It was the late Eighties. It had been some 18 years since Maude taught us how to love. It would be another seven before we'd meet and then complete Mr. Jerry Maguire. But for a brief moment there, we weren't alone. Writer/director John Hughes broke our romantic doldrums with a little help from John Candy.
Eye candy abounds on the screen. Most of it is forgettable. But Candy's performance as the title character in Hughes' 1989 film Uncle Buck gets me every time. As Buck, the uncouth uncle who has to prove himself to his brother's family, Candy is believably adorable, with a teddy-bearlike quality – yet somehow still able to leave dirty messages on his girlfriend's answering machine. He balances sweetness and manliness – a sense of humor and a sense of moral right. But it's the creative ways Buck shows he cares that really sets him apart, and Candy delivers those scenes expertly. My favorite? He surprises his nephew (Macaulay Culkin) with a birthday breakfast of giant pancakes so big he has to flip them with a snow shovel. My heart would've hit the floor. And you know, I bet he'd have helped me pick it up. "Ma'am, I believe this is yours?" he'd say. (So damn polite!)
That kindness goes a long way and remains central to so many of Candy's characters. In Hughes' Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987), Candy again has to prove himself – this time as Del Griffith to Neal Page (Steve Martin). Thirty minutes in, Page loses his patience with Griffith. Griffith's response melts Page ... and us.
"I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you, but I don't like to hurt people's feelings. You think what you want about me. I'm not changing. I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. 'Cause I'm the real article. What you see is what you get."
Uncle Buck: Thu., June 12, 7pm; Fri., June 13, 9:45pm (P)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles: Thu., June 12, 9pm; Fri., June 13, 7pm (P)
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