Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Adventures in Baby-Sitting

Uncle Buck
Director: John Hughes
Cast: John Candy, Macaulay Culkin, Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffmann, Amy Madigan, Laurie Metcalf
Released: August 16, 1989

This is a movie I haven't seen since I was a kid and I've probably only seen it a couple times which is probably why I have no nostalgic attachment to it. I know a lot of people who were kids/teens when it came out love it, but despite a couple of funny scenes, I wasn't overly fond of it. I did not find the titular Uncle Buck (John Candy) to be charming at all. This movie, which was directed and written by John Hughes, is probably best known for giving him the inspiration to write Home Alone and have Macaulay Culkin (who plays Buck's nephew) star in it. Probably one of the more well-known scenes in this movie is when Macaulay is asking John Candy a bunch of questions, rapid fire. We learn that thirty-eight is his record for most consecutive questions asked. 

Uncle Buck is called upon to watch his brother's and sister-in-law's kids when his sister-in-law's dad has a heart attack and they need to go to Indianapolis to see him. Buck is their last option because their neighbors are out of town. The Russell family recently moved from there to a suburb of Chicago and fifteen-year-old Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) is not happy about it. She is a surly teen, the typical teen girl from every '80s movies. (Harry and the Hendersons is another good example of this). She is really nasty to her young siblings, Miles (Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffmann). I mean, she almost makes Buzz McCallister look like an upstanding older brother! She also doesn't take too kindly to her Uncle Buck.

I did think it was funny when Buck, who lives in Chicago, is driving to their house and going over the kids. He thinks Tia is probably nine or ten by now and can't remember the "other ones'" names,  thinking they're either Larry and Betsy or Larry and Jennifer. This makes it very obvious he hasn't seen his brother in awhile. Mrs. Russell has never been fond of Buck because he almost burned their house down. In a later scene, Buck will find a wedding photo of them with the photo folded and he discovers it has been folded to hide him. I almost feel bad for him, but at the same time, I don't blame Mrs. Russell for doing that because if I had a brother-in-law like Buck, he would probably irritate the s**t out of me!

Buck's brother asks him to come as soon as he can, so he arrives in the middle of the night and the parents just leave without even saying goodbye to their kids, which is really weird. I mean, at least the McCallisters honestly just forgot about Macaulay, but in this movie, his parents knowingly leave him and his siblings without saying good-bye! Since they left so urgently, you would think Mrs. Russell's father was on his death bed, but I think he was okay at the end of the movie. I was surprised that she gave Buck a blank check, instead of just giving him a set amount in cash. Yes, maybe she didn't have enough money on her, but still... you would think a guy with no job and who likes to gamble would take advantage of that blank check, but it actually doesn't go anywhere. I don't think he accepts it anyway, just tells her he'll use his own money.

One of the best gags of the movie is when Buck has arrived at the house and is looking around the living room. He accidentally knocks a plate off a mantle, but it doesn't break. He thinks it's an unbreakable dish and smashes it against the piano to prove his point, I guess, but of course it smashes into a million pieces.

You would think that since Buck was the last person the Russells wanted to baby-sit their kids, he would be terrible with the kids, but he's actually very responsible with them...for the most part! He makes sure they get to school on time, bush their teeth, etc. He's not great at packing school lunches, though, because he gives Miles a cucumber, a pickled egg, sardines, and a jar of milk in his sack lunch. He sure doesn't know how to take care of dogs, though, because he feeds the Russells' dog four or five times a day and gives it beer to drink!

The two younger kids take a liking to him, but he and Tia butt heads right away. When Buck drives all the kids to school, she is embarrassed to be seen in his car which is a hunk of junk that leaves a trail of smoke wherever it goes and backfires everytime it stops, making everyone think that a gun has gone off. He asks Tia what time he should pick her up and she tells him she'll get a ride with a friend. He doesn't accept this, tells her he can call the school and find out when she gets out. He says that if she's not there then he'll drive her to school tomorrow in his pajamas and robe and walk her to her first class. See, if I were him, I would have let her get a ride from a friend and if she wasn't home by four, then I would pick her up from school from then on. I know Tia is awful and is rude towards her uncle, but I don't think Buck is helping with things either. His goofing off and childish charm may work for the younger kids, but it's not doing any favors for him with Tia. He treats her like a little kid. Things don't go any better when he picks her up and sees her kissing her boyfriend, Bug. Now Bug is a total douche (with a name like that, you would have to be!), but he overreacts when he sees them kissing. John Hughes must have thought teens love kissing their boyfriends/girlfriends in front of their parents (or any other relative) because this also happens in The Breakfast Club when Molly Ringwald kisses her charming new beau (yes, that was sarcasm) in front of her dad. Tia is kissing Bug because she knows it pisses off Buck, and she'll do this again in a later scene.   

