Uncle Buck

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Uncle Buck
Uncle buck.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn Hughes
Produced by
  • John Hughes
  • Tom Jacobson
Written byJohn Hughes
Music byIra Newborn
CinematographyRalf D. Bode
Edited by
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.

Starring John Candy and Amy Madigan, the film tells the story of a bachelor and all-around-slob who babysits his brother's rebellious teenage daughter and her younger brother and sister.

Uncle Buck was released in theaters on August 16, 1989, by Universal Pictures and grossed $79.2 million against a $15 million budget.


Bob and Cindy Russell and their three children, 15-year-old Tia, 8-year-old Miles, and 6-year-old Maizy, have recently moved from Indianapolis to the Chicago suburbs due to Bob's promotion.

Late one night, they receive a phone call from Cindy's aunt in Indianapolis informing them that her father has had a heart attack. They make plans to leave immediately to be with him. After hearing the news, Tia, bitter about being forced to move, accuses Cindy of abandoning her father. Bob suggests asking his brother Buck to come and watch the children, to which Cindy objects; she considers Buck a bad influence and a failure. In contrast to the Russells' middle class lifestyle, Buck lives in a small apartment in Chicago, drinks, smokes cigars, earns his living by betting on rigged horse races, and drives a dilapidated 1977 Mercury that backfires.

Cindy suggests asking their neighbors for help instead, but finds they are vacationing in Florida, leaving Buck as their only option. Although Buck cheerfully accepts the job, he finds himself at odds with his girlfriend of eight years, Chanice. She wants to get married and start a family, but Buck is reluctant to do so as he loves his lifestyle. Still, to quell her dissatisfaction, Buck has grudgingly accepted a new job at her tire shop. When he informs her that he cannot start his job yet due to the family emergency, Chanice assumes Buck is trying, as usual, to lie his way out of working.

Upon arriving, Buck deals with Cindy's cold demeanor towards him and finds himself edited out of Bob and Cindy's wedding picture. Nevertheless, he quickly befriends Miles and Maizy, but the rebellious Tia is brash and hostile, and the two engage in a battle of wills. When Buck meets Tia's cocky, obnoxious boyfriend, Bug, he warns her that Bug is only interested in her for sex and repeatedly thwarts her plans to sneak away on dates with him. Over the next several days, he deals with several situations in comedic fashion, including taking the kids to his favorite bowling alley, making enormous pancakes for Miles' birthday, ejecting a drunk birthday clown from the property, berating the school's overly strict assistant principal about Maizy's behavior in class, and handling the laundry when the washing machine doesn't work. Eventually, Tia exacts revenge on Buck for meddling in her relationship by tricking Chanice into thinking that Buck is cheating on her with their neighbor, Marcie. The next day, Chanice comes over to confront Buck about what she heard, but is furious to find Buck dancing with Marcie in the living room; Chanice leaves him.

The following weekend, concerned after Tia sneaks out to a party, Buck decides to go looking for her rather than attend a horse race which would have provided him with enough money for the entire following year. He calls and begs Chanice to watch Miles and Maizy as he searches for Tia. At the party, thinking that Bug is taking advantage of her in a bedroom, he forces the door open by drilling out the lock but walks in on Bug with another girl. After he finds Tia wandering the streets, she tearfully apologizes to him and acknowledges he was right about Bug. Buck then reveals Bug, bound and gagged with duct tape, in the trunk of his car. After intimidating him, Buck lets Bug out of the trunk to apologize to her. When Bug is finally released, he threatens to sue Buck and retracts his apology but flees in fear after Buck strikes him with a golf ball.

At home, Tia helps Buck reconcile with Chanice by admitting her lie and tells Chanice that Buck would be a good husband and father. Buck also agrees to start his job at the garage, and he and Chanice get back together.

Cindy's father recovers, and she and Bob return home from Indianapolis. Upon entering the house, Tia surprises her mother with a hug. The entire Russell family says farewell to Buck and Chanice as they leave for Chicago, with Buck and Tia exchanging a loving wave goodbye.


Casting notes[edit]

Danny DeVito, Tom Cruise, Robin Williams, Tom Hanks, Jack Nicholson, John Travolta, Michael Keaton, George Wendt, Chevy Chase, Dan Aykroyd, John Goodman, Ed O'Neill and Joe Pesci were all considered for the lead role before it went to John Candy.[citation needed] This was Jean Louisa Kelly's first feature film.


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. 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-leveled interior of the Russell House, Buck's bedroom, and smaller sets. The school was also equipped to suit the needs of the cast and crew behind-the-scenes, classrooms for the young actors, offices, dressing rooms, 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.


Box office[edit]

The film earned $8.8 million on its opening weekend to 1,804 theaters and was placed No. 1 at the box office.[1] 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.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

Upon release, the film received mixed reviews from critics. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes has given it a "Fresh" score of 63%, based on 24 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."[3] 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".[4] 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."[5]

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 as 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 canceled.

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 canceled after only eight episodes.[6]


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 Favorites Collection," along with The Great Outdoors (1988) and Going Berserk (1983). On February 8, 2011, it was released on Blu-ray Disc for the first time, and released again on June 28, 2011, on Blu-ray with a DVD and a digital copy.


  1. ^ "'Uncle Buck' Is No. 1 At the Movie Box Office". The New York Times. August 23, 1989. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  2. ^ "Uncle Buck (1989)". Box Office Mojo.
  3. ^ "Uncle Buck (1989)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved October 22, 2011.
  4. ^ "Uncle Buck". Metacritic. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Uncle Buck movie review & film summary (1989) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2020-10-27.
  6. ^ Petski, Denise (2016-07-06). "'Uncle Buck' Canceled By ABC After One Season". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 2018-11-13.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]