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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, 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".
  • Bring My Brown Pants: When Roman tries to fend the bear off with a fireplace poker and the bear gets on it's back legs and roars, the absolutely scared-shitless expression on Roman's face definitely hints he'll need a change of clothes.
  • 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.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Wally's shotgun lamp seen when the family first arrives turns out to still be fully operational, loaded and ready to fire.
  • 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.
  • Freak Out: An early-morning fishing trip with Chet, Roman, and Chet's two sons using leeches as bait ends this way after everyone falls asleep in the boat and wakes up to discover leeches crawling all over them.
  • 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 cabin.
  • Harmless Electrocution: Lightning Rod Reg has been struck by lightning sixty-six times.
  • Heel–Face 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.
  • Incredibly Lame Fun: Chet has a knack for this, to Roman's constant annoyance. One such example is when he passes up an opportunity to see a female Elvis Presley impersonator because he wants to wish happy birthday to someone he never met, simply because the man had lived to be 109 years. Roman lampshades it during their later argument.
    Roman: You, Chet, wouldn't notice fun if it fell onto your face!
  • 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.
  • Madness Mantra: While the bear is rampaging through the cabin, Chet, as a result of going through the trauma of knowing a dangerous bear he encountered years ago is still alove and having to run for his very life, for much of the scene all he can say is "Big bear... big bear chase me...".
  • Mass "Oh, Crap!": The entire family reacts this way when the bald-headed bear from Chet's story confirms it's existence to the rest of the family by effortlessly smashing down the door to the cabin.
  • 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*
  • Mistaken for Badass: Chet's flailing during his high octane water-skiing results in him unintentionally pulling off numerous impressive stunts such as somersaulting on top of the water, doing a jump and even able to ski on just one ski after accidentally losing one, which pretty much everyone at the beachs and docks see and, thinking he's doing all these stunts on purpose, he gets an off-screen standing ovation once he's finally back on his feet.
  • 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."
  • Nausea Fuel: In-Universe. After the family goes out for dinner, they return to find the raccoons have knocked over their garbage. Roman mutters "Look at the size of the maggots on that meat!" leading Chet (who had a 72 oz. steak Mega Meal Challenge) to run away gagging.
  • 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 film's poster, as seen above, is made to resemble the cover of a magazine such as Field & Stream or Outdoor Life.
  • 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.
  • Shot in the Ass: How the bear is fended off during it's assault on the cabin in the climax.
  • Shout-Out:
    • When Roman's twin girls first appear, the theme to The Twilight Zone (1959) 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!
  • Sustained Misunderstanding: Chet's impromptu water-skiing has this is spades; first, while teaching Ben the ropes of waterskiing, he waves at his wife who is in the speedboat, which Roman misinterprets as Chet saying he's actually going and is ready which results in Chet being dragged around the lake at high speeds, his repetition of "You bastard!" towards Roman is misheard by Kate as "Go faster!" and finally, all the accidental stunts Chet pulls off while flailing about and trying to keep his balance is mistaken by everybody but him as him being a pro waterskiier which gets him a round of applause once he's finally on his feet in shallow water.
  • 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.
  • The Unintelligible:
    • Lightning Rod Reg has a stutter so bad it takes him a dozen tries to get past the word "in".
    • When Chet returns to the cabin after accidentally freeing the bear, he attempts to warn his family of the coming danger but through a combination of having just encountered the same bear that was out for him and his wife's blood years ago and having to run as fast as his feet can carry him while being overweight, he's barely able to even speak once he's back inside.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Chet during his impromptu waterskiing when he notices he's about to ski through a patch of water lilies that are at crotch level.
  • The Voiceless: Aside from screaming or giggling, Roman's daughters have no lines of dialogue until the last 20 minutes of the film.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):


"Big Bear Chase Me!"

The "Bald-Headed Bear" of Claire County chases Chet back to his cabin, and sets it's sights on the families there.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / BearsAreBadNews

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