Anyone who loves 80s comedies is undoubtedly familiar with John Candy and John Hughes, the protagonist and director of this hilarious 1989 family movie, Uncle Buck.
Buck is an awkward, disorganized man from Indianapolis, now over 40, still without a job and for years keeping on hold his relationship with Chanice, who would like to finally marry and hire him in her auto shop.
The story begins when Buck’s brother Bob receives a call in the middle of the night from a relative in New York, informing him that his wife Cindy‘s father is hospitalized in serious condition.
Bob hurriedly looks for someone to leave their three children with while they are out of town. Still, all their friends seem unavailable, so he must turn to the brother he has not heard from in years.
Surprisingly, Buck has no hard feelings and enthusiastically agrees to babysit the grandchildren, whom he hardly knows.
Despite his unorthodox methods and gruff personality, he quickly establishes a good bond with the youngest, Miles and Maizy.
However, with Tia, the rebellious teenager, things do not go as well, leading to confrontations and misunderstandings.
Buck ironically endures the girl’s taunts, responding blow by blow to her jokes and making her ponder the relationship with her obnoxious boyfriend, Bug.
Day by day, he begins to realize how empty and lacking in responsibility his life is and how his grandchildren’s presence gives him a sense of belonging and purpose.
At the same time, his girlfriend Chanice is exasperated by his absence, and her anger is stoked by Tia, who makes her believe that Buck is having an affair with the beautiful neighbor.
Will our fat, lovable hero be able to solve all the problems in one shot before his brother and wife return from New York?
The crazy uncle we all would like in our lives
I want to make it clear right away that objectively I do not consider Uncle Buck the best movie by either John Candy or John Hughes, both before and after 1989.
However, subjectively I am very fond of this light and funny family comedy, especially for its great leading actor we, unfortunately, lost not long after at the age of 40.
John Candy is literally the engine propelling the story forward, scene after scene, aided by the fierce Jean Louisa Kelly, the troubled young niece who doesn’t give him a moment’s respite.
Their relationship is the best and funniest aspect of the whole movie and the trigger for both the most hilarious and the most sentimentally exciting parts.
In some ways, these two characters mirror each other because Tia is a teenager wishing to have more freedom like adults, while Buck, on the other hand, is an adult who has never wholly outgrown his boyhood.
John Hughes writes, produces, and directs this comedy where there are sometimes less brilliant moments. Still, even in these somewhat worse scenes, you only have to wait no more than thirty seconds, and dear Candy will surely do or say something extremely amusing.
Obviously, the central theme is the desire for freedom versus the burden of responsibility, whether it concerns family or work, or even personal sex life, as with the pretty and insufferable niece.
In this sense, we reach the peak of absurdity in the confrontations between Buck and her obnoxious boyfriend, Bug, who soon learns to fear the madness hidden behind the smile of this gigantic and uncontrollable uncle.
So whether you like him more or less than me, be honest, who doesn’t wish to have a big guy like Buck to watch our backs when we were young and helpless?
Little and big actors together as a family
The cast of this funny film also stars several up-and-coming talents, including a very young Macaulay Culkin, the future star of Home Alone.
With that comedy, the following year, he would capture the hearts of international audiences, again alongside John Candy, although this time in a minor role.
However, already here, the young actor shows a solid stage presence even in solo scenes, performing hilarious housework gags.
It would have been interesting to watch more development and depth in the characters of the kid and his little sister, played by Gaby Hoffmann.
The more comic alternation between the scenes with Buck and Tia would further benefit the plot, with shades of childlike comedy that John Hughes consistently showed he knew how to use to best effect.
Among the adults, we also have Amy Madigan, in the role of the companion frustrated by her man/child boyfriend, who shows no sign of wanting to grow up or change.
Her character emerges mainly in the latter part of the plot, but her performance is sound and nicely executed, proving she is a versatile actress who can handle comedy, drama, and even action, as in her portrayal of a fearsome and irascible mercenary in Walter Hill‘s musical cult, Streets of Fire.
Finally, we mention the poor Jay Underwood, definitely out of the dysfunctional family in this story. He is actually the boyfriend of the beautiful and clever Jean Louisa Kelly, yet for precisely that reason, he ends up victim to the caring attention of Uncle Buck, wishing to avoid any intimacy between him and his niece.
These moments are definitely the craziest and most comically exaggerated, and indeed I would even say almost sadistic at some points…but how hard you laugh to see Candy chasing him with an electric drill!