The Great Outdoors

  • Review Date: August 30, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 91 minutes

Common Sense Media says

Good cast can't help lame man vs. nature farce.
  • Review Date: August 30, 2009
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1988
  • Running Time: 91 minutes





What parents need to know

Positive messages

The importance of family togetherness and open communication is stressed in dialogue (though not necessarily realized in the story). Materialism leads to selfishness and lack of joy.  In one scene a leading character orders a drink by saying "I'm driving. Club soda for me."  (Note: While the movie preaches nature's beauty and wonder, it shows it as mostly frightening and unwelcoming.)

Positive role models

Father-son relationship is admirable. Good parenting is exhibited by responsible, caring Ripleys; bad parenting is illustrated by the disinterested, self-involved Craigs. Teen boy and girl find romance in an admirable way.


Lots of cartoonish, slapstick violence involving a scary dog with bared teeth; numerous shots and sequences of bears with fangs, bared teeth, chasing and threatening the families. Father tells a scary story about a bear with a taste for blood attacking people in a mental hospital, and a story with flashbacks about his own encounter with a "vicious" bear. Two children get trapped in a well with bears threatening. One punch to the face.


Silly, exaggerated cuddling and sexual repartee between a husband and wife, which ends with visual of wife beginning to undress; her bare back is shown.  A few romantic kisses between a teen boy and girl. One shot of a girl being "goosed" by a pool cue.


Frequent mild cursing and use of potty language: "s--t,"  "asshole," "butthead," "sonofabitch," "bastard,"  "Jesus Christ," "dick," etc.


Leinenkugel Beer, Kidder skis, Point Beer.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Some casual drinking at meals, during leisure moments, and in a bar. Smoking in numerous scenes, including one teen shown with a cigarette, reflecting values when this film was made in 1988.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that numerous scenes with images of bears on the attack, fangs, and teeth bared (no matter how unrealistically and amateurishly these sequences have been filmed), as well as frequent use of potty language (lots of "ass," "s--t" in various forms) and swearing make this comedy inappropriate and potentially frightening for the youngest kids. There is also a scary dog; scenes in which two young children are lost and trapped in an underground tunnel; "ghost" stories about dangerous bears (with fantasy flashbacks) designed to frighten the kids in the story. Sexuality includes a silly foreplay scene in which a husband partially undresses his wife as they cuddle, only to get caught when another family arrives unannounced. There are some teen kisses, drinking, and some smoking (including teens).

Parents say

Kids say

What's the story?

The Ripleys set off on an idyllic family vacation in the Midwest woods. Their plans for bonding with each other and communing with nature are immediately halted by the arrival of the Craigs, their rich in-laws who are disdainful of the beautiful outdoors and, in the case of Mr. Craig, have an ulterior motive for the surprise visit. What follows is a series of mishaps and misadventures as the wholesome Ripleys conflict with the materialistic, clueless Craigs. The entire group faces multiple mini-catastrophes, including angry bears, runaway power boats, leeches, lost kids, wise-cracking raccoons, a slapdash teen romance, and mounting family dissension.

Is it any good?


THE GREAT OUTDOORS is basically a series of skits and would-be comic confrontations between American middle class values, represented by Chet and Connie Ripley (John Candy and Stephanie Faracy trying very hard to make the most of ridiculous situations and dialogue) and the arrogance of the rich, as portrayed by the Craigs (Dan Aykroyd, almost manic in his efforts to find some humor, and Annette Bening, who mugs a lot in an early career misfire). Unfortunately, the skits go nowhere; they just end so that the viewer can move on to the next chaotic event. There's little character development, even less resolution, and an almost non-existent plot. The sub-titled dialogue of marauding raccoons between scenes is the only glue that holds this mostly unfunny effort scripted by the usually talented John Hughes together.

Families can talk about...

  • How is the movie like a cartoon even though it's a live-action movie made with real people? What are some of the elements you expect in animation that the filmmakers have used here?

  • Why do you think the movie chose to exaggerate and change authentic bear behavior? How do real bears differ from those seen in this film?

  • Does anyone get hurt in this movie? Are there things that happen here that would usually hurt and/or injure a real human being?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:June 17, 1988
DVD release date:July 1, 1998
Cast:Annette Bening, Dan Aykroyd, John Candy
Director:Howard Deutch
Studio:Universal Pictures
Topics:Wild animals
Run time:91 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

This review of The Great Outdoors was written by

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  • ON: Content is age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • PAUSE: Know your child; some content may not be right for some kids.
  • OFF: Not age-appropriate for kids this age.
  • NOT FOR KIDS: Not appropriate for kids of any age.

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  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Teen, 14 years old Written byJimmy brew February 19, 2015

A very goofy movie. Dumb teens only.

My rating: PG-13 for crude sexual humor
Kid, 12 years old June 14, 2014


I watched this movie and I couldn't stop laughing. But there is a lot of bad words. There is a scene where a man is looking out his window and a giant bear is growling and snarling at the man. There is a few kisses and hugs. Two little girls fall down a mine and are trapped down in the mine with a bear. Watch this movie, it is so funny!
What other families should know
Too much swearing
Adult Written bywonder dove November 24, 2012

SO funny!!!

80's films are so much fun! I first watched this with my family when I was pretty young (maybe around 7) and enjoyed it. We all love John Candy - so I own most of his films (Uncle Buck is another favorite!). I have to say, very hilarious movie! The laughs are continuous and the story is very fun and adventurous. It starts off with a family of four who are going on a summer vacation together in a remote cabin in the woods. When all things seem perfect, their rich in-laws and their two very awkward children pay them a surprise visit. Chet (John Candy) doesn't get along too well with Roman Craig (Dan Aykroyd) so his vacation nightmare begins with a number of hilarious events. This wouldn't be appropriate for kids under 10 because of language mainly, but everything is done in humor. Language has a lot of common name calling type words, but no "f" words that I recall. Sexual content is fairly mild and brief - two teens flirt and kiss in several scenes (like an innocent teen romance). A teen boy almost accidentally hits a girl in the butt with his pool cue stick. Chet humorously starts to undress his wife in the kitchen when the kids are at the lake, but are quickly interrupted. Two women talk about getting pleasure out of a washing machine during its spin cycle. A few funny jokes that will pass over young kids heads. Some smoking. Violence is mainly fantasy type frightening stuff - bears climbing on cars while people are inside them, a gun shot whisks the hair of a bears butt (the bear is not hurt, just distraught), bear chasing scenes, and a very scary bear story that Chet tells his family (he tells it so realistically!), a scary storm has two sisters missing and later found in an underground tunnel where a bear lives. A bat invades the cabin and has everyone running. Roman smashes Chet in the face with a weapon while trying to catch the bat. A man who stutters says he got hit by lightening 66 times (one lightening scene shown). Chet water ski's and runs into a few things. That sort of thing - very funny stuff! A must watch when you need a good laugh or cheering up. Ages 10+ for language and frightening situations.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing


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