#1432 The Great Outdoors (1988)

The Great Outdoors is one of the movies I saw before starting this web site and I’ve been saving it for a rainy day. Well, that rainy day finally came, and I found The Great Outdoors entertaining – but not quite the laugh riot as I’d hoped for.

There are a few overarching themes like summer romance, dealing with obnoxious relatives and father-son bonding, which of then are carried through various episodes with kind of a generic comedy bits; everything here works but nothing exactly stands out.

The Great Outdoors is not a bad movie or a bad comedy, but it is less than the sum of its parts – especially considering the level of top notch comedy hammer provided by John Candy and Dan Aykroyd who end up carrying this movie 100%. Replace them and you end with The Passable Outdoors, at best.

80s-o-meter: 92%

Total: 76%

#1426 Sweet Lies (1987)

Yet another for the steaming pile of those wild and crazy Americans in Paris engaged in an adventure, Sweet Lies follows an insurance investigator visiting the old continent, who then gets chased around by three women.

Sweet Lies makes an attempt in romantic comedy, but lacks laughs and real romance and is a movie that the time forgot almost immediately upon its release.

80s-o-meter: 81%

Total: 18%

#788 Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)

One of the most expensive box office flops of the 80s, John Schlesinger’s Honky Tonk Freeway aims draw a comedic picture of America’s constant life on wheels and its total dependency on cars.

The story begins as Ticlaw, a tiny town in Florida eager to get some tourist money pouring in is completely passed by the newly opened highway. While the townfolks execute one dirty trick after another to make that own exit happen, we are introduced to a selection of random people all over the roads of USA making their way to Florida – by car, how else. Looking at the array of wacky characters in their jalopies, an obvious comparison to It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World cannot be avoided.

There are some isolated good moments here but overall the experience is crippled by endless amount of characters and subplots that fail to lead anywhere, leaving the whole experience patchy. The humor is also hit and miss, mostly playing around with some tired stereotypes and easy targets.

Besides the misfired jokes and some occasional animal cruelty there’s certain good road movie feel to the movie, which – along with the interesting cast – is definitely the strongest asset here.

80s-o-meter: 56%

Total: 58%

#690 Little Darlings (1980)

If you’re like me and bored to tears by the half way of Little Darlings, I strongly urge you to go on and finish it anyway. It’s only after 50 minute mark that the movie grows from an adolescent summer camp comedy to a touching depiction of what it is like to be like to live on that verge between childhood and maturity, and how our actions at the time may have bigger implications that we originally bargained for.

I was initially put off by the theme and felt the sex life of the 15-year old girls is an exploitative subject for a movie. The setup felt forced as well and both the quarrel between the two female leads and the whole bet thing just seemed very much out of the place. The following few lighthearted comedic scenes show the camp life in a more believable fashion, but leave no lasting impression. It’s only when the movie turns into a coming of age story watching Little Darlings finally pays off.

Here’s the part where Kristy McNichol really shines, and the pure honesty she pours into the closing scene with Tatum O’Neal makes it one of the most touching ones I’ve seen in a long while.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 76%

#666 National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

For those not familiar with National Lampoon, it was a humour magazine that ran from the seventies to the beginning of the 90s, and ventured successfully into movies in the late 70s with the hugely popular Animal House. Vacation, starring Chevy Chase, another Saturday Night Live actor was their second big success.

(with this history lesson out of the way, it’s worthwhile to note that the hugely popular Mad Magazine tried the very same thing, inspired by National Lampoon, only to crash and burn spectacularly)

It’s been a while since I last time saw the movie, but luckily it was just as funny as I remembered. What I didn’t remember was all the raunchiness, tits and black comedy elements. Mind you, it isn’t anything X-rated, but still lewd enough to safely say a saturday afternoon whole family movie this isn’t.

National Lampoon’s Vacation is a milestone in 80s comedies that inspires many other comedies still to date.

80s-o-meter: 94%

Total: 95%

#654 Just Before Dawn (1981)

Just Before Dawn is one of those kids hiking in the woods and getting chopped by a serial killer movies – but it’s one of the slightly better ones.

The plot you already know if you’ve watched any of these kinds of movies, but clearly some thought has gone into making sure the movie is not just a carbon copy of the others, and things are kept more interesting for example by giving the movie a slightly different pacing.

Like most of the movies in this genre, this slasher cannot really be recommended. But, if you really must watch one of these, Just Before Dawn might just be the ticket.

80s-o-meter: 61%

Total: 59%