One thing I don't understand about Buck is that he has no problem giving Tia ultimatums (he tells her she can go bowling with them or get her head shaved), but can't seem to discipline the younger kids. When they both want to sleep in the same bed with him, he lets them, letting them take up all the space so he had to sleep on the floor. For Miles' birthday, he makes a stack of pancakes the size of garbage lids. (He has to use a shovel to flip them over, for god's sake!) At first I thought he was making a giant pizza. When he is called to the school to talk to the principal because Maizy said a bad word, he defends her and pretty much tells the principal, who's a horrible old lady who has a stick up her butt (and a huge wart on her chin) to pretty much go f**k herself. Actually, that may have been better than what he actually said which was, "Take this quarter, go downtown, and have a rat gnaw that thing off your face!" I mean, I know the old lady was terrible, but I think he may have crossed the line there.

There's a couple of sexual innuendos that went right over my head as a kid. One of them is when the neighbor, Marcy (played by Laurie Metcalf aka Aunt Jackie from Roseanne) comes over while Buck is in the laundry room with the door closed. He's trying to get the washing machine lid to open, but all she hears is a bunch of banging and him saying things like, "Open up for daddy" and "I'm gonna shove my load into you whether you like it or not!" Yeah.... Then, there's another scene where Buck is talking to his girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan) on the phone and he starts mentioning how he gave names to certain parts of her body, like the dimples on her butt are named "Lyndon" and "Johnson" and her breasts were named "Mickey" and "Minnie" after they spent some time in Disney World. I don't even want to know that story, but it actually gets worse. He proceeds to say, "And Felix was what we called your-" It then goes to another scene where we see a cat meowing. Ugh, movie! Did you really go there? And why would you give a male name to a female part of the body? Never mind, let's move on. This is disturbing.

I don't mean to sound mean, but I was surprised Buck had a girlfriend. He obviously doesn't take care of himself, he doesn't have a job, his personality is grating, he's been with her for eight years and won't commit to her. She wants marriage and kids, but he's not into that. I really don't understand why she's still with him. When Tia finds out that Buck has a girlfriend she take advantage of this information and uses it to get back at him when Chanice calls and Tia tells her he's with Marcy and they usually stay out late. 

When we first meet Marcy, she is wearing the most hideous outfit that any movie character in movie history has ever worn: brown boots, brown stockings, brown leather skirt (obviously fake leather), gold and brown blouse, brown leather vest made out of the same material as the skirt, and a brown and gold headband. I mean, this outfit is HIDEOUS! I did love when she introduced herself to Buck: "Marcy Dahlgren-Frost...Frost is my married name. I'm single again, but I never bothered to lose the Frost." She is very rigid and formal when she says it, so it's a great play-on words. However, in the next scene we see her in, she's coming on to Buck and dancing with him, so what the hell happened to her being cold and aloof? Of course, when they're dancing, Chanice chooses that moment to come over and sees them and accuses Buck of cheating on her. He soon realizes that Tia had something to do with it when she tells him, "It hurts when someone screws with your life, doesn't it?" Not cool, Tia!

Tia does come around to her Uncle Buck when she realizes he was right about Bug only wanting one thing. When he finds out that she snuck out of a house to attend a party, he goes to get her while asking Chanice to watch the kids. This is after their fight, but Chanice only agrees to do it because there are kids involved. Buck finds the house the party is at where the teens are listening to the current hit (in 1989!) "Bust a Move". He finds a locked bedroom where he believes his niece and Bug are in and gets in by drilling through the doorknob. It is revealed that the girl Bug is with is NOT Tia, so Bug is a huger douche, cheating on his girlfriend. Although, they had probably broken up after Tia wouldn't have sex with him, so he just went after the first girl he saw. They trick the audience by showing Bug making out with a girl on the bed with curly hair, but you never see her face until she sits up in bed (luckily she wasn't naked!) when Buck enters. I was wondering why she was passively whispering, "Stop it, please" and "I don't want to do this" as she lay there like a ragdoll as she lets Bug take off her pants. It now makes sense since it was a different girl so they had her whisper so the voice wouldn't give it away she wasn't Tia. If it had been Tia, she would have been much more assertive and probably would have kneed him in the balls. Nothing happens between Bug and the girl, but this doesn't stop Buck from kidnapping him and throwing him in the trunk of the car (we never do see how this happens!) Buck really hated Bug. Not only did he threaten to murder him (or, you know, castrate him with a hatchet), after he lets him out of the car, he hits him twice with a golfball. It's surprising that he didn't suffer a concussion or die!

Tia confesses to Chanice about the lie she told her and Buck and Chanice get back together. The parents come home the next day and everyone is happy and Tia has a new favorite uncle.

Just think: Macaulay Culkin can thank this movie (or John Hughes, really) for letting him retire at the ripe old age of 14! (Yeah, I know he did a few movies when he was older, but you know what I mean!)

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