Uncle Buck

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Uncle Buck Movie Poster Image
'80s comedy about a bachelor babysitter has profanity, sex.
  • PG
  • 1989
  • 100 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 10 reviews

Kids say

age 11+
Based on 22 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Uncle Buck learns the importance of family and committed relationships. Tia, his teenage niece, learns to put more trust in the adults in her life and to try to do a better job of understanding her mother in particular.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Despite his deliberate unemployment, avoidance of committing to a relationship with his serious girlfriend, his slovenly appearance, and general irresponsibility, Uncle Buck clearly cares about his nieces and nephews and doesn't cave in to his teen niece's antisocial behavior. He grows to understand that, for all its freedom, his life of bachelorhood has some drawbacks. 

Violence

Buck punches a drunk man dressed as a clown. He threatens and implies violence toward his niece's boyfriend and later kidnaps him, puts him in his trunk, and tapes his wrists and ankles with duct tape. In a bedroom at a teen party, a boy makes sexual advances toward a girl with no real consent.

Sex

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. Buck has pet names for his girlfriend's private parts, culminating in "Felix," and as he goes over the pet names on her answering machine, the scene is abruptly cut by the sound of a meowing cat before he gets to say what "Felix" represents.

Language

A teen girl and her younger brother and sister say "s--t," "crap," and "goddammit." Later, the young boy asks his teen sister if she's "waiting for your sex?" Adults use occasional profanity: "son of a bitch," "a--hole," "pissant." While leaving a lengthy phone message on his girlfriend's answering machine, Buck talks about the pet names for her breasts and buttocks before talking about "Felix," and he's about to say what it is before the scene cuts to the sound of a meowing cat. A neighbor who sneaks into the house where Uncle Buck is babysitting, not realizing he's there, overhears him trying to unjam a packed washing machine, confusing his comments and violent thrusting for something sexual. An intoxicated man dressed as a clown talks about all the "dildo jokes" he made the night before at a bachelorette party. 

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Teens drink and smoke cigarettes. Drinking shown in a packed teen house party. Cigar smoking. Beer drinking at bars and bowling alleys. A clown hired to be the entertainment for a young boy's birthday party arrives drunk. 

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Uncle Buck is a 1989 John Hughes-directed movie in which John Candy plays a perpetually irresponsible adult brought in to babysit his nieces and nephew due to a family emergency. Within the first five minutes, a teen girl, while exchanging unpleasantries with her brother and sister, says "crap" and "s--t," followed by the brother saying "goddammit" and the little girl saying "s--t." Later, the boy asks his teen sister if she's "waiting for your sex?" While the profanity from kids more or less slows down after the beginning, adults also use profanity and make reference to "dildo jokes," and a neighbor mistakenly thinks Buck is having sex in the laundry room because of the sounds he makes as he tries to unjam a packed washing machine. Teens drink and smoke; the boyfriend of the teen girl clearly wants to have sex with her and is later seen engaged in nonconsensual foreplay with another girl at a party. For his part, Uncle Buck smokes cigars, drinks beer to excess, talks of pet names for his girlfriend's private parts (culminating in his name for his private part, "Felix"), and seems to make his living engaged in various scams involving gambling. Nonetheless, the movie does attempt to paint an accurate picture of 1980s teen life, and the characters begin to see the errors in their ways and lifestyles. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written by4Spice October 24, 2009

a classic 9 and over

great great movie very funny atch it 9 and over
Adult Written byzeekattacklee January 4, 2015

Parents should have judgement when letting there young ones watch this..

The overall film has it’s funny parts.. on the other hand, I think this film shouldn’t be shown to kids under the age of 13 due to it’s Sexual references, Langu... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old March 22, 2010

LOVE IT!!!

GREAT MOVIE!!! THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVORITE JOHN CANDY MOVIES!!!
Kid, 10 years old December 4, 2009

ROFL!

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 mo... Continue reading

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 take 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 likable 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, but it's also 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the conflicts among 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?

  • In the 1980s, John Hughes, the director of Uncle Buck, made a name for himself by making movies that tried to move beyond the typical trite stereotyping of teenagers and to convey the realities of broken homes, drug and alcohol use, teen sex, cliques, and not fitting in as well as coming to grips with first loves, more responsibilities, and uncertain futures. Where and how do these portrayals of teens seem (and look) dated, and what are some of the ways in which the issues addressed are still discussed decades after these movies were released? 

  • If you could remake this movie, how would you do it? Who would star?

Movie details

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