Sunday, November 10, 2013

Uncle Buck

Original Movie Poster

Well here we are again with yet another look back at films from my childhood and of course we are right in the middle of looking at the films that were a little above the normal Disney animated canon and franchise based kid films that other kids my age were watching. I think because my parents had no restrictions or reservations when it came to movies as long as an adult was with me (mostly my dad or both parents) I could watch any movie they did (unless of course they just wanted to go out and see a movie together which I remember they did quite a couple of times). I don't really remember when I first saw Uncle Buck but I do believe that it was probably with my dad mostly because I believe this movie was more in his taste than my mother's because my father was a very funny man not unlike the late John Candy except my father looked more like Tom Selleck (but more on that some other time...)

Imagine Tom Selleck + this suit and face = my late father!

So...What's The Plot?
The Russell Family seem like average suburbanites moved from Indianapolis to Chicago, just one average neighborhood to another with two little kids, son Miles and daughter Maizy, and of course one sullen teenage daughter Tia. Moved away from her friends, Tia takes a lot of teenage angst out on her mother Cindy and it comes to a head when Cindy's father has a heart attack. With no one to look after the kids, Father Bob suggests that perhaps his brother Buck could help out during this time of family emergency but Cindy is none to thrilled with the idea. Buck is an unemployed gambler but he is a fun-loving goof who only seems to really suffer one flaw in having commitment issues with his girlfriend Chanice.

Buck arrives and of course hits it off with the younger children but now he gets to suffer the brunt of Tia's teenaged animosity. Unlike her mother, Buck dishes out just as much sarcasm and snark that leaves Tia to continually push his buttons in a battle of wills. Buck only seems to face one real problem with Tia: trying to keep her away from her punk boyfriend Bug who only wants to use her for sex. All hilarity comes to a stop when Tia leaves for a party and her Uncle Buck must finally face real responsibility for the first time to make sure she doesn't get hurt and her heartbroken. Will this be the thing to finally make Uncle Buck grow up and change all his ways?

Let's hope Buck keeps up the's fun!

I know it doesn't seem like much and even what I described of the plot doesn't sound much like a comedy but if you have never seen Uncle tell you anymore would surely spoil it for you. For those who have had the privilege to view this movie, you know just how hilarious Uncle Buck can get and what a great film this truly is. Now I don't really think there is an official soundtrack for Uncle Buck but the predominant amount of music that you here in the film is by that great nostalgic artist of the late 80s-early 90s Young MC who's biggest hit ever is "Bust A Move" which so dates how 80s this film is. Another musical tidbit that pops up a few times is Tone Loc's version of "Wild Thing" or more correctly an instrumental version that kind of serves as Uncle Buck's own personal theme which must be seen or heard to believe. A couple of other musical selections are some Perry Como in a bowling alley scene, the song "Laugh, Laugh" by The Beau Brummels which is one of my favorite little oldies that my mom would listen to on the radio in the car and a very cute scene which uses The Chordettes classic "Mr. Sandman" which today would probably creep kids out seeing as it's mostly used in horror films (for some reason I know not why...)

Coming to the acting portion we'll start with one big name and then end with another as we discuss what I think of the cast. First, Macaulay Culkin as Miles is just a big bag of hilarious cuteness! Watching this film which was his first major movie role at age nine, you could tell Macaulay was going to be star because not only was he cute and funny but he didn't really have to act like a kid considering he was a real child. The things I noticed with child actors is that they really either act too grown up or they seem really wooden in their delivery and Macaulay Culkin never seemed to do that. Since I was six when Uncle Buck came out, I must admit that I was kind of crushing on Macaulay Culkin which for me it is very rare since given my history I usually go for the older, foreign-accented type but he was adorable. I think the crush waned after I saw The Good Son and slightly returned when Richie Rich came out and has now all but vanished but my admiration of Macaulay Culkin's acting is still intact (ah the day I talk about the movie I truly love him in seems so far away...)

My next favorite character in the film is Tia so let's talk about her and the actress that plays her Jean Louisa Kelly. I think I love Tia because of course she gets as much focus as Uncle Buck and like the character of Miles ends up stealing a bit of the movie's focus because since Kelly was seventeen when the movie was made she can actually relate to being a teenager which doesn't make the acting a stretch. Today most people know Jean as Kim from the show Yes, Dear but did you know that she got her start as a theater actress and even starred on Broadway in a production of Stephen Sondheim's Into The Woods? Jean Louisa Kelly has a beautiful singing voice and there is evidence of that if you ever get to see Mr. Holland's Opus on TV sometime which caused me to do a double take because I mostly remembered her from Uncle Buck!

