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The Great Outdoors Review

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 11+

Good cast can't help lame man vs. nature farce.

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).

  • 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?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    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.)

  • rolemodels true2

    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.

What to watch for
  • violence false2

    Violence: 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.

  • sex false1

    Sex: 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.

  • language false3

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

  • consumerism false1

    Consumerism: Leinenkugel Beer, Kidder skis, Point Beer.

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false2

    Drinking, drugs and 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.