Home Alone 3 (1997)


Alex Pruitt, a young boy of nine living in Chicago, fends off thieves who seek a top-secret chip in his toy car to support a North Korean terrorist organization’s next deed. (IMDb)
Sure, there are a few glaring instances of lacking realism (see the super long range remotes) but on the whole this is a fun, tightly-scripted kid comedy that’s a criminally underappreciated entry in the franchise. The disguise-wearing villains are funny (dry-witted Earl especially) and actually scary at times (see Alice and hostage in garage), and Alex’s entertaining escapades go beyond just booby-traps (see the exciting toy car investigation). Bonus points for the hilarious crooning parrot.
7/10 (Good)


Home Alone (1990)


An eight-year-old troublemaker must protect his house from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation. (IMDb)
Culkin’s cute and clever Kevin confidently carries this kooky Christmas classic, with help from Pesci and Stern’s easy-to-laugh-at bungling burglars. The slapstick comedy of the third act is the obvious highlight (“Why the hell did you take off your shoes?” “Why the hell are you dressed like a chicken?”) but solid writing engages you until then (see the grocery store scene; the subplot with Marley). The redemptive arc with the family didn’t hit home though (poor Kevin didn’t need to feel sorry).
7/10 (Good)

Uncle Buck (1989)


Bachelor and all round slob, Buck, babysits his brother’s rebellious teenage daughter and her cute younger brother and sister. (IMDb)
Candy is good as always, but aside from Buck’s hilariously loud entrance, he proves to be a pretty solid caregiver, enforcing curfew, keeping the creeps away, and always picking up, dropping off, and standing up for the kids. Laudable, but where’s the fun in that? The comedic formula is messed with here, and its replacement (stern dad/rebellious daughter-esque drama) feels uncalled for and kinda lame. Have Buck mature, but leave it until the end! Let’s see him take the kids to the track first.
6/10 (Mediocre)


The Great Outdoors (1988)


A Chicago man’s hope for a peaceful family vacation in the woods is shattered when the annoying in-laws drop in. (IMDb)
Remarkably unremarkable, with a predictable comedic plot that’s not even done particularly well. The central character dynamic between Candy’s down-to-earth dad and Aykroyd’s obnoxious rich guy lacks a certain zest, and most of the gags are either bland or go on way too long (see the water-skiing slapstick; unbearable bear story). Buck’s pointless and uninteresting romantic side plot does nothing to spice things up, while the final act development for Roman feels a little out of place.
5/10 (Poor)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)


A man must struggle to travel home for Thanksgiving with an obnoxious slob of a shower curtain ring salesman as his only companion. (IMDb)
Martin and Candy are in top form here as a perfectly non-compatible odd couple in a Murphy’s Law plot that’s got plenty of laughs early on (see their first night together), even more as Neal nears his breaking point (see his f-bomb laden car rental rant) and more than I’ve had in a long while when he crosses over to join Del in his happy-go-lucky world (see the uproarious singing-in-burnt car scene and the talking to the cop that followed). Neal’s final thought-train adds a nice touching moment.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

The Breakfast Club (1985)


Five high school students, all different stereotypes, meet in detention, where they pour their hearts out to each other, and discover how they have a lot more in common than they thought. (IMDb)
Discounting the disappointingly cliche ending romances, this is teen drama at its most authentic, dispensing with plot contrivances in favour of a dialogue-driven stage-play-like script–expertly shot and acted–that oscillates between vicious conflict and heartwarming bonding. Splashes of goofy humour (see oddball Allison’s sandwich meat toss) and feel-good shenanigans (see the dance number, hallway run), along with surges of sentimentality (see John’s parent reenactment), are tastefully added.
8/10 (Great)

Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)


A high school wise guy is determined to have a day off from school, despite what the principal thinks of that. (IMDb)
Between Ferris’ charming 4th-wall breaks (right down to his sly one-second looks), his outrageously serendipitous class-cutting escapades (makes himself the star of the downtown parade) and delightful deceits (his bedside baby talk to his parents is a riot), and a hilarious slapstick side plot with the crazy principal, there’s ample humour here, set to fresh, quirky and quick-cutting scenes. Ruck’s sympathetic Cameron, meanwhile, adds some touching character development to the great comedy.
7.5/10 (Really Good)

National Lampoon’s European Vacation (1985)

The Griswolds win a vacation tour across Europe where the usual havoc ensues. (IMDb)
Good for some laughs, but they are too few and far between. The memorable scenes (see the hotel room mix-up in England and the case of mistaken identity in Germany) are sparse amidst many slow and awkward ones where the humour tries but always falls just a bit short. The bad-guy-chase side-plot, meanwhile, feels cheap and does little to spice up the standard and uninspired mishap-laden plot. Altogether, the movie fails to ever pick up steam and consequently feels disjointed and boring.
5/10 (Poor)

National Lampoon’s Vacation (1983)

The Griswold family’s cross-country drive to the Walley World theme park proves to be much more arduous than they ever anticipated. (IMDb)
Definitely some laugh-out-loud moments, mostly thanks to Clark Griswold’s manic drive and ridiculous stubbornness, but they are too often separated by awkwardly slow scenes with bad attempts at humour. Poor joke execution aside, the 80s Americana road-trip cinematography is nice, and the film does well at building up the mishap-filled “Murphy’s Law” plot to a fittingly nuts-o climax.
6/10 (Mediocre)