Uncle Buck

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Uncle Buck
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hughes
Written byJohn Hughes
Produced by
  • John Hughes
  • Tom Jacobson
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited by
Music byIra Newborn
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • August 16, 1989 (1989-08-16)
Running time
99 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$79.2 million

Uncle Buck is a 1989 American comedy film written and directed by John Hughes, and starring John Candy and Amy Madigan with supporting roles done by Jean Louisa Kelly, Laurie Metcalf, Jay Underwood, Macaulay Culkin, Gaby Hoffmann, Elaine Bromka, and Garrett M. Brown. The film tells the story of a bachelor who babysits his brother's rebellious teenage daughter and her younger brother and sister while the parents are away.

Uncle Buck was released in theatres on August 16, 1989, by Universal Pictures and grossed $79.2 million against a $15 million budget. Despite its mixed reviews by critics, the film was considered a cult classic in later years.


Bob and Cindy Russell have recently moved from Indianapolis with their three children, 15-year-old Tia, 8-year-old Miles, and 6-year-old Maizy, to the Chicago suburbs. Resentful about the recent move, Tia's relationship with her mother is fraught. The Russells receive a phone call informing them that Cindy's father has suffered a heart attack. Bob and Cindy unsuccessfully attempt to find a caretaker for the children, and are forced to turn to Bob's brother, Buck, whom Cindy believes to be unreliable and a bad influence. Buck lives in a small apartment in Chicago, is a heavy drinker and smoker, drives a run-down 1977 Mercury Marquis Brougham Coupe, and earns his living by betting on rigged horse races. His long-term girlfriend, Chanice, desires to get married and start a family, while Buck wants to retain his freedom and lack of responsibility; Chanice warns him that he will eventually end up alone.

Buck quickly befriends Miles and Maizy, whom he has never met, but Tia remains distant and rebellious. He settles into the Russell home and learns that he has been cropped out of his brother's wedding photos. Over the next several days, Buck takes the children bowling, ejects a drunken party clown from Miles' birthday party, defends Maizy from her school's strict assistant principal, and microwaves laundry because he cannot operate the washing machine. When Buck meets Tia's obnoxious boyfriend, Bug, he warns her that Bug is only interested in her for sex and repeatedly thwarts her plans to sneak out with him. In retaliation, Tia convinces Chanice that Buck is cheating on her with a neighbor, Marcy. When Chanice walks in on Marcy dancing with Buck, she ends their relationship. Buck laments that people used to envy his carefree life, but he realizes that lifestyle is no longer admirable.

After Tia sneaks out to a party, Buck decides to look for her instead of attending a horse race that would provide him with enough money for the entire year, and begs Chanice to look after Miles and Maizy. At the party, Buck forces open the door to a bedroom where he thinks Bug is taking advantage of Tia, but he finds Bug with another girl. He binds and gags Bug and locks him in his car's trunk, then finds a tearful Tia, who admits Buck was right about Bug. Opening the trunk, Buck forces Bug to apologize to Tia before letting him go. Bug threatens to sue Buck, but Buck hits him with golf balls, causing him to flee in terror.

Tia reconciles with Buck, then mends his relationship with Chanice by admitting her lie and telling Chanice that Buck would make a good husband and father. Buck also agrees to take a steady job at Chanice's automobile tire shop. Bob and Cindy return from Indianapolis after Cindy's father recovers, and Tia surprises her mother with a hug; Cindy promises that their relationship will improve. As he prepares to leave, Buck invites Tia to meet up with him in the city before exchanging a loving goodbye.


  • John Candy as Buck Russell, a lazy and wise-cracking but friendly and good-hearted bachelor who babysits his brother's children. During his time taking care of Tia, Miles and Maizy, Buck proves himself to be responsible and protective of his charges.
  • Jean Louisa Kelly as Tia Russell, the oldest daughter of Bob and Cindy. Resentful over the recent move to Chicago from Indianapolis, Tia is rebellious, morose and vitriolic - to the point where she alienates herself from her younger siblings and her mother (whom she acrimoniously blames for moving the family). She proves to be the most difficult charge for Buck as she tries to make things difficult for him. After recklessly going out with her no-good boyfriend to a party, she realizes the error in her ways and how much Buck really cares about her.
  • Laurie Metcalf as Marcy Dahlgren-Frost, the flirtatious divorced neighbour of the Russells who lives across the street and who forces her advances on Buck.
  • Jay Underwood as Bug, Tia's obnoxious boyfriend.
  • Macaulay Culkin as Miles Russell, the only son of Bob and Cindy. He is out-spoken, vigilant and security obsessed. He also has a dry-witty sense of humor. He bonds with his Uncle Buck on the spot and is impressed by Buck's style of cooking. Miles despises Tia's acrimonious attitude and is not afraid to point out Tia's poor social decisions.
  • Gaby Hoffmann as Maizy Russell, the youngest daughter of Bob and Cindy. The sweetest and most innocent of the three charges, Maizy bonds with Uncle Buck right off the bat. In spite of her innocence and age, Maizy proves to be just as witty and observant as her brother Miles. Maizy also dislikes Tia's attitude and babysitting methods and is not afraid to point them out.
  • Elaine Bromka as Cindy Russell, the wife of Bob who has a stormy relationship with Tia and has unintentionally overlooked her children due to her busy work schedule. She has a tendency to be a little snobby in regards to Buck's lifestyle and has a poor neighbor relationship with Marcy.
  • Garrett M. Brown as Bob Russell, the brother of Buck and husband of Cindy.
  • Amy Madigan as Chanice Kobolowski, Buck's girlfriend and proprietor of a tire shop. She wants to start a family with Buck, but is frustrated with his carefree, unemployed lifestyle.
  • Brian Tarantina as E. Roger Coswell, a friend of Buck.
  • Mike Starr as Pooter the Clown, a birthday clown who Buck rejects for being drunk and obscene.
  • Suzanne Shepherd as Anita Hoargarth, the strict assistant principal of Maizy's school. She is verbally pummeled into submission by Buck who is outraged by her inflexible harsh outlook on kids.
  • William Windom as Voice of Mr. Hatfield, the unseen neighbor of the Russells who Buck accidentally awakens upon his arrival.
  • Dennis Cockrum as Pal
  • Anna Chlumsky as one of Maizy's unnamed classmates
  • Ron Payne as Maizy's teacher