Jay Underwood as Bug with Jean Louisa Kelly as Tia

 I thought I would talk about Maizy and Chanice next because the actors who played them in Uncle Buck, Gaby Hoffmann and Amy Madigan respectively, both starred in the film Field Of Dreams a few months before this film was made. In that movie they were daughter and mother but here they get very little screen time together (spoiler) and the characters aren't related but they are both my next favorite characters in the film. Gaby was seven when she starred in this movie so like Macaulay as Miles she had a cute factor and six year old me thought we could be best friends so as she grew up into more mature roles being the same age as me I begin to appreciate her acting. I absolutely love Amy Madigan as Chanice because she can stand up to Buck for all the bull and bunk he gives her but even Chanice can fall to Buck's fun and witty charm and of course Madigan herself is a great actress who can do drama and comedy on an even playing field.

Amy Madigan as Chanice with young Macaulay and Gaby

The actors who play the Russell parents, Bob and Cindy, don't really get a lot of screen time so I don't really think they are important enough to talk about so the only other actors in the film to discuss are two semi-important characters. There of course is Tia's boyfriend Bug played by Jay Underwood who was memorable in the 80s in films such as Not Quite Human and the nostalgic classic The Boy Who Could Fly. He's an okay actor and quite cute in that jerk kind of way and he's probably as close to an antagonist character as we get. Another notable actor playing a kind of important character is Laurie Metcalf who almost everyone knows as Aunt Jackie from Roseanne. In Uncle Buck she plays a neighbor of the Russell family named Marcy Dahlgren-Frost who kind of develops a crush on Buck and since she is a divorced, upper class housewife she's more into country clubs than bake sales. Metcalf has been nominated for Tony Awards and has won three Emmys for her work on Roseanne so its clear she is a good actress and I have to admit I wish she had more scenes because when she plays off John Candy's Uncle Buck it's hilarious!

To make up for not enough video spoilers here's John Candy harassing a clown...

So of course we leave the best and biggest role for last as we talk about John Candy as Uncle Buck. I just love Uncle Buck and thought it was one of the late Mr. Candy's greatest comedic roles if not the greatest but there are so many films he is in that I love we could be here all day talking about him. Speaking of Candy himself as an actor he was one of the greatest that had to be taken too soon even though its been noted that obesity plagued him most of his life and might have been one of the reasons for his heart attack that claimed his life. Besides his movie roles John Candy was apart of my childhood thanks in part to his animated series Camp Candy which I use to watch a lot as a child that in part made me appreciate his film acting and opened my world to this talented and funny man. We really miss you, John Candy, and all the laughter you brought to us and I think most of us would have been honored to have a father or an uncle like you or Uncle Buck in our lives.

John Candy... Rest In Peace, Sir

I hope I didn't get too sentimental on you and I don't want to leave this post on such a somber note when the movie is anything but. There is drama but ultimately Uncle Buck is a comedy classic of the 1980s and if you have yet to view this wonderful John Hughes directed film that is not a teen flick then I recommend it for your next Family Fun Night. For those of you who have seen Uncle Buck but have not watched it in a while... what are you waiting for? Go get your DVD or old VHS copy and prepare to relive the side-splitting laughs again and again!

NEXT TIME: You know how I was talking about horror movie sequels before? Well even my childhood wasn't immune to them! Did you know that one existed to one of the most memorable movies of all time?'s Grease 2 next blog...

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Adventures In Babysitting

I know it has been about a month or two since I last blogged but October is too much of a temptation to talk about horror films and since I have decided to stray from that particular genre for a while, I thought it best just to not blog at all. So after a break of watching all my glorious gory and scary films I am back, followers, to lighten up the tone with the movie I said I would talk about many moons ago.

Movie Poster

Since I have been talking about films that graced my childhood, I don't see why I can't talk about movies that were slightly above my normal age group. You know I watched Disney films and animated classics but every once and awhile I saw movies that were a tad more mature. You know now that I think about it my parents weren't very strict about what I could and could not watch so I would find many movies on HBO and Cinemax on Friday and Saturday nights when I could stay up late. I don't really remember when I first saw Adventures In Babysitting but I remember what drew me to it and for those who haven't seen it it's not really a spoiler because it was the opening.

