It’s almost been 20 years since the passing of John Candy, but for those of us who grew up in the ’80s and ’90s his presence still looms large. His last film was released in 1995 yet he’s still a main staple of basic cable programming; think “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles” Thanksgiving Marathon. With another month left in the summer calendar, now is the perfect time to take in some classic Candy before the crush of the fall hits us. A good Candy marathon can help anyone get through the pain and sadness of preseason football. The following list of films is a great guide for anyone looking to relive the comedy magic of the ’80s and ’90s.
Barf: I’m a mog: half man, half dog. I’m my own best friend!
Candy had the perfect personality to play the best friend roles in movies, and this list is full of those performances. In “Spaceballs,” he shines as a Chewbacca-mocking half man, half dog named Barf. The last classic Mel Brooks parody allowed Candy to be a real life version of Pete the pup from the “Our Gang” films. His tongue flaps from his mouth when trudging through the desert and he whimpers convincingly when confronted by Pizza the Hut. It’s criminal that Hollywood has greenlighted and produced two different Incredible Hulk movies, but couldn’t pull together a Spaceballs sequel.
Dewey Oxburger: My name’s Dewey Oxburger. My friends call me Ox. You might have noticed that, uh, I’ve got a slight weight problem.
Did I hear a call for mud wrestling?
8. National Lampoon’s Vacation
Lasky, Guard at Walley World: That’s not a real gun, is it Clark?
Clark: Are you kidding? This is a Magnum P.I.
Lasky, Guard at Walley World: It’s a BB gun!
Clark: Don’t tempt me. I could put an eye out with this thing.
Lasky, Guard at Walley World: You couldn’t even break the skin with that thing.
Candy pops up in a small part at the end of the movie as a pushover security guard at Walley World, but his scenes with Chevy Chase on the roller coaster are some of the best parts of the movie.
7. Who’s Harry Crumb
Harry Crumb: [impersonating a Hungarian hairdresser] I am Djour Djilios.
Suki’s Salon Receptionist: Could you spell that please?
Harry Crumb: I don’t think so. Try it with a “D”.
A sentimental pick of mine that bumped “Delirious” and “Splash” off the list, “Crumb” is Candy’s version of the bumbling Inspector Clouseau. The movie isn’t universally regarded as a classic, but to me it deserves its place on the list.
6. Brewster’s Millions
Spike Nolan: Monty, this is Hackensack, NJ. No scout comes here, you understand that. Trains are going through the outfield right now. But you strike this guy out, I’ll take you with me tonight and get you drunk, that’s a promise.
I was surprised in the middle of a Richard Pryor documentary I caught on cable when they started to discuss how the quality of Pryor’s movies dwindled when he needed to make some quick cash. During that discussion, the documentary showed clips from the movie “The Toy” when Pryor plays the real life play thing of a white rich kid, and a clip from “Brewster’s Millions.” The subject was how depressed Pryor was during the making of those films. I was shocked to hear that, because I spent many a rainy Sunday devouring this movie, and most of my enjoyment came from Candy’s role as Pryor’s best friend/catcher. He’s the happy and upbeat face for the entire film. He even got to wear a solid gold catcher’s mask necklace. That piece of jewelry was the ultimate in cool for an 8 year old.
5. Armed and Dangerous
The Cowboy: Slim, I ain’t never seen a handgun that big before.
Frank Dooley: Yeah, it’s a 50 caliber. They used to use it to hunt buffalo with… up close! It’s only legal in two states. And this isn’t one of them.
The Cowboy: You’re somthin’ else, Slim.
One might think that this movie is only included because it featured a guy with Eugene Levy’s looks landing a young Meg Ryan. It is important for swarthy guys to have role models after all. Somehow though, the movie remains the most overlooked film of Candy’s career.
4. The Great Outdoors
Chet: If you meet any friends, bring them back and we’ll give them a ride in “Suck My Wake.”
The top four movies on my list are so great that to me, their actual order could be decided at random. I went with “The Great Outdoors” with the fourth spot because it is probably the least remembered of the remaining films. Candy plays the normal suburban dad dealing with his finance douche brother-in-law played by Dan Aykroyd. The movie plays out like a greatest hits album of Candy mixing physical humor with his classic everyman shtick. Maybe the first and best example of competitive eating is when Candy’s character wins free dinner and t-shirts by devouring the 96 oz. steak (the Old 96er steak– including fat and gristle).
3. Uncle Buck
Miles: Where do you live?
Buck: In the city.
Miles: You have a house?
Miles: Own or rent?
Miles: What do you do for a living?
Buck: Lots of things.
Miles: Where’s your office?
Buck: I don’t have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: I don’t need one.
Miles: Where’s your wife?
Buck: Don’t have one.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It’s a long story.
Miles: You have kids?
Buck: No I don’t.
Miles: How come?
Buck: It’s an even longer story.
Miles: Are you my Dad’s brother?
Buck: What’s your record for consecutive questions asked?
Buck: I’m your Dad’s brother alright.
Miles: You have much more hair in your nose than my Dad.
Buck: How nice of you to notice.
Miles: I’m a kid – that’s my job.
John Hughes was a master of creating lovable characters, and with Uncle Buck he and Candy created a live action teddy bear bodyguard. Uncle Buck was the closest Candy got to being a super hero on screen. The scene when he breaks down the door to stop the creepy boyfriend from defiling his niece is an all time fist pumping, hell yeah, moment. Buck was quirky and weird, like all great Candy characters, except he made enormous pancakes. One can’t underestimate the attraction giant pancakes had to a child.
2. Summer Rental
Jack: Get the hell out of here now!
Fat Man: You get out of here fella. I’m trying to watch the Smurfs.
Jack: You’re trying to watch the Smurfs?
Fat Man: Yeah.
Jack: Did you see the one where Papa Smurf took a crutch and smashed the shit out of a guy with a red hat? Did you see that one? You want to see that one? (Fat Man runs away.)
“ Summer Rental” should be considered as the original Candy family movie. The movie, directed by Carl Reiner, featured Candy as a father encountering numerous problems during his summer vacation. It eventually ends with a hokey “Caddyshack”-esque race ending, but the first forty-five minutes are golden. There’s the wrong house they sleep in, the cooler dripping water, the neighbor that’s insecure about her boob job and the party he arrives home to. The beach has never been the same since this movie.
1. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
[waking up after sharing the same bed on the motel]
Neal: Del… Why did you kiss my ear?
Del: Why are you holding my hand?
Neal: [frowns] Where’s your other hand?
Del: Between two pillows…
Neal: Those aren’t pillows!
There isn’t a broader or better comedy than “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.” The movie appeals to everyone. It’s become a new holiday classic on par with “A Christmas Story.” Candy does some of his best acting as shower ring salesman Del Griffith, and his warmth plays perfectly off Steve Martin’s anxiety. Even his mustache is on point. The moment the loneliness of Del is revealed is a real heartbreaker, partly because we’ve grown to love him so much. He’s your favorite stuffed animal whose arm is coming apart at the seams, and America lives to fix those problems.
John Candy’s greatness was being America’s favorite best friend like Mickey Mouse or Bugs Bunny, except larger, and with better accents.