Uncle Buck, 1989.
Directed by John Hughes.
Starring John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly, Amy Madigan, Laurie Metcalf, and Gaby Hoffman.
John Candy goes round to Macaulay Culkin’s house and mayhem ensues.
There’s something to be said for John Hughes movies from the 1980s, especially if you were of an age to see them the first time round. True, they do follow something of a formula and yes, you can usually predict what is going to happen within the first five minutes but there is a proper comfort blanket effect with… hmm… about 85% of Hughes’s output from back then. 1989s Uncle Buck comes near the end of that cycle and is very much a clichéd and – some could say – formulaic comedy but hey, what’s wrong with a bit of familiarity as long as it’s good, right?
Luckily, Uncle Buck has the late John Candy playing at the top of his game, elevating a lot of the material with his perfect comic timing and his (much missed) jovial presence. Candy plays Buck, a 40-year-old unemployed slob who drinks too much, is out of shape and is generally unreliable. Unfortunately, Buck turns out to be the only option to look after his well-to-do brother Bob’s children when Bob (Garrett M. Brown – Kick-Ass) and his wife Cindy (Elaine Bromka – Made in Jersey) have to rush off when Cindy’s father has a heart attack. Cue lots of hilarity as Buck has to win over a hostile teenager, keep the two younger children in their routines and generally prove to his broody girlfriend that he is a responsible adult.
Of course, we all know what is going to happen as Buck has to answer all of his nephew Miles’s questions (in a classic scene featuring a pre-Home Alone Macaulay Culkin) and all the other fish-out-of-water jokes that crop up and none of it is going to surprise anybody who hasn’t got young kids or dealt with moody teenagers and their dumb boyfriends at any time. However, the mark of a good comedy is that even when you know what gag is coming you still laugh at it and Uncle Buck is still funny; hell, it’s even downright hilarious in certain places, because bowling balls dropping on people’s heads is never not amusing, and when Buck threatens Tia’s boyfriend with a ritual killing before pulling off in his smoke bomb of a car you cannot help but chuckle along.
This bare bones Blu-ray doesn’t bring anything new to the table in terms of content and with the film not being a special effects extravaganza there isn’t a lot to get too excited about visually but the HD print is quite tidy and an improvement over any previous DVD releases.
Uncle Buck isn’t John Hughes’s greatest comedic work in that it doesn’t have the insightful resonance of The Breakfast Club or the cool wit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but then again, the target audience is likely to be a little bit older than for either of those two movies. The comedy is a lot broader and, overall, the movie has a heart closer to that of Planes, Trains & Automobiles in that it pulls on the heartstrings just enough to not be excessively schmaltzy but may make the eyes water, and there is a good chance that with any other actor in the lead then it probably wouldn’t have worked so well, but despite this not quite being John Hughes’s high point as a filmmaker the performance of John Candy makes it a hugely enjoyable movie when you just want to be wrapped up in something light and fluffy that you can chortle at consistently for 100 minutes. If that is your criteria for a good movie then could be considered a success and long may it keep on giving joy.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★/ Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★