An old holiday classic.
Uncle Buck is another one of John Hughes’ films that has earned a place in the American film lexicon. In my opinion, the high placement of this film is somewhat unearned. Oddly, if anyone other than Hughes had directed the movie it would be much worse. The tale is simple: in a time of need a distant (but lovable) ruffian relative must watch his nieces and nephew while the parents leave town.
The always excellent John Candy plays the title character, and for the most part he does well. There are several fun moments (and great lines) within the film. However, there are some problems, too. Buck’s battles with the eldest niece, Tia, stray beyond anything lighthearted and venture into territories of cruelty. In their harsh (and often destructive) interactions we see that neither character is fully likable nor admirable. Tia undermines Buck’s relationship that has been going steady for years. Buck ends up saving Tia from a potential sexual abused, but we as the audience must only trust that he “knew” this because he “was just like that.” Does this mean that Buck’s past is more sinister than being a lazy slob? What are we as the audience supposed to take away from this?
The Hughes’ charm is present throughout, but it all just sits there. The film as a whole is simply “there.” Yep, we have a story, some funny moments, odd moments, and ultimately a too happy resolution for the events within the narrative. The saving grace of this film is the moments of Hughes’ genius shining through. Massive pancakes and drunk clowns add needed moments in a surprisingly dark film.
Hughes’ fans will defend the film, and to some extent it is worth defending. Fans of Hughes’ and Candy will want to see it, but it probably won’t be their favorite. The film’s decision to wobble between light-hearted and more serious issues leave both audiences a little unsatisfied. 5/10