Uncle Buck (1989)

uncle buck

“You’re not a gnat are you Bug? Wait a minute, Bug, gnat. Is there a little similarity? Whoa, I think there is!”

The Scoop: 1989 PG, Directed by John Hughes and starring John Candy, Jean Louisa Kelly, Gaby Hoffman and Macaulay Caulkin

Tagline: He’s crude. He’s crass. He’s family.

Summary Capsule: Demented no-goodnik babysitter watches his nieces and nephews for a week of HELL! Also, PANCAKES!

Justin’s rating: You got some ‘splainin to do, buster

Justin’s review: So I’ve decided that we’re just going to ignore every movie John Hughes had a hand in since 1990, and pretend that he died in some grand, heroic fashion around that time instead, okay? I’m thinking, saving a dozen preschool children from a sinking ocean liner while sacrificing his life and talent to the many bloodthirsty sharks, and thus leaving us the unmarred legacy of a genius director and writer cut down in his prime. My way is better. Nobody wants to remember Curly Sue, Home Alone 2, or Baby’s Day Out if we can help it.

As the last film directed before he passed through many predatory digestive systems, Uncle Buck was a bittersweet swan song for the Hughes ’80s era. The Brat Pack grew up, teenage angst got moved to the backburner, and neon clothing faded away to the dark grunge of the early ’90s — but this didn’t stop a final hurrah of strange characters, flippant dialogue, or absurdity co-mingling with drama here. Thank goodness. The later few years of the ’80s were Hughes’ John Candy phase, where he moved away from the teen comedies that made him so popular (The Breakfast Club) and shifted into a fixation for a large man who had the extra bonus of being annoying. Thus, Hughes and Candy graced us with The Great Outdoors, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, and Dear Uncle Buckarooni.

Uncle Buck simply fits into the surprisingly crowded “Misfit Babysitter” category of films. It’s a grand cinematic tradition of potential child abusers turned inspirational role models, and Buck does them proud.

Called to watch his brother’s kids while mom and dad are called away on an emergency, crude bachelor Buck’s the last person in the world who should be caring for children. But care he must, and happily, two of the three children are precocious and self-sufficient to survive on their own. Those are the ever-questioning Miles (Macaulay Caulkin) and the wide-eyed sweetie Maisy (Gaby Hoffmann).

Buck’s nemesis, however, is Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly). Being the only main teenager in the flick, Tia bears the brunt of every teen trait that Hughes has stuffed into his previous movies. Mostly, Tia scowls. She’s really good at it. She, like, hates the world, you know, and stuff. Plus she’s not too fond of her parents, who are (in the typical Hughes fashion) not able or equipped to deal with a hormonal teenager in the least. Tia and Buck clash, over and over, during the course of this movie. Buck has the advantage of weight and partial insanity, but Tia is The Mistress Of A Thousand Scowls, so it’s a good match.

The struggle between Buck and Tia is just one of a number of small stories that pass the time pleasantly between the opening and closing credits. It’s not a movie that really says much about anything, preferring instead to take stabs at light comedy, slapstick comedy, romantic comedy, and black comedy as the wind takes it. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, because the mixture is so that it becomes a nice “Oh, I haven’t seen this in a while” movie without forcing you to set up a shrine to it with candles and hair samples in the middle of your bedroom. And while the movie progresses, we witness distinctive Hughes trademarks — the eclectic soundtrack that plays into the scene, or extreme close-ups — that made me sadly wistful, like when you dig up an old love letter from a girl you used to date six years ago. Oh Misty! Take me back!

R.I.P. John Hughes. Don’t you forget about me.

Drew owes his bookie BAD.


  • Crap is not a swear
  • “Little stain” is a great insult
  • Unbreakable plates!
  • Tia loves to sneer
  • Shades of Dragnet questioning, anyone?
  • The crowd’s reaction to the car
  • The kid’s bag lunch
  • The cool clock wipe
  • I want a hyphen
  • Toothpick guy
  • Mouse Car… forget the hyphen, I want a Mouse Car!
  • A “silly heart”… heh
  • Always a good idea to ID your babysitter
  • Uncle Buck became a short-lived TV series in 1990, starring Kevin Meaney as Buck. In a morbid twist to the movie, Buck becomes the guardian of his brother’s three kids when his brother and his wife are killed in an automobile accident. Only 16 episodes aired before cancellation in spring 1991.

Groovy Quotes

Buck: I don’t think I want to know a six-year-old who isn’t a dreamer, or a sillyheart. And I sure don’t want to know one who takes their student career seriously.

Buck: I thought you might like to join us for some ice cream. Maybe your boyfriend Bug here can join us. We can talk about burying the hatchet. You know what a hatchet is Bug?
Bug: An ax?
Buck: Sort of, yeah. I got one in my car if you’d like to see it.
Bug: I’ll pass.
Buck: Fair enough. I like to carry it around because you never know when your going to need it. A situation may come up say for example, someone has been drinking, and about to drive a loved one home, then I’d like to know I have it. Not to kill. Just to maim. Take a little off the shoulder. Swish! The elbow. Slash! Shave a little meat off the old kneecap. Fowap! Ooooo! You got both kneecaps? I like to keep mine razor sharp. Sharp enough you can shave with it. Why I’ve been known to circumcise a gnat. You’re not a gnat are you Bug? Wait a minute, bug, gnat. Is there a little similarity? Whoa, I think there is! Ha ha ha. You understand what I’m talking about? I don’t think you do. I’ll be right back. Heh heh heh heh.

Buck: Get used on your parent’s time.

Buck: A lot of people hate this hat. It angers a lot of people, just the sight of it. Ah, I’ll tell you a story about that on the way to school.

Miles: Waiting for your sex?
Tia: Shutup!

Tia: His name is Bug.
Buck: First or last?
Tia: First!
Buck: What’s his last name, Spray?

Buck: We’ve done the battle of the wills. The deck’s stacked in my favor. You’re just gonna lose again.
Tia: Try me.
Buck: How would you like to spend the next several nights wondering if your crazy, out of work, bum uncle will shave your head while you sleep? See you in the car.

Tia: We need boys, so they can grow up, get married, and turn into shadows.

Tia: If my whole family moved away from me, I’d drop dead from a heart attack too.

Tia: Hey, Mom. Next time you take off in the middle of the night, why don’t you hire a murderer to watch the house?

If you liked this movie, try these:

  • The Breakfast Club
  • Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles


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