Additional voices were provided by Granville Ames, Patricia Arquette, Jack Blessing, Garin Bouble, Ramey Ellis, Leigh French, Tim Hoskins, Laura Jacoby, Todd Larson, Devon Odessa, Julie Payne, and Arnold F. Turner.


The film was the first one directed, written, and produced by John Hughes under a multi-picture agreement deal with Universal. Filming began on January 4, 1989, in Chicago.[1] The company decided to keep the production facilities and locations as close as possible. The vacant New Trier High School in Northfield, Illinois, was chosen for the production facility. Three of its gyms were converted into sound stages on which several sets were constructed including the two-levelled interior of the Russell House, Buck's bedroom, and smaller sets.[1] The school was also equipped to suit the needs of the cast and crew behind-the-scenes, with classrooms for the young actors, offices, dressing rooms, a wardrobe department, editing facilities, a special effects shop, equipment storage areas, and a projection booth. Production designer John Corso began designing the sets in October 1988 and within seven weeks his construction crew of twelve carpenters and five painters began work on the two levels of the Russell house. The elementary school corridor, the boys' restroom, the principal's office, and a classroom were filmed at Wilmette's Romona Elementary School. A colonial-style house in Evanston was chosen for the exterior of the Russell house. The exteriors and practical locations were shot in Chicago, Cicero, Skokie, Northbrook, Wilmette, Winnetka, Glencoe, and Riverwoods.[1]


Box office[edit]

The film earned $8.8 million on its opening weekend in 1,804 theatres and was placed No. 1 at the box office.[2] The film stayed in first place for three more weeks before being bumped down to second by Sea of Love. Its US earnings were 18th in 1989, and the film has earned nearly $80 million worldwide since its release.[3]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has given it a "Fresh" score of 62%, based on 26 reviews, with an average rating of 5.9/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Uncle Buck has its ups and downs, but there's undeniable comedic magic that comes from uniting John Hughes, John Candy, and a house full of precocious kids".[4] On Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating, the film has a score of 51 out of 100 based on 12 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[5] Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun-Times gave the movie 1.5 stars out of a possible 4, writing that Uncle Buck was unusually bitter and angry for a Hughes movie: "...Hughes is usually the master of the right note, the right line of dialogue, and this time there's an uncomfortable undercurrent in the material".[6]

Television series[edit]

A television series was broadcast on CBS in 1990. It starred Kevin Meaney as Buck, a slob who drinks and smokes. When Bob and Cindy die in a car accident, he is named the guardian of Tia, Miles, and Maizy. The show was not received well by TV critics. After it was moved to Friday, in an attempt by CBS to establish a comedy night there, its ratings quickly plummeted and it was cancelled.

In June 2016, ABC premiered a second television adaptation featuring an African-American cast with Mike Epps in the title role, James Lesure as his brother, and Nia Long as Buck's sister-in-law. It suffered a similar fate as the previous TV adaptation, as it was poorly received by critics and then cancelled after only eight episodes.[7]


In 1991, the film was remade in Malayalam language and released as Uncle Bun.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and Laserdisc in 1989, and on DVD in 1998 and 2003. On August 26, 2008, it appeared on the DVD box set "John Candy Comedy Favourites Collection", along with The Great Outdoors (1988) and Going Berserk (1983). In 2011, it was released on Blu-ray Disc for the first time on February 8, and released again on June 28, on Blu-ray with a DVD and a digital copy.


  1. ^ a b c "Uncle Buck (1989)". catalog.afi.com. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  2. ^ "'Uncle Buck' Is No. 1 At the Movie Box Office". The New York Times. August 23, 1989. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  3. ^ "Uncle Buck (1989)". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ "Uncle Buck (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved July 11, 2022.
  5. ^ "Uncle Buck". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Uncle Buck movie review & film summary (1989) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved October 27, 2020.
  7. ^ Petski, Denise (July 6, 2016). "'Uncle Buck' Canceled By ABC After One Season". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 13, 2018.

Further reading[edit]

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