Tag Archives: John Candy

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Planes, Trains & Automobiles</strong> (1987)

(Second viewing, On TV, May 2018) screenwriter/director John Hughes’ Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a comedy classic for a reason—it makes great use of two comic actors (Steve Martin and John Candy), features a series of memorable sequences, plays on universal annoyances and doesn’t forget to add a little bit of sentiment toward the end to temper the comedy. Everyone can relate to uncontrollable delays and setbacks in trying to get home for the holidays, and Hughes pushes it to the limit in describing what else can happen to two harried travellers. (The film reaches a comic apex of sort during its fiery highway sequence.)  Martin plays exasperated as well as Candy plays exasperator, and the result couldn’t be better. It’s not a complex film, and it works largely because of this straightforwardness. It’s worth another viewing every few thanksgivings.

Brewster’s Millions (1985)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Brewster’s Millions</strong> (1985)

(On TV, February 2018) Back when I grew up, my TV universe was limited to about half a dozen channels, most of which I couldn’t understand very well due to my lack of familiarity with English. So my childhood culture pretty much depended on the whims of those three French TV networks, and it so happens that Brewster’s Millions was a favourite of theirs. I must have watched it two or three times before I was 15. I still remember bits and pieces of the film in French, which made a contemporary re-watch feel really weird (especially one line which doesn’t sound too bad in French, but whose original version is unprintable on a G-rated web site). Fortunately, Richard Pryor sounds much better than his assigned French dubbed voice, and revisiting Brewster’s Millions in English was more pleasant than I expected. The premise alone is still rich in possibilities: An inheritance game in which the protagonist must voluntarily blow through thirty million dollars in thirty days. It’s harder than it looks, though, and the film’s best moments are those in which sure-fired money-losing plans backfire, and make things even harder. Otherwise, Pryor clowns around with John Candy, flirts with the lovely Lonette McKee and indulges in a lavish series of fantasies by wasting as much money as possible. It’s not, frankly, that good a movie: it’s slight, doesn’t really touch upon challenging social issues the way some of Pryor’s work as a comedian did, and the entire plot is an exercise in contrived situations. Still, I had a good time revisiting Brewster’s Million, and it remains a mildly entertaining evening watch. It may be ripe for a remake, though…

Uncle Buck (1989)

<strong class="MovieTitle">Uncle Buck</strong> (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.