The Great Outdoors ★★★

John Hughes: Ranked

Starring a great comedic duo as the two leads and a script penned by John Hughes. The Great Outdoors sees a Chicago man's (John Candy) hope for a peaceful family vacation in the woods shattered when the annoying in-laws, including his loud mouth brother (Dan Aykroyd) drop in.

A more family focused affair than Hughes’ previous works, but still delivering the charisma and fair share of biting, witty dialogue, whilst also including a sprinkling of bizarre oddities and elements to what is ultimately a fairly standard goofy comedy that isn’t as funny as it could have been with this team working together and the various subplots throughout never really amount to anything.

The film is essentially a series of typical vacation scenarios that go wrong (for Candy mostly) or are highly exaggerated. At under 90 minutes in length the film doesn’t hang around long and actual plot elements that would normally be explored more and have more weight e.g. the romance between Chet’s sons and a local girl (which would still be just as cheesy and tacked on even with more focus) and the reason for Roman showing up to his brother’s vacation is completely rushed and left far too late in the plot for an effective resolve or impact.

The film certainly has its funny moments, such as the greedy subtitled Racoons who show up each evening to wreck the cabin, a chaotic encounter with a bat that flies into the cabin and the bald headed bear gag has a bonkers pay off. However there is nothing truly laugh out loud and most of it comes down to slapstick scenarios and typical family squabbles that you will have seen many times before. 

Candy delivers in the more ‘straight guy’ role, yet still excels in his comedy timing and mannerisms and in the caring father role. Aykroyd is great as the boisterous Roman and it’s fun seeing he and Candy comedically face off. Stephanie Faracy & Annette Bennington are good as their wives, the former more modest and down to earth and the latter smug and cocky and relishing in her wealth.

The Great Outdoors is a suitably fine comedy and an easy watch. The two leads are a riot and the quirky additions to the various situations are fun. However the film never goes above and beyond ‘fine’ and lacks an engaging and interesting story and subplots.

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