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‘The Great Outdoors’ (PG)

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
June 17, 1988

If the John Candy-Dan Aykroyd comedy "The Great Outdoors" had a few more laughs we might be tempted simply to write it off as mediocre and let it go at that. But this woodland farce is just coarse enough, and unfunny enough, to achieve true awfulness.

Imagine that it's raining cats and dogs and you're locked in a north woods cabin for weeks with the people you like least, and you'll pretty much have a feel for what it's like to sit through this movie.

The picture was directed by Howard Deutch and in it, Candy plays Chet Ripley, a hard-working family man who has packed up his brood for a well-deserved vacation in the mountains. But no sooner does he park the station wagon than he discovers that his money-grubbing brother-in-law Roman (Aykroyd) has invited himself, his frustrated wife (Annette Bening) and their creepily identical twin girls, Cara and Mara (Hilary and Rebecca Gordon), to tag along.

The gags that spring out of this situation were dreamed up by John Hughes, who wrote the script and acts as the film's executive producer, and they're all lame variations on the theme of nightmare vacations. It's hard to imagine how this theme could have been executed with less invention.

The performers, too, are far from peak form, but they're given so little to work with that it's hard to fault them. Not even the usually buoyant Candy can keep afloat. For perhaps the first time in his career he looks genuinely unhappy.

The Great Outdoors, at area theaters, is rated PG.

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