A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What 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).
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?
This movie has little character development, even less resolution, and an almost non-existent plot. 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. The subtitled dialogue of marauding raccoons between scenes is the only glue that holds this mostly unfunny effort scripted by the usually talented John Hughes together.
Talk to your kids 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?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.