Since my parents listened to what we called "oldies" music of the 1950s and 1960s when I heard that opening to The Crystals "Then He Kissed Me" and saw Elisabeth Shue dancing around her bedroom getting ready for a big date it kind of hit a chord in me. Little girls do the same thing in their rooms singing into hairbrushes and lip-synching to the radio (I did that plenty listening to my Heart and Madonna records) so seeing a (at the time) 24 year old Elisabeth Shue pretending to be 17 doing the same was very relateable to a little girl like myself. Nostalgia glasses set aside for a moment let's continue just a little differently...

Plot After Spoiler Opening Video Goes Like This...

So after all her dancing like an idiot our lead character, Chris Parker, gets the news from her boyfriend Mike that he has to cancel their date because his little sister is sick. Dejected, Chris gets roped into babysitting for the Anderson family's two kids, Brad and Sara. Well only 8 year old Sara really needs a babysitter because Brad is 15 years old and happens to have a huge crush on Chris. It seems the night might be a pretty boring one despite the awkwardness of Brad having to be babysat by his older crush until Chris gets a call from her friend Brenda. She's at the bus station downtown after running away from home and having blown money on the ride there, she now needs Chris to come and pick her up. With no choice but to bring Brad and Sara along, Chris heads out in her mother's car to go pick Brenda up.

She has no idea what she's in for...

Another little quirk in this is that Brad's friend Darryl Coopersmith ends up joining them since Brad was supposed to actually be staying the night at his house but opted out so he could spend the evening in the company of his crush. On the way downtown, the car gets a flat tire and discovering that there is no spare (why would you have no spare tire?) the kids hitch a ride with a tow truck driver, a nice enough fellow named "Handsome" John Pruitt who just so happens to have only one hand and the other is a hook (hand-some get it?) However after getting a ride you think the movie would be over but it's really just the beginning of the true adventure and leading Chris to discover that babysitting isn't what she thought it would be.

Let's go back to an image of the intro just because it was that good...

I am still set in my ways that I not tell you everything about the film just in case a few of you have not had the chance to see this movie. For those of you who have you know that there are way too many plots going on so that if I tell one I may spoil the others. In any case, Adventures In Babysitting was Chris Columbus' first directorial debut and if you don't know who he is then I assume you have been under a rock most of your existence since you obviously have never seen Home Alone or the first two Harry Potter films. I guess I could say that Chris Columbus is another one of my favorite directors because I have at least eight of his films in my own personal movie collection and have seen the other films he has directed but do not personally own. I think he does a fantastic job his first time out on Adventures In Babysitting and has only gotten better in his craft despite mostly being a more family film oriented director and that's just fine. Usually I go straight to the film cast but we're going to shake it up a little this time and go to the soundtrack instead.

Darryl: Yeah let's talk about that soundtrack ...ya think?

Not really commercially available (I haven't really seen it unless it's online to purchase or in a bargain bin somewhere for $1) Adventures In Babysitting is set in Chicago so being said it is known for being the home of soul and the blues. Taking advantage of such a musical heritage, the music heard in the movie is mostly good old rhythm and blues from (as expressed by the opening) the 50s & 60s. There is some Sam Cooke, some Junior Walker, some Edwin Starr, Percy Sledge performs a song after the opening that is very memorable and fantastic, there's some more traditional blues artists like Muddy Waters and Albert Collins (who also appears in the film in one great scene...oops spoiler!). There are some non-blues examples like Iggy Pop and The Rolling Stones but the real standout is a band called Southside Johnny And The (Asbury) Jukes.

See they are a real band from New Jersey that have been around since 1979 and have actually played with Bruce Springsteen and his E Street Band. They are still around today and even though they appear in the movie as a cover/bar band (another sorry!) they have released albums in their three basic examples: studio, live and compilations. They perform an original song "Future In Your Eyes" which is very nice of what you get to hear and they perform a cover version of "Expressway To Your Heart" originally by The Soul Survivors which besides being really good is the first song ever written by Gamble & Huff who for those not versed in music trivia were a big songwriting-producing team that skyrocketed soul music in the 60s, 70s and 80s and were very influential in Philadelphia soul. With all of that information if you find anything at all to love about Adventures In Babysitting, for music lovers this soundtrack is tops if nothing else.

