Bob McGraw (Matheson) is in his 12th year of college, a loveable malcontent bouncing from one school to another (currently La Petomane University), coasting by with countless loans and showing no plans of graduating anytime soon... at least, not until he's escorted by campus security — along with his underachieving peers Irwin (Sandy Helberg), Gonzer (Stephen Furst), and Max (Dan Monahan) — to a clandestine meeting with Dean Burch (John Hillerman) one morning at dawn.
Burch bemoans the school's lack of notoriety (apparently no student or alum of La Petomane has ever accomplished anything of note) and cites the four students, the bottom four in the university, as prime examples. He tells them about an upcoming annual intercollegiate raft race and issues an ultimatum: win the race and put the school on the map in exchange for immediate graduation with their degree of choice or lose and face expulsion for poor performance and respective shady dealings.
It's not long before the foursome find themselves on their way to the big race, facing the likes of an unhinged Washington Military Institute squad, a snobbish team from Ivy University with designs to cheat their way to victory, and an all-female co-ed group led by requisite romantic interest Heather Merriweather (Jennifer Runyon). If you expect anything but hilarity to ensue you're probably watching the wrong movie.
This film provides examples of:
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Every time the hero makes love to his new girlfriend, he asks her "Was it as good for for you as it was for me?" and she replies "No...", and then something happens to distract them. This happens three or four times, until at the end of the movie, when he asks the question she responds, "No, it was better."
- The Beautiful Elite: No ugly people here.
- Big Eater: Gonzer.
- Bilingual Bonus: "La Petomane" translates to "the fartmaster" in French. Classy, movie. Real classy.
- Cheaters Never Prosper: Come on, this is a paint-by-numbers '80s underdog comedy. Do we really need to spoiler this one?
- Crossover: Not so much in terms of characters as actors: Veterans of recent college sex romps Animal House (Stephen Furst and Tim Matheson) and Porky's (Dan Monahan) appeared as main characters here.
- Dawson Casting: Before Dawson's Creek even existed, this movie cast actors aged 30 to 45 as college students.
- Fridge Brilliance: Bob's been in college for 12 years, which - barring advanced placement - would make him right about 30 years old. No excuse for the rest, though.
- Did the Earth Move for You, Too?
- Embarrassing Nickname: According to Dean Burch, La Petomane is known in the academic community as "Lobotomy U."
- Everything's Better with Monkeys: Irwin has a stuffed monkey named Mr. Mo-Mo.
- I Have Many Names: Bob's kept himself in college for over a decade by taking out loans in multiple aliases.
- Loveable Rogue: Bob in spades. Sure he's driven several deans to insanity (and one suicide!) with his antics and is an unrepentant womanizer, but he's just so darned likeable...
- Manchild: Irwin. Our first shot of him has him sleeping in Superman bedsheets, wearing a onesie and toting a stuffed animal.
- Military Academy: The Washington Military Institute.
- Non-Human Sidekick: Bob's dog, Chuck; He shows above average intelligence and acts as though he understands Bob's every word. Bob treats him more like a teenage son than a pet, letting him run off into the forest unattended to commune with the local wolfpack.
- River of Insanity: Bob keeps following the river despite it getting dangerous.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money!: The Ivy University team's modus operandi: bribe who you can, buy weaponry and gadgets to sabotage everyone else.
- Serious Business: College students on rafts attacking one another with military-grade weaponry.
- Shout-Out: A rather unexpected one from Max while he derides Gonzer for overindulging in junk food:Max: That stuff'll kill you! Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life!
- Smoking Is Cool: Bob, by far the smoothest and most competent of the protagonists, is a human chimney.
- There's No Kill Like Overkill: College students on rafts attacking one another with military-grade weaponry.
- Wild Wilderness: The whole movie takes place in a wilderness untouched by man, and no one else in boats has so much problems as Bob and his teammates do.
- Xanatos Gambit: Dean Burch's plan: if Bob and company lose he's minus four trouble students. If they win he's minus four trouble students and the school finally gets some positive recognition.