The Great Outdoors is a film that’s hilarious, if not incomplete. Released a year after Planes, Trains and Automobiles, the film attempts to trade on many of the same ideas as PTA and places two genius in the opposing roles. This time John Candy gets the Ghostbuster himself, Dan Akroyd.
First, what works. The cast is impeccable. The chemistry in the families is real. There is a lot of communication going on that is non verbal. The whole “oak tree woman” sequence is just so well acted. Candy and Stephanie Farcy just seem like they’ve been happily married for years. And of course, Candy and Akroyd just pop as they drive each other crazy.
The jokes also work. They’re are some great gags, racoons, the Ol 96er and all of it. The location and the situation are really put to good use.
What doesn’t work, however, is the change in Roman (Akroyd) doesn’t feel right. The decision to become friends is kind of forced and feels off. The momentum of the jokes just feels interrupted. It seems often, when Hughes’ scripts are directed by someone else, they end up losing a bit of the heart that makes them memorable. The director also directed Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful. Where Wonderful couldn’t survive under the weight of the direction and Eric Stoltz’ weirdness, Akroyd and Candy elevate the movie to rewatchable status.