Thursday, November 20, 2008

Uncle Buck (1989)

Typical John Hughes

Director/writer John Hughes is one of those Hollywood success stories who has left in his wake a heap of popular and often entertaining films, leaving an indelible stamp on motion picture history. He may not have won a ton of awards, but the regular folks (as opposed to film snobs) love his work and have made him a very wealthy man. A list of his better known films would have to start with "Home Alone" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," and would continue with "The Breakfast Club," "Pretty in Pink," "Planes, Trains, & Automobiles," and "Sixteen Candles," as well as many others.

This particular John Hughes film stars John Candy as Uncle Buck, the kind of character Candy specialized in. He's a middle-aged kid who can't seem to find a good reason to accept any responsibility in life. As he says in one scene, "People used to say to me, 'Buck, you've got it made. You've got no kids, no wife, no office, no desk, no boss, nothing to tie you down. You've really got it made.' Well, they don't say that to me any more."

Among Hughes's "coming of age" pictures, this one is unique. The coming of age is usually a teen or preteen. Here's it's Uncle Buck who is coming of age. His brother and sister-in-law have to leave town for a few days to tend his brother's ailing father-in-law, and they are absolutely devoid of babysitters...except for Uncle Buck, the embarrassing relation they have chosen to avoid until now. Their three kids include 15-year-old Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly, now seen on TV's "Yes, Dear," in her film debut), 8-year-old Miles (Macaulay Culkin, his first major film role and the one that inspired Hughes to give him his next major role in a little something called "Home Alone"), and 6-year-old Gaby Hoffman (shortly before she played the child lead in "Sleepless in Seattle").

You can practically write the film yourself from there, to a point. Buck has to be responsible for the kids, falls in love with them, is a far better (and much, much funnier) surrogate dad than anyone could have guessed, and by film's end things have all changed for the better. Sure, it's a little too much of a happy Hollywood ending to be true (OK, way much too much), but one doesn't expect Shakespeare here, just good, solid, entertaining comedy with a heart. That's typical John Hughes, and since he gives us so many good laughs we forgive him if it doesn't always completely ring true. "Uncle Buck" may be underrated among Hughes's films, but it's well worth remembering. By Brian Hulett "okierazorbacker2"

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