The Great Outdoors (1988)

I almost feel bad saying this, but I feel like my childhood memories of “The Great Outdoors” were better than the actual movie. Mind you, it’s not that it’s bad – it’s just not that great. There’s very little character development in the underwhelming screenplay, so even a comedy heavyweight like John Candy can’t do much with his role: Candy’s personal affability is all over the screen and he’s a delight to watch, but it feels like he’s holding back quite a bit. Nevertheless, he’s the best thing the movie’s got going for it, because co-star Dan Aykroyd doesn’t bring much to the table other than a bad attitude (although to be fair, his role is even more underdeveloped than Candy’s). Annette Bening does solid work in a supporting role that could easily have been thankless in the hands of a lesser actress, and the rest of the cast does the best it can with limited material. The laketown setting that occupies almost every inch of the screen is downright gorgeous to look at, which gives the movie a relaxed vibe that persists throughout, and there are a few laugh-out-loud moments here and there so it’s worth watching on a quiet Saturday afternoon, as long as you adjust your expectations a tad.

Rating: ★★★ (out of 5)

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