Uncle Buck is actually a pretty bad movie. No surprise there, I hardly remembered it as a cinematic great after my initial viewings a couple decades ago. What I didn’t remember is just how mean it all is.
When Dad and Mum are unexpectedly and urgently called out of town one night they immediately turn to reliable, trustworthy and mature adults to ask them to look after their three children.
When none of these people are available they turn to plan Z – Uncle Buck (John Candy). Buck is an unemployed, rotund, thoughtless, unreliable slob in his mid 40s. But despite him being a particular non-favourite of Mum with no-one else to turn to there he is and off they hastily go.
Now for the hilarity, an irresponsible adult is set a task to watch over three kids with varying degrees of reprehensibleness. If that is a word? It sure fits with the oldest daughter Tia, a 15 year old bundle of balled up hatred and mistrust. In a movie like say American Beauty she would be a troubled teen to be moulded, coddled and educated.
Uncle Buck is allegedly a family comedy, and in short Tia is just a bitch.
There are two other kids too, a boy about 8 and a girl maybe 6. They are your standard, run of the mill movie brats, part annoying, part wise beyond their years and so very cute. Fortunately cute enough and more importantly not total smart-arses. They have a few scenes where they get to ‘say the darndest things’, in doing so earning descriptors like precocious, spunky and plain awwwwwwwwwwwww. (None of these scenes are particularly great or even memorable, though a rapid fire discourse / interrogation between the young boy and Buck made the trailer and got flogged on advertising.)
So back to the Tia / Buck relationship.
Tia hates her Mum, loathes her Dad and within minutes detests Buck, all for no known reason aside from the fact that she is a teenager and therefore must be troubled. Tia is of an age where she feels no-one can tell her what to do, especially a fat slob of a temporary Uncle, so she treats Buck with open disdain.
She wants to spend this time with the ‘olds’ away being courted by a local douche named Bug… And it is Buck’s primary mission to ensure that Tia is not Bug-sprayed on his watch.
So the tug of war begins with both sides trying to exert their will, before blah, blah, blah happens and Buck changes all of their lives… or something.
Uncle Buck wasn’t particularly amusing at any stage, unlike other John Hughes films it didn’t overcome this issue with memorable sequences or likable characters. What remains is a charming comedy that is mostly on the wrong side of charming and isn’t funny to boot.
It’s (not) funny, but I don’t think anyone really learned anything as a result of Buck’s stay – or I hope not – after all, if it takes a near rape to get a clue and we the audience are supposed to exhale with happiness that Tia turned herself around I think that’s pushing it.
Final Rating – 5.5 / 10. This movie proves two things, John Candy was such a likeable presence that his mug on the poster allowed such a film to be marketed successfully despite its many failings, and movie teens are able to get away with almost anything if they are deemed cute.