Uncle Buck (1989)

(On TV, June 2017) Wikipedia tells me that Uncle Buck has, in the years since its release, become something of a cult movie. As usual, this kind of statement either resonates or is met by a blank face. In my case, imagine the blank face: While it’s not a bad movie, Uncle Buck doesn’t always know what it wants to be. The title character is alternately goofy, dangerous, serious and incompetent in short succession. The film has a solid arc, but the sketches that fill out the progression of this arc are inconsistent and seem to vary according to the whims of writer/director John Hughes more than any organic progression. To be fair, Uncle Buck does coasts a long time on the charm of John Candy and many of Hughes’s leitmotifs, starting with the sullen teenager in need of guidance (here Jean Louisa Kelly). It’s also easy to see how Home Alone sprang from Uncle Buck with the “mail slot” scene featuring Mackauley Caulkin. Some of the set-pieces are, indeed, quite good (such as the noir-spoof visit to the school director) … but it’s their disconnectedness that stops the film from feeling more satisfying. In the meantime, what we have is another piece in Hughes’s solid filmography, uneven but still entertaining on its own.

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