helberg and Dan Monahan in UP THE CREEK
Tim Matheson with Jennifer Runyan in UP THE CREEK
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