John Hughes, USA 1989
Interested in obnoxious 1980s humour? Say no more: the late John Candy is coming to your rescue! The plus-size Canadian was a movie-house fixture in those days, playing anything from bit parts and leads in a series of hits and flops lasting throughout the decade and into the next, until his untimely death in Mexico at the age of 43, while making yet another movie. It’s all of 25 years ago that he passed away, and 30 since the release of Uncle Buck. He plays the lead of the same name, an uncle asked by his brother, as a very last resort, to look after his house and kids for a while. Two youngsters, a bright-eyed boy and girl, and a crabby teenage girl are entrusted to his care – initially hardly the word for what he provides. Although the story may take turns that are no surprise, thanks to Candy the movie is unforgettable, from his very first exhaust fumes spewing entrance in his rickety car, every bit a match for the man himself. And if you were wondering why some jokes don’t age well, Uncle Buck proves hilariously instructive. Limber up your toes, for they’re sure to be curling at one point or another.
So why would Zienema be providing such cinematic history for your perusal, you query? Another of our crew is leaving us – well for the Tuesday nights that is – and submitted a list of potential farewell movies that all proved unobtainable to screen legally, until the very last item: ‘cringe-worthy 1980s humour’. His wish was our command.
Like many comedy greats, John Candy began his career in the theatre and on television, where he proved a great mimic, doing anyone from Pavarotti and Orson Welles to Divine and Gertrude Stein. His breakthrough was alongside Tom Hanks in Splash (1984), although he had already been successful in doing many of the voices for the animated feature Heavy Metal (like Splash, directed by Ivan Reitman, who shot to global fame with Ghostbusters). He embarked on a mighty list of movies and television work, including a number of serious roles, which he also proved quite capable of (unfortunately never starring in a planned film based on John Kennedy O’Toole’s masterpiece, A Confederacy of Dunces, which would have seen him starring as Ignatius O’Reilly). Cardiovascular problems at an early age ran in his family, unfortunately, and would cut his career short in full bloom.
A few films were released after his death, including Canadian Bacon (1995) by Michael Moore (a movie that shows why he was wise to return to documentaries). Ween dedicated their album Chocolate and Cheese to him, a measure of his appeal to many a Canadian. Talk continues of renaming the Canadian movie awards The Candys in his honour, a fitting tribute to a memorable comedian and well-loved actor.