The Great Outdoors is a 1988 comedy starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd. It was written by John Hughes and directed by Howard Deutch, in their third and final collaboration, after Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. 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:
- The Art of Bra Removal: Chet was proceeding to do this to Connie when Roman's family arrived. He even cracks his knuckles before starting.
- 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.
- Berserk Button: Chet isn't exactly happy to hear Roman call him by his full name "Chester".
- 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.
- Character Development: Towards the climax, Chet finally gets through to Roman that he needs to be a father to his daughters. And he can start by rescuing them from the mine shaft and being comforting and reassuring to them. At one point during the rescue, he begins noting to his daughters that they're sitting on a box of explosives, but catches himself upon realizing he needs to comfort them, a far cry from the Roman who unintentionally scared them with a scary story earlier.
- Chekhov's Gun: Literal example with the desk clerk's shotgun that was made into a lamp; it still works, and it's used at the climax to drive the bear away.
- Cool Car: Chet's 1987 Jeep Grand Wagoneer and Roman's 1986 Mercedes-Benz 560 SEL.
- Creepy Twins: Roman's twin daughters, Kara and Mara. They get better in the end.
- Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Chet seems like a harmless, good-natured family man with old-fashioned values. But when things get dire he gets badass. He's stopped two bear attacks with a shotgun, and he also goads Roman into saving his daughters who are trapped in an abandoned mine shaft.
- 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.
- Everybody Has Standards: Roman's side of the family may be all in for intruding on Chet's family vacation. His wife, however, does have reservations and thinks it's under-handed and intrusive of them to crash their vacation. She even counters Roman's "We've invited them on vacations" argument by noting it's different because this time, they weren't invited, and thus has to be a two way street.
- Everytown, America: The film is set at a lake resort in the fictional small town of Pechoggin in northern Wisconsin.
- 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, not to mention pretty foul-mouthed.
- 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.Chet: That's gotta hurt.
- HeelFace Turn: For most of the film, Roman comes across as an arrogant, know-it-all jackass. Then he becomes humble when he admits to Chet (and even his own family) that he blew his fortune and he's broke.
- 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.
- Improbable Food Budget: Roman brings lobster tails to Chet's hot dog roast. Later in the film we learn that Roman is broke.
- 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.
- Jerk with a Heart of Gold: 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 Paul Bunyan hats for the kids?Chet: *whimpers*
- Mock Millionaire: While not quite that rich, Roman spends the movie flaunting his wealth and success and encourages Chet to give him money for a deal. When his wife mentions how that was a lot for them, Roman turns the car around, tears the check up and reveals to Chet (and his wife) that Roman lost his job after a bad deal and has been living beyond his means for some time for appearances.
- 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.
- The television edit of the film changes it to "lips and garbage."
- Oblivious Guilt Slinging: On the car ride home, Roman's wife admires her husband's generosity and sense of honor, even after their big argument from before. She casually adds how some of the money Chet gave to Roman must've also been his sons' college money. Shortly after, a guilt-ridden Roman turns around to return to the lodge and come clean to Chet.
- Packaged as Other Medium: The poster, as seen above, is made to resemble the cover of a magazine.
- Rascally Raccoon: Multiple scenes show raccoons raiding the cabin's trash. They also feature in The Stinger.They have Illinois plates, Mom.
If they're from Chicago, we'll be eating good.
- Reckless Gun Usage: The lodge has a lamp made out of an old rifle, which turns out to still be loaded and in firing condition.
- 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.
- When Roman's twin girls first appear, the theme to The Twilight Zone plays
- Chet calls the two bears that climb onto his car Yogi and Boo Boo.
- The Stinger: The raccoons comment on the bear that had its ass fur blown off.Why's Jody sitting in the lake?
You didn't hear? She got shot in the ass!
Oh no! Don't tell me...
Yup! She's bald on both ends now!
- 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.