I come to praise Uncle Buck, not to bury him. A sizable hit for Universal at the time, this John Hughes comedy comes at teenage life from an alternate angle from his classic work (Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Bueller); rather than zero in on the Illinois youngsters so often his subject, Hughes focuses on an older character, a significant change in that most of the adults are caricatured in his more youth-centred pieces. Floated as a vehicle for Robin Williams, Uncle Buck is manifested in ideal form by John Candy, who has the look, but also the nuances, to make something special of the unsuitable baby-sitter who turns out to be a kids’ best friend.
The presence of Macaulay Culkin as one of Buck’s charges gives some clue as to where Hughes went next; hugely popular slapstick via the Home Alone movies. Uncle Buck is one of Hughes’ few efforts to consider an adult world; when a family illness calls parents away, Uncle Buck (Candy) is the last resort replacement. He wows the moppets with his slovenly ways but something more is required for eldest daughter Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly), who is acting out in all kinds of ways. She resists Buck’s appeal, but events contrive to unite the two of them against the lousy go-nowhere guy she’s attracted…
Remade in Malayalam as Uncle Bun, and I have to say that’s a bun I’d certainly find tempting, Uncle Buck is gentle enough to be considered a character comedy; there’s no big finale, no race to attend a school show, no real melodrama, and that’s all to the film’s advantage. Candy makes more of his character than a slob; Buck makes lifestyle choices that he can back up with logic, but his interaction with the Russell family shows him the error of his ways. In the meantime, it’s funny to see him call the school principal a ‘brain-dead skank’ or wrestling with the washing machine and microwave combo; it’s easy comedy, but done will skill.
Various tv show have attempted to capture the Uncle Buck magic, but failed; it’s actually hard to make good comedy, and Hughes and Candy may take a sloppy, anything-goes approach here, but it works. And any film that features both Young MC’s Bust a Move and Tone Loc’s seminal tone poem Wild Thing on the soundtrack just can’t go wrong; he’s got the tunes and the moves, and we all kind of need an Uncle Buck in our lives right now. He’s on Netflix UK right now if you need him.