Saturday, August 16, 2014

Uncle Buck's in the House

I really miss John Candy.

He's been gone 20 years now, and, while I didn't care for most of the movies he made in his last years, he did make some movies that I enjoyed, movies that made me laugh.

One of them was John Hughes' "Uncle Buck," which premiered 25 years ago today.

Buck was the black sheep of the family, I guess. He was jobless, living in an apartment and making a living by wagering on fixed horse races. But, when his sister–in–law's father had a heart attack, he was the only one to whom they could turn since they were in a new city. They had three children who needed someone to look after them while their parents were with their grandfather in another state.

"He's crude. He's crass. He's family," the movie posters declared. What the heck? It was an emergency.

Jean Louisa Kelly played the oldest daughter, Tia, a teen who did not like having to answer to her uncle — mostly, I suppose, because he didn't get along with her boyfriend, Bug.

"First or last?" Buck asked when he heard the boy's name.

"First," Tia replied.

"What's his last name?" Buck asked. "Spray?"

If you think you've seen Kelly before, you probably have. She played Rowena, the gifted high school singer, in "Mr. Holland's Opus," and she has made quite a few TV appearances.

You're more likely, though, to be familiar with the work of Macaulay Culkin, the actor who played her younger brother. Culkin became famous when "Home Alone" hit the theaters the next year.

Their younger sister was played by Gaby Hoffmann. She probably wasn't familiar yet to audiences in 1989. "Uncle Buck" was her second movie. She made her movie debut four months earlier as Kevin Costner's daughter in "Field of Dreams." She had a part in "Sleepless in Seattle," and she's been involved in more projects as she's gotten older.

Uncle Buck wasn't perfect. He made his share of mistakes, but he had a heart of gold.

I wish I had had an Uncle Buck when I was little. Uncle Buck was the kind of guy who made a kid feel special on his birthday. He made a huge stack of pancakes — and punched out a clown for showing up drunk.

He cared. He might have had an unorthodox way of showing it, but he did care.

Buck's brother and sister–in–law really weren't important characters in the story. They were necessary as props for the story, but, once the audience had seen them and knew they existed, it really wasn't important for them to be around much anymore — and they weren't. Buck's girlfriend (Amy Madigan) and his brother's neighbor (Laurie Metcalf), on the other hand, were important to the story.
"Marcie Dahlgren–Frost. Dahlgren is my maiden name, Frost is my married name. I'm single again, but I never bothered to remove the Frost. And I get compliments on the hyphen."

Marcie (Laurie Metcalf)

Kelly's character, who already resented her parents for uprooting the family, tried to cause problems for her uncle by making Madigan believe he was having an affair with Metcalf.

But everything was resolved in the end. The younger kids loved their Uncle Buck almost from the start, and the teen gave him her grudging respect.

The audience did, too, and I have to think Hughes had a lot to do with that. He worked with Candy maybe half a dozen times and always seemed to bring out a sympathetic side to his characters. Through the course of his career, Candy always seemed to be better suited for supporting roles where he could be lovable. When cast in leading roles, inevitably he seemed to be the joker.

Except when Hughes was directing.

Other than "JFK," which gave Candy a chance to showcase his versatility as an actor within an ensemble cast, I don't think I was especially fond of any of the movies he made in the last five years of his life.

With the exception of "Uncle Buck."