Happy Independence Day, my fellow Americans. I wanted to watch a particularly American movie for to-day but for some reason I ended up watching 1988's The Great Outdoors, a comedy starring two Canadians, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. It is shot and set in the U.S., though, albeit shot in California and set in Wisconsin. Written by John Hughes, it's one of his films about irreparably flawed people at odds with each other nonetheless finding their bonds stronger than their foolish ire. A bit sillier than Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, its comedy is cartoonish and effective. There's also a little teen love subplot thrown in for those who bought tickets hoping to see a Brat Pack movie somehow.
Chet (Candy) takes his family to the same lake resort his father took him too in the name of family tradition and instilling an appreciation of nature. Neither goal is terribly appreciated by his two sons, Buck (Chris Young) and Benny (Ian Giatti).
It's Buck who has the romance after a mildly raunchy meetcute involving his pool cue and the scanty coverage afforded by cut-off denim shorts worn by a lovely young Lucy Deakins.
Deakins, perhaps best known for The Boy Who Could Fly, has left her acting career and has been a practising attorney in Denver for over ten years. And she's only 48 now. Well done, Lucy.
The subplot is oddly disconnected from the rest of the film as though it was added completely after everything else was shot. Buck is the only character from the main plot to interact with Deakins and shots of him looking at his watch at a dinner scene feel conspicuously inserted. He's angry because, for some unexplained reason, he feels compelled to stay at dinner while his father accepts a challenge to devour a legendarily oversized steak. Otherwise, this is one of the best scenes in the film. I love how director Howard Deutch avoids showing the blood-stained cook until after the moment the steak lands in front of Candy.
The subplot is fine, especially if you haven't seen Sixteen Candles or Pretty in Pink for a while. It's like a Brat Pack hors d'oeurve.
Mostly the film is about the enmity between Roman (Aykroyd) and Chet. Roman brings his family, including wife Annette Bening (in her first role), sister of Chet's wife (Stephanie Faracy), unannounced and uninvited to the cabin. He immediately starts doing and saying obnoxious things, like videotaping Chet and his wife in sexual foreplay. An incident where he accidentally drags Chet across a lake on waterskis is maybe more forgivable. Generally it's Roman's manner and obnoxious attitude about his wealth that's so irritating.
When the film presents a situation where there might be an actual, permanent rupture, though, you can tell the story is working because, for no rational reason whatsover, you don't want them to fight. It's weird being human.
It's also weird being a bear. Bart the Bear gives a really good performance in this film, it should be noted. The climax is actually really harrowing.
Twitter Sonnet #1369
A sudden change created slower days.
The noodles late arrived to sup a yam.
When danger sells a bridge, the action pays.
Concerted thoughts awoke the sleeping lamb.
The carried carrot caught the winner's nose.
And running now the distant schnoz decides.
The picture shot detects the instant pose.
The jockeys whispered strange oblique asides.
The massive forest shook with friendly deer.
The mountains tipped the waves of snowy dust.
Some ashes topped the morning's jolly beer.
The fam'ly car was lost in dreams of rust.
The stars remain at dawn to light the land.
Connected birds create a feathered band.