Sometimes it’s nice to revisit the past. And by the past, I don’t mean as far back as my last review. I also don’t mean a past that I can remember. I do mean a past that my humans can remember, though. Well, kind of. Both of my humans were at least alive the era of John Hughes. And more importantly, the era of John Candy. And even more importantly, the era of UNCLE BUCK.
UNCLE BUCK (1989) has a simple premise: What happens when you put your schlub of a relative in charge of three high-strung kids?
The answer is, of course, movie magic.
Here’s how we start: Cindy and Bob Russell are average middle-class Americans who are very focused on their work and their busy lives. They have three kids, one of whom is a “dreamer” of a little girl, one who is a young Macauly Culkin (literally), and one who is really angry teenage girl. They don’t know their kids, their kids don’t know them, and they eat Chinese food for dinner a lot, apparently. So not good things here in Chicagoland.
One night, however, Cindy’s dad has a heart attack. The couple need to go to Indianapolis. Immediately. They can’t even wait until the morning (so the film purports). Who should they get to watch the kids? They have school, after all – they can’t come. The neighbor? Oh no. Friends from work? Out of town themselves.
“What about Buck?” asks Bob.
Bob’s brother Buck, played by John Candy, is the black sheep of the familiy – big, loud, living in an apartment, no job, an avid bolwer (the shame of it!), dating a woman who (gasp!) sells tires, smokes cigars, drinks a lot, and is often seen at horse races. Not necessarily Mary Poppins, here.
Ahh, but they have no choice. Best call him up. He comes over in his lemon of a car, and the chaos ensues.
The film from there on is basically a series of vignettes that detail the ridiculous insertion of this character into the formerly orderly lives of the three children. There’s a lot of angry teenage fighting, especially when Uncle Buck disapproves of Tia’s new boyfriend. There’s a lot of Macauly Culkin with his eyes wide open looking surprised. And there’s a lot of John Candy just being a funny fat guy, including a particularly great scene where he makes a giant breakfast for Macauly Culkin’s birthday.
Eventually, all the humans learn the importance of family, and the kids appreciate their parents a little more for all they do.
Now, the cat factor: In a terribly funny scene, Uncle Buck tries to get the family cat to come inside. He calls for it, he chases it through the bushes, and he picks it up. He carries it inside while it caterwauls in dismay and scratches his face and arms. Once inside, he asks, “Who let the cat out?” One of the children answers, “We don’t have a cat!” Out the cat goes back on its merry way.
Now, as much as I don’t appreciate a scene of a human forcing a cat to do something against its will, I even have to applaud the comic timing in this bit. Well played, John Hughes. Well played, John Candy. Well done, Johns.
UNCLE BUCK is a quintessential end-of-the-eighties film and, even though my parents probably weren’t even alive then, it’s cinema gold.
And the final cat factor is………………………………
It’s a good flick with just a bit of cat, but that bit of cat is a bit of great.
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