UNCLE BUCK

(1989)
With John Candy, Jean Louisa Kelly, Macaulay Culkin, Gaby Hoffman, Amy Madigan, Elaine Bromka, Garrett M. Brown, Laurie Metcalf
Directed by John Hughes

Reviewed by JB

U.B.     John Hughes may always be best remembered for his teen comedies, and for making stars out of Molly Ringwald and Matthew Broderick, but he should also get credit as the director who brought the best out in John Candy.  Outside of Candy's work on television's SCTV, I've never enjoyed him more than in John Hughe's PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES and UNCLE BUCK.

    Typical of films made in the '80s and early '90s by directors like John Hughes or Ron Howard, UNCLE BUCK is a light-hearted, family-oriented story with a handful of good sight gags and memorable lines, and all plot problems solved by the fadeout (cue requisite eighties pop tune over ending credits).

     But John Candy was one of the most talented comedians of that decade, and UNCLE BUCK contains one of his best performances, making it a minor comedy classic of the period.  Whether he is arguing with drunken clown, putting a tight-assed school principal in her place, or just vacuuming cereal off his clothes, Candy is a joy to watch.  With his well-deserved reputation as a funny man, it is easy to forget what a warm, capable actor Candy was, and how easily he could work with anybody.   Befitting his origins in the improvisational Second City group, Candy rarely if ever stole a scene.  Working with other funny people like the SCTV gang, Tom Hanks (SPLASH), Steve Martin (PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES) or, here, Laurie Metcalf, Candy gets his laughs while leaving enough open space for his leaves his fellow performers to get their share also. 

     UNCLE BUCK features two very cute and talented child actors in Macauley Culkin and Gaby Hoffman.  Culkin, playing the young Miles, was one film away from being a child megastar with HOME ALONE, and in UNCLE BUCK, he is far less mannered and a tad more lovable.  His rapid-fire question and answer session with Candy near the beginning of the film is one of the funniest scenes in the film.  Gaby Hoffman, who appeared in FIELD OF DREAMS the same year, plays his sister Maizy and is equally adorable, and together they work screen magic with the overgrown child they call "U.B.  Is there a sweeter scene in '80s cinema than the gigantic Candy trying to get some sleep while being crowded off the bed by two kids and a dog? 

     Harder to warm up to is Jean Louisa Kelly as Tia, the angst-ridden teenager who has shut herself off from all the adults in her life.  Kelly is not a bad actress, but she plays the part too well, never letting the audience find anything in her character to root for.  Molly Ringwald was alienated too in Hughes's PRETTY IN PINK, but Hughe's script and Ringwald's natural likability put audiences on her side immediately.  It's a minor complaint - Tia's growing relationship with Buck may be the main plotline of the film, but it is Buck's dealings with the kids, Tia's slimy boyfriend, his put-upon girlfriend (Amy Madigan) and a sex-starved neighbor (Metcalf) that really make this film click.

     If you've read my review of PLANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES, you know I adored John Candy.  Sadly, he died much too young at age 44, only five years after UNCLE BUCK was released.  Many of his films missed the mark, but some of them, like UNCLE BUCK, make you miss John Candy. 3½ - JB

Comedy     The Stuff You Gotta Watch


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BUT WHAT I REALLY WANT TO DO IS DIRECT:  Back in the eighties, I remember thinking that John Candy would be excellent for a big screen adaptation of the comic strip Hagar the Horrible, with fellow SCTV member Martin Short as his sidekick Lucky Eddie.

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