The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors

There’s nothing like taking the family on a little getaway to the wilderness, where the wild animals roam free and everyone can get in touch with nature. Such was the premise of the John Hughes comedy, The Great Outdoors. Released in 1988, the film paired funnymen John Candy and Dan Aykroyd together for the first time as polar opposite brother-in-laws, and their chemistry alone propelled this funny film.

Chet Ripley (Candy) is the consummate family man, one who wants to pass his fond childhood memories of vacationing in a rustic cabin with his dad down to his two sons, teenager Buck and preteen Benny. He packs the whole family up, including his devoted wife Connie, and the crew heads out to the pristine shores of a Wisconsin lake resort. What appears to be an ideal outing, however, is soon complicated by the unexpected arrival of Connie’s sister Kate and her family, which includes eerie twin girls Mara and Cara, and her obnoxiously pompous husband Roman.

Roman isn’t exactly the outdoors type, too wrapped up in his entrepreneurial yuppie lifestyle to stop and smell the pine trees. When he isn’t taking business calls, he is barbequing lobster tails and renting a jet boat (appropriately named “Suck My Wake.”) He also has great difficulty connecting with his young kids, who disturbingly never speak a word.

Chet, an easygoing fellow, isn’t too enamored with the uninvited guests but be tries to make the best of it, getting into the spirit of the weekend by telling scary bear stories, taking the family water-skiing, and even enduring a memorable outing to a steakhouse which proudly offers a free meal to anyone who cares to brave their enormous 96 oz. steak. Chet is just the guy to take on such a challenge (at least until he finds out that to complete the deal, he also must eat all of the gristle).

Nature presents numerous challenges to the gang, including pesky raccoons that raid the garbage pail, bats that invade the cabin, and bears – lots of bears. Most are just looking for food, and proceed to attack his car when he takes the kids to view them up close. But one particular bald-headed bear holds a grudge from long ago – the one from Chet’s scary story that lost part of his scalp from the business end of a shotgun at the cabin and is looking for revenge.

But it would seem that the scariest beast in the bunch is Roman, whose sole purpose of intruding on Chet’s vacation was to swindle him into investing in a bogus deal. When presented with the offer, Chet naively agrees after a major guilt trip, offering Roman a check for $25,000. Luckily for Chet, Roman has a major change of heart after his little girls become lost in the wilderness, an area infested with, you guessed it, hungry bears.

The Great Outdoors did respectable business at the box-office, thanks primarily to the wonderful on-screen chemistry between Candy and Aykroyd. And with the exception of a little questionable language, it was truly a film that the whole family could enjoy, with kids and adults alike finding plenty to laugh about.

were you a fan of this classic John Hughes comedy? We’d love to hear all of your memories of The Great Outdoors in our comments section below.

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