So your grandfather has a heart attack, your parents are going to leave town for Indianapolis in the morning, and the only person they can get to watch over you and your siblings is a sleazy fat bum of an uncle who is as involved in your life as he's into fine dining, etiquette, and proper personal grooming. For almost a week, this schlub has the run of the house, despite never having kids due to his commitment issues, and a general disconnect from rational, normal thought.
If your uncle were John Candy, then you would be in for a treat, as the Russell family will soon find out. As the uptight, too cool for school and her family big sister (Jean Louisa Kelly), and her two younger siblings (Macaulay Culkin, Gaby Hoffman) learn, despite the fact that the big man with a big heart doesn't quite know what he's doing, he has everyone's best interests in mind as he plays the family man for the first time in his life. Who knows, maybe it may help him turn the corner with his longtime girlfriend (Amy Madigan)? Maybe it will land him in jail when he kidnaps a kid and threatens him with a cordless drill. Either way, it's nothing but fun.
'Uncle Buck' isn't so much a guilty pleasure as it is a pleasure to watch, even all these years later. It's a nice way to remember Candy, in one of his warmer roles, and most certainly a fun and breezy way to spend an hour and a half. Writer/Director John Hughes ('The Breakfast Club,' 'Home Alone') isn't firing on all cylinders, as his intended comedy often falls a bit flat, but due to the love nature of the big oaf of a lead, it's easy to forgive and forget the film's shortcomings.
Sure, you'd think a film that has more than a few obscenities (especially early on), along with themes of date rape, murder, underage drinking, and bizarre sex would not have made for a family friendly PG classic, but that's just what 'Uncle Buck' is. It's light on its feet, graceful, and somewhat humorous (even if it doesn't elicit too many chuckles or hearty guffaws). It's also gentle and delicate, a fish out of water story featuring a whale of sorts, a clumsy self centered goof who gets a second chance at his life after seeing what all he has been missing out on. It's a heartwarming story about reaching even the unreachable by merely being there and caring, rather than reacting and falling for the typical teenage rebellious bait. Sure, in real life, things aren't always that easy, but this is a film, dammit, and one that is pretty enjoyable, even if you have to suspend that little bit of reality for an hour and a half.
Candy is masterful, in a role that doesn't quite let him go over the top, with more than a few sight gags along the way to make up for it. His charisma and heart permeate every shot, to the point where you can't help but love the big loser. He's a decent character, and that may be the film's biggest problem. The film plays early that the Russell family can't get a babysitter, and run out of their normal resources before hitting up brother Buck, much to Cindy (Elaine Bromka)'s dismay. We get that he doesn't know the kids, and isn't much welcome, but the fact that big Buck is a better parent than the real parents is somewhat disgusting. The uptight Russell's don't want their buffoon brother/brother-in-law around to get to know their kids, and use him as a last resort, and he puts them to shame when put under pressure.
That sounds like a nice story of redemption, but we don't see why Buck is so on the outskirts of his family's life, aside from his gambling and inferred selfish nature. For the entire length of the film, we see a man sacrifice and do what's right from the moment he enters the home, not missing a single beat, and this is only his first opportunity to be in the lives of his nieces and nephew?! What gives?! Ah well, perhaps I'm overthinking the film. 'Uncle Buck' is an escapist family comedy, sure, but it's fun for all ages, with something for everyone, including relatable characters.
On a brighter note, 'Uncle Buck' seems to have hit a note with some YouTube video creators, as more than a couple recuts of the film have popped up, portraying the kind, gentle Buck as a sociopathic killer. Honestly, it's a great fit, and a fun twist to such an innocent character. Perhaps that's really why Cindy protests so much to Buck, to the point where he's cropped out of family photos...
Sorry, off topic there for a bit. 'Uncle Buck' hasn't aged disgracefully one iota, and remains a fun, quirky little comedy, one of the nicer ways to remember one of the all time great comedians to leave us before his time. Hughes plays it safe and by the books, and the result is hardly boring. If a film like this can appeal to someone like me, I'm sure it can appeal to damn near anyone, so long as the spate of crude words isn't a deal breaker.
