And "Uncle Buck" used to be one of my favorite as a kid although I only saw it two times, but it left some nice memories. So, I thought after reading Ebert's review, and listening to his negative comments (approved by Siskel), I would look at the film with more perplex eyes, but no, I think there's a lot to like and well, the stuff to dislike has aged better than many seemingly irreproachable movies.
Still, having watched it again, after 25 years, I think there's a sort of darkness and sadness about the whole material that I failed to notice as a kid. I realize it deals with leaving your hometown, which I can relate to, or difficult relationships, which I also can relate to. I realized that there's a real dead-end as far as communication goes between the mother and her girl, and it's not like there's any breach where you can get some air. Jean Louisa Kelly really creates some tension in what should have been your quiet little suburban house life.
But again, I didn't notice that, as a kid. Maybe because the main character is played by the lovable John Candy and it's just impossible to see anything dark behind that big, huggable, teddy-bear of a man. I feel like reducing the actor to a specific range of characters he used to play but to put it simply, that's what made any of his movies enjoyable on the simple basis of his presence, he really illuminated the screen.
He had already graced the screen in John Hughes' classic "Planes, Trains and Automobiles" but after being Del Griffith, I think Candy needed a character as rough and rugged and somewhat twisted as Buck, to explore a much darker side albeit not on an ethical level. Sure, he's the 'lovable uncle' and outsider of the family but he could speak for himself, use some subtle threats and even engage in a battle of wits and wills with the troubled niece.
In fact the film is driven by two opposite dynamics, funny and touching interactions with the two good kids played by Macaulay Culkin (in his pre-Home Alone) and Gaby Hoffman and the more serious rivalry between with Kelly, played the bitter adolescent. One thing about Culkin, he's really a scene-stealer and I'm pretty sure the film convinced the producers to hire him for "Home Alone". But there's just something about Culkin as a secondary character, like in the movie "My Girl". He's present enough to make himself memorable (I just loved that rapid-fire exchange of random questions) and not too much to be a sort of 'gimmick'. There wasn't much interactions with Gaby Hoffman's character though and she was barely noticeable.
Retrospectively, I think the bitterness of Tia while being a plot driver was overplayed, not overacted but sometimes, she was so angry and bitter, she was like Daria, you know the animated perpetual malcontent. I couldn't really accept her defiance toward Buck because she felt the same toward everything, there wasn't something to make him the target of her insults. So yes, the film is a comedy but it does have some mean-spiritedness about it. The way the arc of their relationship closes is also problematic because it only depended on Buck being right about the kid she hanged out with, but there was nothing in his behavior that indicated he could be a potential rapist.
So there's a sort of hidden truth that Buck is the 'right man' because unlike Tia's father, he doesn't live in the comfortable suburban life but he's a street-smart guy who knows the rope and is capable to be a good father figure. Ultimately Buck is another facet of Del Griffith with more assurance and more fitting with the reality of the world. But his personality does indicate a change in Hughes' tone. After that, the iconic 80's director went on writing the "Home Alone" series which feels more like a cartoon version of the heart-warming youth stories he made.
Maybe he's less interested in Tia's existential troubles than the idea that an adult knows life better and she should trust him, in fact, even the romantic subplot with Amy Madigan's character says that Buck should value the adult in him before trying to be the "big kid". "Uncle Buck" marks a real departure from Hughes' usual messages, kind of an end of an era for the ending decade.
The film is enjoyable while not being in the Top 10 comedies of the 80's. And it's also the last, or one of the last memorable shining performances of John Candy who could never really prove his magnitude as an actor, but showed in "Uncle Buck" that he truly had the potential to be something else. I'll cherish this film as the first that made me familiar with his face until I would say in a good dozen of movies in the early 90's. I still remember that the day my father told me he died he said "Uncle Buck" died. That says it all.
Action / Comedy / Family
Action / Comedy / Family
As an idle, good-natured bachelor, Uncle Buck is the last person you would think of to watch the kids. However, during a family crisis, he is suddenly left in charge of his nephew and nieces. Unaccustomed to suburban life, fun-loving Uncle Buck soon charms his younger relatives Miles and Maizy with his hefty cooking and his new way of doing the laundry. His carefree style does not impress everyone though - especially his rebellious teenage niece, Tia, and his impatient girlfriend, Chanice. With a little bit of luck and a lot of love, Uncle Buck manages to surprise everyone in this heartwarming family comedy.
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December 20, 2014 at 12:50 PM