The 1980s Family Comedy Younger Generations Need To See

By Brian Myers | Published

The 1980s and 90s screen gems penned by the late John Hughes are entries in cinematic immortality. Decades after their theatrical releases, new audiences are still finding National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, The Breakfast Club, and other film staples of that era, helping to generate new and excited generations of fans.

From the massive list of films associated with Hughes as a writer or director, it’s understandable that the ones with less fanfare get forgotten over time. But as The Great Outdoors proves, an overlooked film can still be one worth revisiting years later and certainly worthy of introducing younger audiences to it.

The Great Outdoors

The Great Outdoors brings comedy legends Dan Aykroyd and John Candy together in a “camping from Hell” film set in a lakefront cabin in Wisconsin.

Chet Ripley (Candy), his wife Connie (Stephanie Faracy), and their two sons travel from Chicago to a remote cabin for a summer vacation.

Their plans are sabotaged by the unexpected (and uninvited) arrival of Connie’s sister Kate (Annette Bening), her husband Roman (Aykroyd), and their twin daughters.

Dan Aykroyd and John Candy

Aykroyd and Candy portray characters that are total opposites in The Great Outdoors. Bumbling everyman Chet is pitted against his stuffy, egotistical, wealthy in-law Roman, presenting several tried-and-true film tropes. You’ll see better execution of “bad vacation” films than The Great Outdoors, and the film’s script and contrived plotlines certainly left something to be desired.

So Much Chemistry

the great outdoors

But the onscreen chemistry between Aykroyd and Candy make the film worth the watch. It’s difficult in some moments to see which actor is stealing the scene, as both comedy legends bring their A-games to liven up a film that would be less than mediocre without them.

In one of her earliest roles, Annette Benning does the film justice as well.

Quotable Comedic Material

the great outdoors

The Great Outdoors lacks the quotable material from previous Hughes films Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Sixteen Candles, and further missing is the touch of crude humor that helped buoy his films Weird Science or any entry in the Vacation films.

But for relatively clean fun in a film that doesn’t make you think very hard, The Great Outdoors does well enough to deserve a look.

Mixed Critical Reception

the great outdoors

In its initial release, critics were mixed on The Great Outdoors. The humdrum plot didn’t dazzle audiences much either, who likely went to see it for reasons similar to myself. Anything Candy or Aykroyd put their names on was worth checking out in that era, which certainly kept the movie from bombing at the box office.

The Great Outdoors was far from a blockbuster, but it managed to turn a profit for Hughes Entertainment and Universal Pictures. Worldwide, it made over $43 million in ticket sales against a budget of $24 million.

Streaming The Great Outdoors

the great outdoors


Almost 40 years after its theatrical release, the slapstick antics still stand up, and help make it a 3.0/5.0 star movie.

A sequel to The Great Outdoors has been teased since Aykroyd first mentioned it in a 2021 interview with The Hollywood Reporter. A remake starring Kevin Hart was announced in 2017 but is yet to go into production.

The Great Outdoors can be streamed with a subscription to AMC+, or rented via Apple+, GooglePlay, and Amazon.