Film / The Great Outdoors

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The Great Outdoors is a 1988 comedy starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. It was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch. Notable as the film debut of Annette Bening, who plays Aykroyd's wife.

The plot concerns brothers-in-law Chet (Candy) and Roman (Aykroyd), who with their families try—and fail—to get along during a trip to a lakeside resort in northern Wisconsin.

This movie contains examples of:

  • Bathroom Stall of Overheard Insults: Roman claims to have overheard a drunken Chet calling him a "crooked son of a bitch" at his own wedding, only to later reveal he made it up to guilt Chet into lending him seed money for a real estate scheme. Chet, who couldn't recall saying it but was nevertheless contrite, is none too pleased to find out that last part.
  • Bears Are Bad News: Are they ever! Chet tells a scary story about a bear at the beginning of the movie that turns out to be true; the bear comes back for real at the climax.
  • Cabin Fever: For most of the film, the rivalry between Chet and Roman is restrained and passive-aggressive at most. But a rainstorm, which forces everyone to be cooped up in the cabin, finally brings the anger out in the open.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Literal example with the desk clerk's rifle that was made into a lamp; it still works, and it's used at the climax to drive the bear away.
  • Creepy Twins: Roman's two girls.
  • Dance Party Ending: The two families dance at a bar while "Land of a Thousand Dances" plays over the credits (it's actually a scene cut from earlier in the movie for pacing reasons).
  • Dare to Be Badass: Chet puts a stop to Roman's panicking when the girls are trapped in a mine shaft by urging him "For once in your life, be their father!" Roman then heads down the shaft to rescue them without a second thought.
  • Fun with Subtitles: The family of raccoons chirps like they normally would, but they're given subtitles as to what the chirps mean. A lot of their dialogue is derisive towards humans.
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: The mothers discuss leaning against the washing machine during the spin cycle... (to masturbate).
  • Harbinger of Impending Doom: Chet tries to warn the family about the bear before she breaks into the house.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Lightning Rod Reg has been struck by lightning sixty-six times.
  • Idiot Ball: Roman's daughters both nip off in the middle of a severe rainstorm to go play near an open mine shaft, with predictable results. Earlier in the film, Wally complains that they've been hanging around the mine even then.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: One of the first scenes of the film shows Roman getting to Chet's house early, and him catching Chet and Connie making out. Roman whips out his camcorder and films them.
  • Jerkass Fašade: Roman is a wannabe Ace who loves to flaunt his affluence in front of Chet and make snide remarks about his brother-in-law's family, but once he comes clean about how he's really broke because he lost his job as a commodities trader he becomes much more humble and good-natured.
  • Mega Meal Challenge: Chet accepts a restaurant's challenge to finish a 96-ounce steak in one sitting. There ends up being a disagreement as to whether he must eat the gristle and fat to complete the challenge. Turns out he does.
    Roman: Tell you what: If I can get a dessert down him, you think you could throw in some free hats for the kids?
  • Mood Whiplash: The recurring sub-plot, with Buck Ripley trying to get together with a girl from the nearby town, isn't exactly jarring but is not as comedic in tone as the rest of the movie.
  • Mystery Meat: Roman claims hot dogs are made of "lips and assholes". The raccoons agree.
  • Running Gag: A family of raccoons keeps getting into the trash.
  • Scenery Porn: Outdoorsy viewers are sure to be taken by the beautiful lakes and forests at Chet's favorite vacation spot. The movie was shot in the town of Bass Lake, California, with is part of Yosemite National Park.
  • Shout-Out: When Roman's twin girls first appear, the theme to The Twilight Zone plays.
  • The Stinger: The raccoons comment on the bear that had its ass fur blown off.
  • Tall Tale: Played with. Chet Ripley tells what appears to be a tall tale about coming face to face with a giant bear when he and his wife were first married. However, the bear returns in the climax of the film, scaring the crap out of everyone.
  • Vomit Discretion Shot: When Chet warfs up the 96 oz. steak.
  • Wham Line:
    • When the supposedly well-to-do Roman reveals to Chet that he's flat broke.
    • And then at the end, when Connie blurts out that she invited Roman and his clan to stay with them.
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