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Candy's 'Buck' is a victim of comedy devaluation
Mike Clark

Uncle Buck ## (out of four) John Candy ... Uncle Buck Amy Madigan ... Chanice Kobolowski Jean Kelly ... Tia Russell Gaby Hoffman ... Maizy Russell Macaulay Culkin ... Miles Russell

A Universal Pictures release. Produced by John Hughes and Tom Jacobson. Written and directed by Hughes. In theaters nationally. Rated PG (mild profanity).

A John Hughes movie is 15 minutes of material stretched into a 90-minute feature by a rec-room rack from the Karloff estate; the only question is whether the 15 have their comic compensations. Uncle Buck has a few, though they're typically compromised by the cut-and-paste nature of the rest.

If you've seen the ads - or simply juxtaposed ''Uncle Buck'' with ''John Candy'' - you're already on pace with this inoffensive multiplex piffle. We open with an indolent bachelor slob, and an emergency that forces him to baby-sit his brother's kids (ages 6 to 15). We close with a snotty niece unconvincingly humanized, and the slob's sudden realization (after only eight years of waffling) that his fiancee might be worth marrying.

Well, it's been a long, often pandering movie summer. What do you expect on Aug. 16 - O'Neill's Strange Interlude?

On the plus side, there's Candy (who still deserves better), Amy Madigan (largely wasted as the fiancee), one photogenic teen-age smirk (courtesy of newcomer Jean Kelly), one precocious child actor (Macaulay Culkin), and some attractively muted winter color schemes from cinematographer Ralf Bode. Best of all: another film-stealing performance by Laurie Metcalf, cast here as a nosy sexual predator from across the street.

Undercutting them all are the consistent Hughes trademarks: gratuitous scenes, an awkward meshing of fantasy and reality, extended comic build-ups for kickers that too often don't deliver, and climactic sentimentality that negates most of what has preceded.

Though acceptable family fodder for moviegoing parents who prefer not to blush in front of their kids, Hughes' continued foray into so-called adult cinema continues to be less than promising. If Uncle Buck is an adult comedy, The Hucklebuck is one of this century's enduring pop-tune standards.