There is definitely something extra special about this movie in that it somehow manages to capture the best parts of a Canadian wilderness retreat (even though it takes place in Wisconsin and is generally filmed at California's Bass Lake). But, as a Canadian, much like the 'Friday the 13th' movies do so well, it captures the wilderness spirit of the... great outdoors... and provides us with the perfect fun-time comedy to throw on during your first night's stay at a cottage. Even though it highlights all that can go wrong, there's something about it that just makes you wanna get out there and go camping or something - at the very least, unplug for a little while.
This one is a scripted John Hughes (who needs no introduction if you lived in the 80s for even a split second) product with director Howard Deutch. This same collaboration would give us some real classics along the way as well, like 'Pretty in Pink' and 'Some Kind of Wonderful' - a couple of solids in the way of portrayal of teen angst in the 80s. But while this has a teeny tiny bit of that concerning one single character, this one's more about the laughs provided by Dan Aykroyd and the late, great John Candy. The way these two play off each other here can get pretty hysterical, and you'd be pretty hard-pressed at the time to find a better Canadian collaboration, concerning the two comic geniuses.
We kick it off with a pretty grand introduction to the Ripley family - happy-go-lucky father, Chet (Candy), his lovely wife, Connie (Stephanie Faracy) and two sons, Buck and Ben (Chris Young and Ian Michael Giatti, respectively); Buck being the one with the eventual teenage love interest on the "girl for the summer", Cammie (Lucy Deakins) who may have the best dimples on the face of the planet. Today, she no longer acts but lives her life as an attorney, and I have to commend her for following her heart with her career decision in the end! Anyway, the family heads out to a cabin in the wilderness that says "camp here!" more than "there's an evil curse here", as general "cabin in the woods" movies seem to go.
It's not long, however, until their vacation is stormed by Connie's sister, Kate (Annette Bening), Chet's brother-in-law, Roman (Aykroyd), and their own set of 'Shining' twins, Cara and Mara (Hilary Gordon and Rebecca Gordon, respectively). From there, the general idea behind the film's comedy is seeing just how many ways Roman can manage to step on Chet's family vacation. The ensuing gags, both visual and verbal, are full of knee-slappers. The physical comedy here, especially on Chet, is something almost to be admired. It ranges from being put through the ringer on his water skis, to a golf ball to the schnoz, to getting whacked in the face while Roman tries to capture a bat.
Beyond all of the physical comedy, you're also introduced to a slew of great, memorable characters who really stand out almost more than this story's mains. The highlights here include Reg (Britt Leach) - a man who has been struck by lighting a significant number of times; Wally (Robert Prosky) - the cabin owner, who likes to look before he leaps; and to top it off, we even get characters in a few critters. These namely include some trash-loving raccoons, who the film gives subtitles to, and of course, the "Bald-Headed Bear", played by Bart the Bear; a talent who has also starred in titles like 'The Bear', 'The Edge', 'White Fang' and 'Legends of the Fall'.
From my perspective, this has always provided me with a good laugh for as long as it has been in existence, and it has never even remotely aged on me (save for maybe a little bit of older technology we see). When you get down to the bare bones of this one, it's sort of a timeless classic of comedy and has a little something for everyone. I can always highly recommend kicking one's Summer off with this title, just to get you in the mood for the beautiful scenery and moments that the summer can yet provide. This highlights a lot that can "go wrong", but when you can relate to these things to some degree, it moves the movie much closer to one's heart. If nothing else, at least check it out as a true, blue John Candy classic!