UNCLE BUCK —–after a good run of comedy hits, writer-director John Hughes reached into his Desperation File for this sourball, an anvil-light 1989 wheeze (soon to be out-done by the execrable Home Alone). Groaning through utter predictability for 99 minutes, it’s got maybe a dozen mildly amusing bits squished under a ton of sophomoric, mean-spirited junk. Missing it back when it made its tour through the cineplexes, I finally caught up, 30 years late to the party, figuring, “Hey, I like John Candy”, but we cry “Uncle!” as this Buck really sucks.
When the mother’s father has a heart attack, the Russell’s have no choice but to leave their teenage daughter (Jean Louisa Kelly) and two moppets (Macauley Culkin and Gaby Hoffmann) in the care of “lovable fat slob” Uncle Buck (Candy), who, of course, demolishes part of the home, but wins the hearts of the kids–and the audience, with his “hilarious” prat-falls, jokes, threats and admonitions.
Culkin, 8, and Hoffman, debuting at 6, were naturals but Kelly, 17 in her debut, is stuck with one of the least appealing teen characters of the era (no-one could save this material), consisting of nonstop sulking malevolence, merry as a plane crash. Other than the two kids, who are cute—in the by-the-numbers manner of cut & paste ‘concept’ comedies—everyone else in the movie is charmless, including the normally endearing lead buffoon. The tone wobbles, gags thud, unpleasantness takes over, and it gets worse as it goes along.
Costing $15,000,000, the film found a willing audience. The $66,759,000 gross had it place 18th in the States for the year. Another $12,500,000 slurped in from overseas. Reflect for a moment that this did better business that year than Field Of Dreams, Do The Right Thing, Glory, The Fabulous Baker Boys, My Left Foot….
With Amy Madigan (good actress but Funny doesn’t leap to mind) Jay Underwood, Laurie Metcalf (good actress, desperately unfunny here), Garrett M. Brown and Elaine Bromka. I guess if I was ten, stoned or an idiot, I’d find this worthwhile, but I’m not ten, and no longer stoned. Idiot I’ll cop to, but you gotta draw the line somewhere.