Last weekend, my family and I were relaxing at my flat in London. My girlfriend was with us and we were just about to head home with my dad when, on TV, we saw that Uncle Buck was coming on. It was enough to make us stay through the runtime of this 1989 John Hughes classic. That’s how much this film is a part of my childhood- I had to show my girlfriend. And she, and all of us, had an absolutely great time. Here’s why.
The title character, Uncle Buck is played by the legendary John Candy. He is a loser really: without a job, without any purpose and, if he carries on as he is, without anyone in his life. His brother’s family suffers a tragedy and Buck must step up and look after the children while the parents are away. Of course, mayhem ensues and it looks like it will be a miracle if Buck and the kids survive the weeks the parents are gone.
The film is really built around the four main characters: the uncle and the three children, Jean Louisa Kelly, a pre-Home Alone Macauley Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann (who you may know from TV’s Girls). Together, their dynamic is electric with Kelly’s older sister very much a b-i-t-c-h and Culkin and Hoffmann providing a great double act. They are super cute, as the young folk say, and this almost certainly got Culkin his role in the aforementioned torture porn film. The relationship between Candy and Kelly really drives the film though, providing the necessary push that makes them both have to change. Both are stuck in their ways, albeit very different ways, and they are the only two that can force each other out of them. Not that they realise that!
Akin to other Hughes films like the Lampoon series and the Home Alone series, this film is abundant with slapstick stunts. So many are absolutely hilarious but there is also some great dialogue comedy. This film is largely suitable for adults and children, a couple of swear words aside that are edited out in TV versions, with plenty of cleverly edited adult jokes that will leave kids clueless but adults bawling. The children won’t mind because of all the other hilarious stuff going on! If this were simply a comedy though, it would be one of many and therefore forgettable, but this film has real heart. The relationship the children have with their parents is key and the way this develops is incredibly heart-warming.
Looking back as an adult now, there are a couple of flaws. Buck’s girlfriend’s character has always annoyed me and she was still a bit annoying as an adult. Also, the parents do seem a little wooden, which I guess is part of their character. But there is balsa and then there is oak. I don’t understand that metaphor either. They are just very wooden! Also, the slapstick can sometimes be a little grating and I could understand that some people would find it annoying.
Uncle Buck is so much a part of my childhood, however, and it will always have a place in my heart because of it. It is funny and charming and there are very few films that I watch ever time I see them- this is one of them. To me, it is the better version of the Lampoon films. John Hughes at some of his finest. Get watching!