Okay the music lover in me got all of that out of the way so now we can focus on the acting and characters in the film and I have a feeling I might spoil a little bit more of Adventures In Babysitting for those who have not seen it...damn it.

Publicity still of Elisabeth Shue for this movie

 Of course, Elisabeth Shue is Chris as you know and I think she does an okay job in the role. I have to admit that this is the only movie I have seen of hers that I actually enjoy. Don't get me wrong I don't think she is a bad actress but I guess the nostalgia just holds me back from liking anything else. For those who love Elisabeth Shue don't bash me because I may have a surprise for you in the future regarding Elisabeth Shue's film roles. My by far favorite character and actor in the film is Anthony Rapp as Darryl Coopersmith! He gets the best lines, has the best laugh ever, is a complete horn dog despite probably not having even gotten to first base with a girl yet and adds so much snark to the film that he is probably the reason it's so funny and comedic in the first place! Anthony has turned into a big Broadway actor having appeared in Rent and many other forms of stage theater as well as still acting in films and television.

Elisabeth Shue, I just love this expression on your face!

 My next favorite character is Brad played by Keith Coogan. Though he is still an example of snarky, comedic timing in his lines and interactions with Darryl/Anthony he is also a very sweet and caring person with a shy side and a very level head on his shoulders. At times he is quite unsure of himself but when he needs to be a big brother to Sara, Brad is and when the time comes for him to act a little more mature than Darryl he does in a big way. Keith Coogan was actually 17 at the time so he can play a teenager convincingly and not have to shine it on about how insecure teenagers really can be at that age. I should note that younger me thought Brad was really cute and like a little puppy dog now that I think about it with his big brown eyes and also was literally a fox because he voiced young Tod in Disney's The Fox And The Hound when he was just 11 years's that for a lamp-shading segue?

Keith Coogan as Brad Anderson: Former little girl crush

Okay so I might be a little harsh now because I am older but I really can't stand the character of Sara in this movie. I know she's only a kid and I'm not saying that little Maia Brewton was a bad actress and it's not geared towards her personally but just the character in general. She is kind of annoying most of the time, sometimes showing genuine  hints of concern and childish vulnerability but the character of Sara causes most of the trouble for the others one scene slightly but another in a very big way and I don't think it can even be boiled down to just being a kid and not knowing any better. There are a few other actors that appear in Adventures In Babysitting in smaller roles from the main cast but are worth mentioning.

How did Sara end up here? Answer: It's Brenda's fault!

Penelope Ann Miller I guess can be given the most credit since she is actually the reason our main characters get into the predicaments they do thanks to her character Brenda. We get some really good scenes that show off Miller's acting because when it comes to the comedic element, Penelope is a genius and oh my god I'm rolling on the floor laughing at how well I can imitate her shaky delivery! Despite portraying a comedic character, Penelope Ann Miller is also a very good dramatic actress so if you ever get a chance to see Carlito's Way or have already seen it you can take my word on that.

Penelope Ann Miller as Brenda , the character who ruins her best friend's night more than the boyfriend!

Other actors of note are George Newbern who appears in a small role (later kind of important...spoiler!) and if you remember I already talked a lit about him in my blog post on the film Doppelganger so I guess the last person I can mention is Vincent D'Onofrio. Oh yes Law And Order fans you should know who he is and if you really want to see a different side to him you should definitely check this film out! I could talk about his acting but I kind of want to save that for another film he stars in that I own sometime down the line and besides talking about his appearance here is a big kind of spoiler. Don't worry, D'Onofrio, you're time to shine will come I promise!

Could this night get any worse? Answer: Of course!

Sorry I've been out of the blogging scene for a bit and I'm going to need time to oil my rusty gears to get back to par but I hope you enjoyed my look back at one of the films of my childhood. Adventures In Babysitting is one of those PG-13 gems that I'm glad I got to see in my unhindered movie-viewing youth and it still gives me many laughs and smiles today. If you have yet to see it, I highly recommend you do and if you have, I hope it brought back good memories for you too!

NEXT TIME: I'll be back with a movie I view as being another little more mature family kind of film I had the pleasure of viewing in my youth and it is still one of the best films I have ever seen! So wish me luck because next blog we'll look back at Uncle Buck