Time to cast Candy against type|
By Henry Mietkiewicz Toronto Star
Judging from the ads for Uncle Buck, you'd think John
Candy and director John Hughes had teamed to repackage
Hughes' 1987 comedy hit, Trains, Planes And Automobiles.
No such luck. Despite its modest quota of smiles and
chuckles, Uncle Buck is actually a throwback to Pretty In
Pink, She's Having A Baby and similarly smarmy teenage
comedy/dramas that Hughes tends to prefer.
Two years ago, Candy played a hilariously obnoxious bore of a
man who turned a cross-country trip into a farcical living
hell for frazzled fellow traveller Steve Martin.
Uncle Buck seems like more of the same, with ads showing the
leering, slovenly, stogie-chomping Candy about to invade an
upscale suburban home. On the other side of the door, a
fear-stricken family has erected a barricade, apparently in
dreaded anticipation of The Thing That Would Not Leave.
In fact, Buck is not barred from the house, but invited in
for several days as a babysitter, when brother Bob (Garrett
Brown) and sister-in-law Cindy (Elaine Bromka) are forced to
pay a sudden out-of-town visit to Cindy's critically ill
Admittedly, Buck's penchant for junk food, horse racing and
shady business deals doesn't endear him to his oh-so-proper
relatives. And, early on, their fears are justified when he
breaks a valuable collector's plate and serves sludgy meals
that make airline food seem like a gourmet treat.
But instead of fully indulging in bull-in-a-china-shop
comedy, Hughes, who also wrote the screenplay, is just
setting us up for a contrived showdown between Buck and his
troubled 15-year-old niece, Tia (Jean Kelly).
She's a full-blown problem child whose adolescent troubles
are aggravated by her family's recent move away from their
old home town. That leads to shouting matches with her
parents and a desire to spite them by dating the sleaziest
make-out artist in her class.
So who decides to bring Tia back into line? That's right,
Uncle Buck, the same irresponsible Buck who has kept his own
girl friend, Chanice (Amy Madigan), dangling for years. The
same Buck who has hardly ever had contact with children or
spent more than a few hours with his relatives.
And yet, somehow, Hughes asks us to believe a warm-hearted
but inexperienced fumbler has the unerring instincts to
rescue Tia, as well as charm her mischievous young siblings,
Maizy (Gaby Hoffman) and Miles (Macaulay Culkin).
The few truly amusing moments in Uncle Buck are largely due
to Candy's instinctive skills as a clown. Beaming with his
own brand of impish delight, he uses a snow shovel to flip
three-foot-diameter pancakes for the youngsters' party.
Later, he cheerily does the laundry by hand-washing the
clothes and promptly popping them into a microwave oven to
dry. And only Candy could pull off the scene where Buck, on a
visit to an elementary school, is forced to drop to his knees
to use a miniature urinal.
To his credit, Hughes correctly senses that Candy has the
potential for straight drama, a knack displayed in brief
flashes in Uncle Buck and at the climax of Trains, Planes And
If only Hughes had the courage to abandon teenage stories and
cast Candy against type in a serious movie with light
overtones, a formula that clicked for Steve Martin in
Roxanne. That's where we'd see what Candy can really do.
- Henry Mietkiewicz
Written and directed by John Hughes. Starring John Candy and
Amy Madigan. At the Hyland, Yonge north of St. Clair,