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Uncle Buck
★★☆☆☆
First run Seenmorethanonce Theater cinema Screening room

After the huge box office of Plains Trains and Automobiles (1987), writer/producer/director John Hughes, recently given a multi-picture deal at Universal Pictures, went to work writing scripts for his new star John Candy. Hughes hoped to continue to broaden the plus-sized funnyman's range and appeal as an actor. Uncle Buck, which is about an unemployed Chicago gambler who must move to the suburbs to take care of his middle-class brother's kids after a family emergency, provided plenty of opportunities to showcase Candy’s buffoonish comedy chops—as evidenced by the movie’s trailer. But Hughes also wrote the role to provide Candy with his first opportunity to play a romantic leading man with a serious love interest played by the spunky Amy Madigan (Places in the Heart, Twice in a Lifetime, Field of Dreams). Candy successfully comes off as charming and attractive in this picture, while simultaneously playing crude, obnoxious, and gross. Buck Russell is also a rather dark character who makes choices that seem a little extreme in the babysitting department. 

All this adds up to a tonally uneven movie that is far from a complete success, but Uncle Buck has its fair share of laughs and signature Hughes montages set to catchy music. This is also the film that introduced most of us to Macaulay Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann, who play the two little kids. Culkin was so winning in his scenes with Candy that Hughes wrote Home Alone for Culkin to star in the following year (that film turned out to be such a hit the young actor never fully recovered—I don’t think Hughes did either). Hoffman, who played Amy Madigan and Kevin Costner’s daughter in Field of Dreams, when into semi-retirement as a child actor after 1989, but returned in Nora Ephron’s This Is My Life (1992) and Sleepless in Seattle (1993), and went onto play one of the leads on Jill Soloway’s Transparent

Uncle Buck is a prime example of a “star vehicle,” in that it’s impossible to imagine anyone except the actor it was expressly written for playing the lead. (It was turned into a disastrous TV sitcom starring the usually funny comedian Kevin Meaney). Candy died at age forty-three, five years after the release of this movie. His passing deeply affected Hughes. Many believe the filmmaker would have directed a lot more movies before his own premature death, at age fifty-nine, if Candy had been around to star in them. As it turned out, Uncle Buck would be Hughes second to last film as a director, though he continued to write and produce for twenty more years.

Twitter Capsule:
Hughes provides Candy ample opportunities for broad comedy but also grooms him as an attractive romantic lead in this tonally uneven comedy about an unemployed gambler who moves to the suburbs to take care of his brother's kids.  

Directed by John Hughes
Produced by John Hughes and Tom Jacobson

Written by John Hughes

With: John Candy, Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffmann, Macaulay Culkin, Amy Madigan, Elaine Bromka, Garrett M. Brown, Laurie Metcalf, Anna Chlumsky, and the voice of Patricia Arquette

Cinematography: Ralf D. Bode
Editing: Lou Lombardo, Peck Prior, and Tony Lombardo
Music: Ira Newborn

Runtime: 100 min
Release Date: 16 August 1989
Aspect Ratio: 1.85 : 1
Color