Uncle Buck



The Candy man can make this iffy movie taste good.
Popular with kidsParents recommend
  • Review Date: November 19, 2007
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Release Year: 1989
  • Running Time: 100 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Buck's oddball ways and plain-spoken style of dealing with things supposedly mends a bad family rift here. Still, he's a drinker, glutton, smoker, and gambler and chronically jobless, even though he shows enough responsibility to protect his troubled niece. Folks on the Russell's (rich) side of town come across as intrinsically chilly and nasty; Buck's (poor) side of town is more down to earth and homey.


"Comedic" stuff, as Buck punches out a drunk and threatens his niece's unwanted boyfriend with kidnapping and torture-dismemberment.


When Buck swears and wrestles with an uncooperative washing machine, an eavesdropper thinks he's having rough sex. Talk of teen pregnancy in the case of Tia and her boyfriend, who clearly wants to go all the way with her.


Pretty intense for a PG, with repeated variations on "s--t" and "goddamn," and "pissant." Both children and adults talk like that.


Food products, auto parts brands are prominent, as is oldies music.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Teen and adult drinking; a hostile, drunken party clown, and Buck himself getting plastered. Buck brags about quitting.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that the swearing in this movie is pretty intense for a PG film, and there is attempted teen sex (nothing explicitly shown, but no doubt what's going on) and a mistaken belief that adult sex has taken place. Buck pretends to be psychotic, capable of torture-murder and mutilation with power tools, as he intimidates a grubby boy trying to get intimate with his niece. Buck also indulges in drinking, smoking, and gambling.

What's the story?

Buck Russell (John Candy), 40, is a sports-betting, unemployed bachelor living in a messy apartment, stringing along his longtime girlfriend, Chanice (Amy Madigan), who wants to settle down with him. The black sheep of the family, Buck is shocked when his brother calls. It's an emergency -- his sister in-law's father has suffered a heart attack, and they need Buck stay at their posh suburban home to watch the kids while they go out of town. Buck walks into an uncomfortable household situation. Little Mazy (Gaby Hoffman) and Miles (Macaulay Culkin) get along great with the big, goofy teddy-bear uncle. But 15-year-old niece Tia (Jean Kelly) positively loathes Buck. Her resentment and teen rebellion against her mother takes the form of haughty sarcasm, progressive apparel, and hanging with a vaguely "goth" party crowd. Eventually Tia's feud with Buck crosses the line and causes genuine pain. But you get the feeling the girl is just imitating, in caricature, typically snotty grown-ups on her side of the tracks.

Is it any good?


In Uncle Buck, John Hughes has created a hero who exhibits both the virtues and the drawbacks of acting like a big kid. The benefits outweigh the negatives, though -- or at least that's the case Hughes tries to make. As he did in Pretty in Pink and The Breakfast Club, Hughes makes it seem like class structure in America is just as divisive as the dukedoms and commoners in Jane Austen's backyard.

And, when Buck agrees to watch the kids, it not only helps him avoid a job Chanice lined up for him, it's supposed to prove to her that he can be a responsible parent-like figure. In spite of himself. There's enough slapstick and falling-down stuff with Candy acting goofy to please viewers not looking for heavy stuff, and the acting is all on target.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the conflicts between the various characters. Do you think Buck could have handled bad-girl Tia in a more productive way? Do you believe the way the story comes out? Has Buck himself grown up a little by the end? What do you think will happen between him and Chanice?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 16, 1989
DVD release date:August 23, 2005
Cast:Jean Louisa Kelly, John Candy, Macaulay Culkin
Director:John Hughes
Studio:Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Topics:Book characters, Misfits and underdogs
Run time:100 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 12 years old March 22, 2010


What other families should know
Great role models
Adult Written by4Spice October 24, 2009

a classic 9 and over

great great movie very funny atch it 9 and over
Kid, 10 years old December 4, 2009


This is one of my favorite movies! there is a lot of swering, drugs, and humor! it is a great family movie. it is my favorite John Candy film ive seen. great movie.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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