"The Great Outdoors" (citywide) is about as much fun as ants at a picnic for anyone over the age of 10. It's a crass, blah comedy about summer vacation perils that teams Dan Aykroyd and John Candy, but gives them next to nothing to work with. If the prolific and profit-making John Hughes weren't the writer--as well as the co-executive producer--of this scattershot nonsense directed frenetically by Howard Deutch, it's hard to imagine the film getting made, let alone attracting Aykroyd and Candy.
Aykroyd plays obnoxious Chicago con man Roman Craig who arrives uninvited with his wife (Annette Bening) and near-mute little twin daughters (Hilary and Rebecca Gordon) to a mountain cabin rented by his brother-in-law, Chet (Candy), just as Chet, his wife (Stephanie Faracy) and two sons (Chris Young, Ian Giatti) are settling in for a brief vacation. Chet is a sweet, sentimental guy, a conscientious husband and father who loves the serenity and natural beauty of the forest and lake. Roman takes a look at the view from Chet's porch and envisions condo developments, lumber or paper mills and toxic waste disposal plants.
You wait in vain for the men to struggle over the fate of the environment--or anything else, for that matter--while Roman subjects the eternally susceptible and forgiving Chet to an endless series of humiliating pranks too inane to warrant description. (However, let it be said that Candy wolfing down a 96-ounce slab of rare meat is not a pretty sight.)
The movie turns to mush when Roman pointlessly turns out to be not such a bad guy after all. The only time when the film rings remotely true is when Chet's older son Buck (Young) attempts a romance with a local girl (Lucy Deakins), who's understandably wary of dating boys who will soon be going back to the city. Unfortunately, the effect of this whiff of reality is to make everything else seem false and forced.
Aykroyd and Candy, who can be hilarious, should have been choosier. If you manage to sit through "The Great Outdoors" (MPAA-rated PG for a few of the milder four-letter words) stay for the end credits. This is when Aykroyd dances to Wilson Pickett's '60s hit "Land of a 1,000 Dances," working up in a few final minutes the only genuine fun and energy in the entire film.
'THE GREAT OUTDOORS'
A Universal release of a Hughes Entertainment presentation. Executive producer John Hughe. Producer Arne L. Schmidt. Director Howard Deutch. Screenplay Hughes. Camera Ric Waite. Music Thomas Newman. Production designer John W. Corso. Costumes Marilyn Vance-Straker. Associate producers Stephen Lim, Elena Spiotta. 2nd unit director/stunt coordinator Walter Scott. 2nd unit camera Robert Thomas. Film editors Tom Rolf, William Gordean, Seth Flaum. With Dan Aykroyd, John Candy, Stephanie Faracy, Annette Bening, Chris Young, Ian Giatti, Hilary Gordon, Rebecca Gordon, Robert Prosky, Zouanne LeRoy, Lucy Deakins.
Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes.
MPAA-rated: PG (parental guidance suggested).