Uncle Buck Written by John Hughes
Some director credits can automatically make a film great, simply because that director unfailingly creates great films. John Hughes directed Ferris Bueller’s day Off, probably my favourite film ever. But to anyone who’s seen only his hall of fame, Uncle Buck‘s an important lesson in why not to idolise directors.
But let’s not make this a comparison of one film to another. Just because one film shares the director of another film which is very good, this must remain a review of a film on its own merits. So then – what is Uncle Buck? Well, it stars John Candy as every other John Candy character, like in Planes, Trains and Automobiles – also by Hughes – and Macaulay Culkin as the only character he’s ever been, like from Home Alone, also by Hughes.
Immediately, that presents a problem; so many elements of Uncle Buck are also equally-sized elements in other Hughes films. Sure, Hughes is an auteur, and will therefore have his own style anyway, but when this film contains so many features of his other films, it’s difficult to really see Uncle Buck for what it is, rather than a series of references to other films by the same director. No director can be expected to make Citizen Kane on their first try (unless it actually is Citizen Kane), but when a film by the director of a film you already love is so slow to start, all you can really do is play “spot the director’s other films”. And Uncle Buck is very slow to start, and not in such a way to build interest in Uncle Buck, but just because it takes its time.
And once it gets started, it’s a good film. Hughes’ cutting sense of humour comes through well, and the gags repeated as if they’re a natural part of this world is what makes them so funny. Indeed, Uncle Buck‘s best sequences are when Buck threatens Bug, pretending to be a psychopath who has inventive methods of killing. He even goes so far as to kidnap Bug in the back of his car and threaten to pull his teeth out.
It’s irony: a slob who pretends to be a caged killer for no other purpose than to get out of work. But that story could be so much cooler if it focused on that as its main plot point – that’s when Uncle Buck would become a Hughes classic. But it’s so slow to get into itself, and spends so much time being a series of unconnected sequences that the fleeting moments when we get the psychotic clown are so few that, as a viewer, you get the sense that you’re being deprived of something that could be pure gold.