Rockwood Cinema Review: The Great Outdoors (1988)

Rating: / 5
1h 31m
Best time to watch:
afternoon, early evening

Watching a movie made our list, 7 things to do on a rainy day at the cottage, but is also the perfect remedy for boredom, or on a chill night, for keeping things inside. But why not go full theme and watch a movie about the great outdoors while IN the great outdoors? (whoa meta). So, with this in mind we will be doing a series of movie reviews on cottage/camping-themed movies.


So in that spirit, movies don’t get much more cottage-y than 1988’s The Great Outdoors, starring Dan Aykroyd and the late-great John Candy. Both Canadian actors, probably had their fair share of cottage excursion and it shows: bats, bears, barbecues, fishing, storms, boats, racoon garbage feasts and arguments about “how to get the fire going”. John Candy plays Chet Ripley, an average Joe, who travels with his family to… the great outdoors. Chet books a cabin, in the area his father used to, in order to relive the past and, hopefully, forge those same types of connections with his own family. However, his plans for reconnecting back to nature and his family, on his own terms, are thwarted by an uninvited guests, his cousin, the overbearing (see that) Roman Craig, played by Aykroyd and his family. They move into the “Loon’s Nest” with Chet’s family and things get looney.


For Candy, this is familiar territory: John Hughes (who coincidentally wrote the screen play) type films where he plays the father (or a surrogate like Uncle Buck), who humorously stubbles his way through various comical situations, all the while trying to do right and keep his family united. In fact, John Candy starred in another movie Summer Rental (1985), which is in many ways the same film: “The Great Outdoors” at the beach if you will. Similarly,  in Summer Rental, Candy plays a loveable father whose vacation is threatened. He stupidly but lovingly (and through the strength and assistance of his family) learns to persevere (with us laughing all the way). Likewise, Aykroyd plays the fast talking, know-it-all, which is also very familiar territory for him. But Candy and Aykroyd’s comedy style is timeless and enduring and both show good chemistry, having worked together for years.

Young love: so annoying. Nice sweater tho!

The pacing is pretty typical of comedies of its time with some memorable scenes, some laughs and little mellow drama that nobody necessarily asked for (re: teenage “summer love” subplot).  However, “The Great Outdoors” remains one of the greatest outdoor/cottage movies ever. Its kid and parent friendly alike but with enough innuendo to have broad appeal. If its fault is that it is conventional, then its conventional like chocolate, marshmallow and gram cracker is conventional. And like a s’more, it is thoroughly enjoyable, maybe just every once in a while. Every couple of years just to remind yourself if it as sweet as you remember it.

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