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Saturday, February 13, 2016

Uncle Buck - A Flashback Review

John Candy as Uncle Buck

Uncle Buck - 6/10


I am a child of the 70's and 80's. Mostly of the 80's because I remember that time period the
best. When it comes to comedy movies from the 80's John Hughes was the king. His movies have left and indelible mark on pop culture giving us such movies as National Lampoon's Vacation, Sixteen Candles, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Planes, Trains and Automobiles and, of course, The Breakfast Club (probably his best movie) and Home Alone. Hughes was such a prolific writer that he even wrote a ton of screenplays under the pseudonym Edmond Dante. It was rumored that he could write an entire movie in about 2-3 days. His output was incredible, even if the movies weren't (Beethoven franchise, Drillbit Taylor).

One of Hughes' favorite actors was John Candy, so much so, that it lead to Hughes collaborating with Candy for six movies (technically 5 as National Lampoon's Vacation wasn't directed by Hughes, but he wrote it). Some of them were successful, others got panned as being ridiculous and vapid. When it comes right down to it, Hughes was able to dig in to the social conscience of America, at the time, and give us realistic takes on family life from the suburbs.

One of my favorite of the Candy/Hughes collaboration is Uncle Buck. John Candy plays the titular title of Uncle Buck, a man that wants to live life by his own rules. Uncle Buck is the guy every man wants to avoid but secretly wants to be, to a point. Uncle Buck lives in his own world, he makes his money off of fixed horse races and lives in a small, filthy apartment and avoids all responsibility and commitment. Even his relationship with his "girlfriend" Chanice (Amy Madigan) is all about Uncle Buck changing his lifestyle, which he explains to her that he's not into it. He likes his life and he likes her, but he doesn't want to move in together because he fears it will be too much of a problem. He avoids all responsibility until his brother Bob (Garrett M. Brown) calls.

The plot of the movie is Bob and Elaine have moved from Indiana to Chicago and their kids Tia (Jean  Louisa Kelly), Mazey (Gaby Hoffman) and Miles (Macaulay Culkin) are adjusting to life in the Windy City. Tia hates it, thinks her parents are lame and has an attitude about everything in her life. She's dating a kid named Bug (Jay Underwood) who is just a poser trying to score and Tia thinks that she's an adult, smarter than those around her and a know-it-all. There's a scene where Tia comes downstairs, after getting ready to go to school and she comes across Uncle Buck, who is getting breakfast ready. She immediately goes for the coffee, because that's what adults drink and she thinks she's and adult. But, when she takes that first sip, you can see it on her face that she doesn't like it. She's acting the part but no one is buying it. Even her parents see through her nonsense, but they won't do anything about it. Maybe they think it will just work itself out in time.

Elaine receives a call late at night, her father has had a heart attack and Elaine and Bob have decided they are going back to Indiana, but they need a babysitter. They go through their entire list only to have everyone shut them down. Their last gasp is Uncle Buck. They call him,  Buck answers and tells his brother Bob that he will be there.This is where John Hughes is the master at his craft. He is able to create characters that we care about and write dialogue that doesn't suffer from "being shitty". Is it realistic? For the most part. But the unrealistic dialogue, like when Buck calls Chanice and he isn't able to tell her that he is watching his brother's kids because of a family member being in the hospital, is funny and the actors buy in to the characters, so their performances are fun to watch.

With the family now separated, Buck, who endears himself to the young kids, finds himself at odds with Tia. He's a dichotomy, he instills this discipline within the household but has no discipline himself. He lives up to the promise of taking care of the kids and making sure that Tia isn't doing anything stupid. Even when she torpedo's his relationship with Chanice. Hughes doesn't let his characters get out of control, do unnecessary things and step outside the bounds of their characters to be "crazy" or "kooky" (unlike his movie The Great Outdoors). One of the most honest scenes is when Uncle Buck goes to find Tia, instead, finding Bug in bed with another girl.

As he roams the streets looking for his niece, he sees her walking alone. Without the lame drama of them arguing while she stands on the sidewalk and he sits in the car, we're treated to a scene where she gets in his car and they drive off, not so much as a word said about her being an idiot or stupid, just them in the car, not judging.

Tia even brings that subject up, Buck simply tells her that it's not his business and, again, he's not here to judge, just help. It's honest screenwriting and it's probably the best scene in the whole movie until Bug gets hit on the head with a golf ball. Uncle Buck is full of funny moments too. Miles birthday part with the enormous pancake breakfast, Buck beating the crap out of a drunk clown, Macauly Culkin waiting for Chanice at the door and asking for her ID and anything that has to do with Buck and his car that backfires.

This movie isn't as bad as the older reviews make it out to be. Hughes had a firm grasp on what makes comedy work and casting for the characters instead of casting actors that will drive in movie-goers because of name recognition. Uncle Buck is a movie about family and learning to accept responsibility, without getting too much in the way of itself. Is it cheesy? Of course. But it's a movie that can be watched over and over again. It's comfort food for the brain.

This movie has its flaws, from the ending that is predictable to the inability to use the kids as anything but backseat passengers and cute distractions. But, Hughes overcomes those to make a movie that is funny and seems to be a smaller part of a bigger picture that he was trying to paint.

I give it a 6/10.

Uncle Buck (1989)
PG | 1h 40min | Comedy | 16 August 1989 (USA)
Bachelor and all round slob, Buck, babysits his brother's rebellious teenage daughter and her cute younger brother and sister.
Director: John Hughes
Writer: John Hughes
Stars: John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly

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