30 years later, ‘The Great Outdoors’ still annoying critics

The '80s comedy was one of John Hughes' first movies to disappoint.
Published June 17, 2018

Did you know The Great Outdoors was one of the John Hughes movies least admired by critics? Would you be further shocked to know the only '80s flick by Hughes to be liked even less was She's Having a Baby?

Both She's Having a Baby and The Great Outdoors were released in 1988, and both have less-than-fresh ratings on Rotten Tomatoes. She's Having a Baby has a 36 percent fresh rating, while Great Outdoors barely beats that with a 40 percent fresh rating.

Released on June 17, 1988, The Great Outdoors teamed '80s comedy legends John Candy and Dan Aykroyd as two brothers-in-law bringing their families to Wisconsin for a summer vacation by the lake. Trouble is, Aykroyd and his family weren't invited.

Directed by Howard Deutch (but written and produced by Hughes), The Great Outdoors was a shadow of National Lampoon's Vacation (which was based on a short story Hughes wrote). It signed a shift in Hughes' storytelling, which had focused more often on teenage characters. Even the music – more of a mix of standards and crazy novelty songs – was a departure from previous soundtracks that were full of New Wave classics.

Here are five more things you probably didn't know about The Great Outdoors on its 30th anniversary.

1. This was the last of three films that Hughes wrote and Deutch directed. The previos two were Pretty in Pink and Some Kind of Wonderful.

2. The name of the vacation spot where the families stay is spelled "Lake Potowotominimac." It's only a fictional place. California's Bass Lake stood in for Wisconsin in the movie.

3. The set where the family cabin was built was also used for "Bob's Country Bunker" in The Blues Brothers, a movie that starred both Aykroyd and Candy.

4. Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert reviewed the movie on their show Siskel & Ebert, but gave it poor reviews. Siskel says "the movie stinks – all the way through." Watch it here.

5. In the movie, Chet tackles at The Old '96'er at Paul Bunyan's Cupboard. There is actually a restaurant in northern Wisconsin called Paul Bunyan's Cook Shanty, but the giant steak isn't on the menu.