Starring: John Candy, Dan Aykroyd, Stephanie Faracy
Director: Howard Deutch
Running Time: 91 mins
The Great Outdoors is an American film about a Chicago family’s holiday to a log cabin in the wilderness which is ruined by the arrival of some insufferable relatives who destroy all of the peace and wonder of the environment there.
This may have a great star billing at the front, but in reality, The Great Outdoors is not great at all. Although it’s got some strong performances, and it manages to avoid being painfully irritating, the level of the comedy is just so weak, and the story is so dull that there’s very little to get properly entertained by.
Let’s start on the positive side. John Candy and Dan Aykroyd are as excellent as ever here. This film is almost like a reverse Planes, Trains & Automobiles, with a very stationary plot, and John Candy being the level-headed one being annoyed to hell and back, however it doesn’t really work as well as the Steve Martin classic.
But anyway, John Candy plays a very likeable and comical central character, and one that you can empathise with a lot more than some of the more cynical protagonists of 80s comedies (again Planes, Trains & Automobiles). On the other end of the spectrum, Dan Aykroyd plays the irritating brother to Candy, and is very funny at it.
Aykroyd’s greatly energetic performance is by far the most entertaining thing about the film as a whole, and although the character is intended to be as annoying as possible, he manages to find a way to convey that without you having to furiously grind your teeth to sawdust and make it a lot more enjoyable.
Moving onto the plot. Simply, there’s little dramatic intrigue here at all. There’s a romance that sparks up at one point, but there’s no reason to care about it, and some of the family drama in the latter stages doesn’t quite get you as interested as it clearly intends, however, despite this film’s significant lack of depth, the fact that it isn’t that annoying means that you can accept it and enjoy it as a dumb comedy.
The only issue with that is that the comedy itself is very poor. Apart from Candy and Aykroyd’s brilliant performances, I don’t really remember laughing at all. The slapstick is largely repetitive and dull, and the rest of the humour is almost unrecognisable, so there really isn’t much to laugh at, and that’s why this gets a 6.7 from me.