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Candy's back with 'Buck'
By Jay Carr, Globe Staff

"Uncle Buck," John Candy's new John Hughes film, isn't going to make any 10-best lists, but there's more to it than the fakey buffoonery that its ads featuring a bug-eyed, cigar-chomping Candy lead you to expect. It's got enough disarming warmth to yank Candy's career out of the self-destruct mode it's been in since he sank to self-caricature in "The Great Outdoors" and "Who's Harry Crumb?" Essentially, "Uncle Buck" is Hughes recycling "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," giving Candy the first decent slob-with-heart role he's had since "Splash." When a family crisis forces his brother and sister-in-law to suddenly leave their Chicago suburb, Buck is called out from downtown to baby-sit the three kids aged 6 to 15.

You know up front that bringing any character John Candy plays into a neat suburban house is like inviting a huge, enthusiastic dog inside and letting him try and to charm you out of the fact that he can't help wrecking the place. But, in contrast to his last few hot-air balloon roles, Candy finally returns to playing a caring guy with heart, trailing the family's confused teen girl to school, to her mortification and eventual protection, and not only being a fun guy to the; younger kids, paying more attention to them than their parents customarily do, but letting them snuggle up to him in their jammies when they're cold and lonely.

Although surrounded by a lot of synthetic predictability, Candy comes through as he hasn't in several years, and even survives an ill-advised attempt on Hughes' part to reform and mature Uncle Buck in the bargain. Amy Madigan is always a plus, and she finds ways to put appealing spin on the role of the patient woman who's been waiting eight years for Uncle Buck to get serious. The kids are engaging, too, especially Jean Kelly's sulky but observant teen. I especially liked the way she and Hughes played the teen's surprise when she learns that Uncle Buck, unlike her oblivious parents, notices as many things as she does. Hughes succeeds more than he has any right to in "Uncle Buck" because he's able to override sitcom cliche with generosity. It's a smart idea to let Candy play feelings instead of just fatness and bluster. For a movie that isn't really that good, "Uncle Buck" is surprisingly likable.