The Disc: Vital Stats
Of course, seeing as Universal has to load BD-Live prior to the menu, I had a hell of a time getting this disc to load, so much so, in fact, that I at one point gave up after waiting for five minutes and just popped in a PS3 game. This crap needs to stop. I approached the disc with and without my internet connection enabled, and still had problems. I didn't just pay ten bucks to get a disc that wants to make me wait to watch anything so that it can try to shove advertising down my throat.
In fact, I couldn't even get the disc to play in my Playstation 3, and had to utilize my LG BH100 for this review. This should not be necessary. No one who bought this disc should be forced to own multiple players after giving up on one due to being frozen on the "load" screen five times. On the bright side, since my LG player did work with this disc, that means it is Region Free.
The disc itself is a BD50, housed in a non-eco keep case. There are no packaging gimmicks, and just your basic Universal clear disc.
I'm sure few people were expecting a ton in the video department from 'Uncle Buck.' The film turns 22 years old later this year, and this disc is a bargain basement release. So imagine my surprise when the transfer wasn't all that bad, even if it had no work or effort put into it.
That's right, Universal drops a decent enough 1080p AVC MPEG-4 encode on this disc and calls it a day, probably without doing a single bit of quality control beforehand or afterwards, and I'm still quite pleased. There are some nice heavy grain levels, that never seem tampered with. There's no aliasing, no jaggies, no bizarre edge problems. The problems with the picture come from the original source's limitations, not due to compression or post production tinkering. Facial features are often lacking, and skin tones are too affected by lighting, but we still get some nice colors and some on again, off again solid textures. The picture is a bit wobbly and bouncy, so there could be a telecine problem, but it's not too massive or distracting. There are some light scratches and dirt blobs, but nothing major, and the random softness is very minimal. Slight crush can be annoying in night scenes, but there's no problem in day shots or well lit interiors.
'Uncle Buck' fans should have no real complaints here. It doesn't look bad, at all. It just isn't great, by any stretch.
So, I have this question, it's something that has been bothering me for some time. Does anyone else think it's absolute bullshit that Universal brands their Blu-rays with the following phrase: "Perfect Picture and Purest Digital Sound Available"?
Sure, if they released nothing but pitch perfect discs, I'd be alright with that... but when this moniker appears on the 'Uncle Buck' Blu-ray packaging, I have to call their bluff. How anyone in their right minds can call a lossy DTS 2.0 mix, at 384 kbps, anything other than a complete cop out is beyond me. This is DVD era, folks, and it sure as hell sounds like it, as 'Uncle Buck' regularly fails in the audio department. Volume control is wonky, as the film can go too quiet, then too loud, requiring a few tweaks along the way. Of course, it's loud in the sense that it's a blaring mess at times, not a sonic powerhouse, a bull in the china shop, as it were, just being loud for the sake of. Dialogue can be flat, or harsh, but not too often natural. There's some bass in the mix, like the falling bowling ball, the backfire of Buck's sweet ride, or a few spots in the soundtrack, but it's almost like being next to some factory blown out speakers rocking gangster rap on an '80s family van. It sounds terrible. There are a few moments with some sync issues, as well, as the words come out just a split second before the corresponding set of lips make the proper movements.
If ever there were a disc that demanded to be played through a television's speakers and nothing else, it's this one. Shame on Universal. This is some lazy nonsense folks.
Universal really didn't put much effort into this release. A BD50 with no extras, no high def audio, and good, but nowhere near great video, this release is a peculiar dump. If this is what we get for dropped MSRP, I'd rather pay more and get a better product. Some people need to get off their asses and put out some better quality catalog titles, or else when the big ones come, people will be afraid to buy them due to quality concerns, and we'll all suffer due to said horrid sales making other films we want not hit the format. 'Uncle Buck' is a fun, warm film, and it deserved better than this. This disc could have been so much better. Fans may still want to pick this one up though.