Home Alone - 1990
Director(s): Chris Columbus
Writer(s): John Hughes
Cinematography by: Julio Macat
Editor(s): Raja Gosnell
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and Catherine O’Hara
Synopsis: Eight-year-old Kevin is accidently left home alone for Christmas and he must protect his home from the self-proclaimed “Wet Bandits”.
When I was a kid, I had a fascination with being alone in my house. Even if my parents were in the backyard and I found myself alone in the house, my imagination would run wild. Looking back, I grew up in a modest house, but in my child’s mind it was a huge mansion filled with endless possibilities. So, when kid-me saw Home Alone for the first time, my tiny mind (not that its bigger now) was blown. The second act of this movie sees Kevin, played by Macaulay Culkin, doing everything from eating ice cream for dinner, to sledding down the stairs straight to the front yard. He was living out his fantasy that was restricted by adult supervision. The third act is where this movie earns the most laughs as Kevin defends his house from the “Wet Bandits” with a series of traps that put Jigsaw from the Saw series to shame.
Quick note: this must be in the top ten movies that would be completely ruined by cellphones. The movie would’ve ended in 5 minutes with a text.
Re-watching this as an “adult” I came away with some questions. Why is this family so mean to an eight-year-old? Why would his mother side with her teenage douche of a son over her eight-year-old? Why didn’t they buy more cheese pizza? Why don’t they buy Fuller pull-up diapers? What grown adult lets his brother pay for everything; including his wife’s and kid’s airplane tickets? Frank. Why didn’t the pizza delivery kid call the cops after he got “shot” at? What stereo system did they use to make it sound so real? Why didn’t Kevin call the police the first time or the second time the robbers came to the house? Why didn’t the old man call them? He clearly saw the parents leaving. Even if he didn’t, there is nobody else present in the house. He only sees an eight-year-old coming and going. CALL THE COPS. Would you really chase a kid across town over a toothbrush? How many outtakes are there of Joe Pesci actually cursing on set? His character mumbles a lot as he is confined in a PG world.
But the biggest question is: How much money does Kevin’s dad make in a year? He paid for the entire vacation. He paid the four first-class tickets on an international flight (including his cheapskate brother, Frank) and 10 coach tickets for the kids. This doesn’t include the meals, the rented cars that took them to the airport, the hotels and I’m guessing the “fun” activities they have planned on their vacation. Please someone do the math and get back to me.
Director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) and John Hughes (Sixteen Candles and the rest of your favorite 80’s films) managed to capture a child’s imagination perfectly. Not only did they run wild with what a child would do left to his own devices, they also showcased how a child’s imagination would work against him. He wouldn’t go in the basement because the furnace would seem like a monster to him that wanted to eat him and he feared the neighbor because his big brother told him he was a murderer. There are little-to-no actions from Kevin that felt like something an adult would think a child would do, they all felt like they came from Kevin himself.
Quick note: the script is also very clever in the way it set up all the tools and house locations that will be used to defend the house in the third act from the burglars. There are numerous payoffs in the third act, including the spider he broke out of his tank.
The acting is top notch. You have one of the greatest child actors of our time in Macaulay Culkin, eating up the entire screen with his cuteness and wittiness. There are very few scenes as iconic as Kevin talking to himself in the bathroom mirror while putting on deodorant and splashing after shave in his face. That scream has been recreated in countless films, but none have been able to capture the magic Culkin gave us. Next to Culkin the “Wet Bandits”, played by Joe Pesci (Harry) and Daniel Stern (Marv), are simply perfect for their roles. Stern plays the dumbfounded follower of the two and Pesci plays the leader and the brains behind the operation. Pesci has one of the best lines in the movie with “Where are you, you little creep?” It’s the best because you know that’s not what Pesci’s character would’ve said if this movie had an R rating. Just imagine Goodfellas’ Pesci in this world and what he would say to Kevin.
Quick note: I would be remiss if I didn’t give the stunt crew any recognition. This movie is 60% physical comedy and the large majority is done through the stunt doubles of Pesci and Stern. Watching a grown man with his head on fire, diving head-first in a snow bank is hilarious at any age.
Home Alone is, in my eyes, the perfect holiday movie. It gives adults a chance to revisit this movie with nostalgia-tinted glasses and it gives the new generation of kids a chance to experience the physical comedy that is sorely missing from movies today. Sure, some of the scenes in real life would lead to deaths and sure it kind of teaches kids to trust a stranger (the old man with the shovel), but that’s why parents need to talk to their kids. Tell them: “Don’t trust strangers, unless you are running from two strangers that want to kill you.” Or something like that, I don’t have kids. Home Alone is funny, well-directed and well-acted, and the music is a treat to the ears. You will be hard-pressed to find a better movie for the entire family to watch over the holidays. Macaulay Culkin is why I love movies.
Home Alone is currently available to rent on multiple streaming services. Buy it and watch it every December, make it a tradition like I have with my family.
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