The Great Outdoors (1988)

the great outdoors

“Bear! Bear! Big Bear! Big bear chase me!”

The Scoop: 1988, PG, directed by Howard Deutch and starring John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, and Stephanie Faracy

Tagline: This holiday’s no picnic.

Summary Capsule: One man’s family vacation gets ruined when more family shows up.


Eunice’s rating: An occasional trip down memory lane, which is why I don’t go camping.

Eunice’s review: I don’t like camping. I burn so much I don’t think my skin has ever heard the word “tan,” bugs find me incredibly tasty, and I fully admit to an aversion to getting dirty. I don’t like camping. The closest I’ve come was going along with friends to a cabin that had indoor plumbing, electricity, and a TV (no cable or telephones though — the horror!).

Which is why I camp vicariously through movies.

The Great Outdoors has Chet Ripley taking his family up to the camping and cabin grounds of his childhood and honeymoon. He has plans for the perfect vacation. That is, until his annoying yuppie sleazeball brother in-law shows up with his irritating wife and spooky twin daughters.

What follows is a bunch of short episodes of the family’s (mis)adventures while at the cabin and surrounding area: Horse back riding, critters, the worst birthday party EVER, and water skiing are a few examples. Under all of it is the theme of Us vs. Them between Chet and Roman’s family. Chet unravels along with his dream vacation and Roman and his wife are loud and use every opportunity to throw their money in Chet’s face. There’s a secondary plot with the oldest son, Buck, discovering his first love with a local girl (kinda reminded me of The Lost Boys – only, ya know, no vampires)

Outdoors was one of the first John Candy movies I ever saw, and while it’ll always hold a warm place in my memories, it doesn’t really hold up as well now that I’m grown up. My personal opinion is that it’s too much of a mixed bag. It swings back and forth. One minute it’s just wacky, trying for over the top but never quite getting there. The next it’s more subtle with the father and sons and summer love parts. It’s all very disjointed and doesn’t always come together the way it should. There’s even a part where a character is in two places at once. Nice editing/directing — ouch!

It’s too bad. John Candy plays a likable character that isn’t the bumbling overly nice guy. While Dan Aykroyd is probably the best part, stealing scenes as the irritating uncle who loves to show off. And the two are great together. And there are some genuinely funny moments.

But the movie, unfortunately, just never has the spark to make it truly memorable. There’s better John Candy movies, John Hughes-connected movies, or camping/outdoors comedies. I’m not saying it’s bad, it’s good, but not a classic.

Remember, I’m not only the Hair Club for Bears president, but I’m also a client


  • Way more of Dan Aykroyd than I ever wanted to see.
  • Best, and most fire hazardous, scary storytelling technique ever.
  • Be amazed as Buck Ripley is in two places at once!
  • Annette Bening’s first movie

Groovy Quotes

Roman: What a gas! Chet’s gonna **** a solid gold brick when he sees us, what a great surprise!

Chet: You bastard! You bastard!
Roman: I think he’s saying “go faster.”

Kate Craig: Roman, why don’t we just get out of here, come on honey. Come on girls, let’s go!
Roman: Good idea.
Chet: Well, it’s the first good idea you’ve had since you’ve been here. And by the way, don’t steal any of our stuff.
Kate Craig: Ha ha, what stuff is there to steal?
Connie Ripley: We got stuff!

Kate Craig: It touched me!
Roman: It’s been touching you for 12 years, you never freak!
Kate Craig: Not you!

Connie Ripley: I don’t want to hear any more about anyone blowing anything out of their ***.

Chet: You’ll have to excuse my brother-in-law. He gets a couple of cocktails in him and he becomes an expert on everything.
Roman: I don’t need cocktails for that. Was that a shot?
Chet: No, that was the truth.
Roman: Oh, that was a shot!
Chet: That… was a shot.

Roman: You wouldn’t know a good time if it fell out of the sky and landed on your face and started to wiggle!

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  1. I love John Candy and Dan Akroyd, but I do not love this movie. I was so excited to find a movie they were in together. Maybe it was my fault for having high expectations. It seemed like a movie made to capitalize on their (then) popularity using the hilarious and awesome Vacation movies as inspiration. I really felt like the whole thing tried too hard and missed.

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