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The Curator of Schlock #315 by Jeff Shuster

Uncle Buck

 An unsung John Hughes classic. 

Maybe I should thought this whole staying-in-a-cabin-in-the-middle-of-the-Florida-Everglades-while-the-world-goes-to-pot scheme through. Granted, I’ve got enough Campbell’s Pork and Beans to last me three months, but I forgot to buy Beano and I’m down to four rolls of toilet paper. Still, there are plenty of leafy plants sprung around this place. Wow. Three leaves! They say three leaves are better than two.

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Tonight’s movie is 1989’s Uncle Buck from director John Hughes because I just don’t care this week. I’m scared out of my mind and I need a 80s comedy to calm my nerves. I need some John Candy in my life. I mean look at this poster. The movie just screams, watch me! You can tell the nice suburban family wants nothing to do with their crude and crass Uncle Buck (John Candy). This is the kind of movie Elaine from Seinfeld would rather see than something like Howard’s End.

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I aspire to be just like Buck Russell. The man doesn’t have a job. He refuses to work and enjoys smoking cigars. He makes a living by making sure-thing bets at the horse track. His girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan), convinces him to take a job selling tires at the garage she manages. Buck reluctantly agrees, but bails on her as soon as his brother, Bob, calls with a family emergency. Bob needs Buck to watch the kids while he and his wife, Cindy, go to Indianapolis to stay with her father, who just had a heart attack.

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They leave Uncle Buck in charge and the children wake up to find him making some disgusting scrambled egg concoction. I’m sorry, but he sprayed yellow mustard into the frying pan. That’s a no, no. So we’ve got a surly teenager named Tia (Jean Louisa Kelly) who makes it no secret that she can’t stand Uncle Buck and wants him out of their house. More understanding are her younger siblings Miles (Macaulay Culkin) and Maizy (Gaby Hoffmann). Uncle Buck has no problem winning them over. He chews out the assistant vice-principal at Maizy’s elementary school after she criticizes the six year-old for not taking her academic career seriously. Oh, and when a drunken clown shows up at Miles’s birthday party, Uncle Buck punches him in the face a few times.

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Uncle Buck was a childhood staple of mine, repeated viewings on gray Saturdays in the dead of winter. It’s not the best John Hughes comedy, but it’s far from the worst. I love Uncle Buck’s regular threatening of Tia’s handsy boyfriend, Bug (Jay Underwood), or the scene of him cooking an obscenely large stack of pancakes for Miles and Maizy. And this movie was my first introduction to Macaulay Culkin, who would make a huge splash the following year in Home Alone.

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I miss John Candy. He was taken too soon from this world, but he left me with some good memories. Great comedians often do.


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Photo by Leslie Salas.

Jeff Shuster (episode 47episode 102episode 124episode 131, and episode 284) is an MFA graduate from the University of Central Florida.