The Great Outdoors (1988)
Candy wants a Roman Holiday
So when you go to bed tonight, and you hear a noise, whatever you do, don't look out the window ... because there might be a bear! - Chet
Whilst not part of the "National Lampoon's" series of "Vacation" movies "The Great Outdoors" wouldn't have felt out of place if it was and as such if you enjoyed the "National Lampoon's" movies then the chances are this will amuse as well. We may not be on a road trip but we are taken on a holiday in the semi wilderness with two families and in particular two brothers-in-law not getting on as their rivalry causes a series of accidents and mishaps. There is also battles with nature, a teenage romance and that feeling of it being a collection of comic ideas which sort of works. But then whilst be amusing you sort of expect more seeing that it stars are John Candy and Dan Aykroyd and was written by John Hughes.
It's holiday time and Chet Ripley (John Candy - Brewster's Millions) is looking forward to his family holiday up in the cabin by the lakes, bonding with his boys in the same way his dad bonded with him. But that all goes up the swanny when his brother-in-law Roman (Dan Aykroyd - Ghostbusters) and family show up as a surprise as Chet certainly doesn't get on with the wealthy Roman. Despite the uninvited guests getting on his nerves Chet tries to stay upbeat but with Roman taking every opportunity available to belittle him it's only a matter of time before all hell breaks out and with large bears and mischievous racoons in the neighbourhood it's going to be a holiday they will never forget.
It really isn't much of a surprise when I say that the storyline to "The Great Outdoors" is simple as we head to the semi-wilderness for a cabin holiday. The set up is obvious as brothers-in-law Chet and Roman don't get on especially as Roman and his creepy family are uninvited guests with the wealthy Roman belittling Chet at every opportunity possible. And whilst there is some minor depth to this come the final quarter the storyline which also sees Chet's eldest son Buck fall for a local girl is really only a vehicle for the comedy.
Now whilst the humour is entertaining it also does feel quite routine with jokes which wouldn't feel out of place in a "National Lampoon's Vacation" movie. Being set in the semi-wilderness there is run ins with nature from garbage scurrying racoons to big bears which also provide the source for an obligatory scary movie. And then with this being a family vacation there is the paternal humour of Chet trying to bond with his children whilst being slightly embarrassing. And that is all before you get the comedy brought on by the rivalry between Roman and Holiday. Basically there is not a single gag which isn't expected and not a single gag which doesn't feel like it's been inspired by another movie, that isn't to say the humour doesn't work as there are plenty of laughs but it is of the safe and familiar variety.
As such and when you learn that John Hughes wrote "The Great Outdoors" you can't but help feel a little disappointed that it all feels so obvious. And on the same note you sort of feel disappointed that a movie which features John Candy and Dan Aykroyd isn't funnier. Both Candy and Aykroyd do solid jobs when it comes to delivering pretty much every moment of comedy and create fun characters at the same time but you just feel like you want something a little more, a little more lively. In a way because Candy and Aykroyd are given all the humour to deliver it's part of the issue as it needed something funny from the other characters to make it feel different. It means that whilst it is funny when Chet tackles the giant steak dinner at the restaurant you want one of the other characters to pipe up with a funny line rather than just Roman.
What this all boils down to is that "The Great Outdoors" is a fun movie and to be honest isn't a bad movie but it does end up average and all so obvious. You sort of expect more from a movie written by John Hughes and starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd and as such there is that slight aspect of being disappointing whilst also being fun. But with it being similar in style to the "National Lampoon's Vacation" movies with similar jokes there is a good chance that if you enjoyed the antics of Chevy Chase you will enjoy this.
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