Uncle Buck (1989)
Written & Directed by John Hughes
Uncle Buck will forever be associated with John Candy. When you see the actor, you almost always think of this picture. In turn, it signals the end of an era for filmmaker John Hughes. This was the first film he did as part of a multi-picture deal with Universal. Hughes had already signed with Universal in the early 1980s after the success scripts for Mr. Mom and National Lampoon’s Vacation. After The Breakfast Club, Hughes soured on the deal, he was known for being very contentious with studios. Uncle Buck was his return to Universal after a four-year sojourn, and about a year later, he would be trying to get out of the contract already. Uncle Buck is a movie that exists as both a pleasant piece of nostalgia for millennials but is also a moment when a great mainstream director’s career began to wither.
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Who’s Harry Crumb? (1989)
Written by Robert Conte & Peter Martin Wortmann
Directed by Paul Flaherty
Certain films are made to challenge the audience’s expectations of an actor or allow them to stretch their acting chops in a new direction. Who’s Harry Crumb? seems like it is that sort of film, existing to give John Candy a chance to play more characters and play a confident idiot. The result is something that, in moments, plays to his strengths but so often falls flat and is ultimately a waste of talent and resources. This was a movie intended to create a new comedy franchise but did so poorly with audiences and critics that it’s become another forgettable 1980s comedic footnote.
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The Great Outdoors (1988)
Written by John Hughes
Directed by Howard Deutch
John Hughes was such a hot property in the 1980s and has his script being directed by many other directors. Before his untimely death at age 59, he only directed eight films. Compare that to the over thirty scripts he wrote between 1983 and 2008. When you write that many movies, you must accept that the quality would vary and near the end of his life. Even during Hughes’s peak, there were some middling but entertaining pictures like The Great Outdoors. This is a deep childhood favorite for me, and I admit as an adult, not all the jokes that hit hard in my youth still have that effect it is still a wonderfully fun family comedy with that edge 1980s movies seemed to have.
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Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1987)
Written & Directed by John Hughes
After years of great turns as a supporting character and a couple stumbling blocks as a lead actor, John Candy finally found the filmmaker that understood his particular strengths in John Hughes. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles is one of the best American comedies of the late 20th century, able to provide ample laughs and intelligent observations about contemporary middle-class life, the rigors of travel, and the burden of always needing to work to keep up. Candy plays to all his strengths as an actor, particularly how he can evoke great pathos from the audience.
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Armed and Dangerous (1986)
Written by Brian Grazer, James Keach, Harold Ramis, and Peter Torokvei
Directed by Mark L. Lester
John Candy was most well known by comedy fans in 1986 from his work on SCTV. The series ran from 1976 through 1984 under the names Second City TV, SCTV Network 90, and finally SCTV Channel. In total, he appeared in almost ninety episodes, and one of his consistent co-stars was fellow Canadian, Eugene Levy. Modern audiences mostly know Levy from his role as Johnny Rose on Schitt’s Creek and if Christopher Guest’s mockumentary comedies. Pairing the two in a feature film at the beginning of their popularity with American audiences sounds like a perfect idea, however Armed and Dangerous didn’t turn out that way.
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Summer Rental (1985)
Written by Jeremy Stevens & Mark Reisman
Directed by Carl Reiner
John Candy was born in Ontario in 1950 to a working-class Roman Catholic family. His dad passed away when John was only five years old, but having a large family support group, he was able to work through that time. As a young adult, he went to college for journalism and pivoted when he discovered how much enjoyed performing. This led to his joining the Toronto branch of The Second City and several guest spots on Candian television. It was his work on SCTV, Second City’s response to the popularity of Saturday Night Live that brought him to the attention of the American public. After a few small film roles, John gained his most prominent recognition in a supporting role in Ivan Reitman’s Stripes. He became a regular comedic supporting figure in pictures like National Lampoon’s Vacation and especially Splash. Summer Rental was John’s first starring role, and it would lead to many more headlining spots.
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