Home Alone (1990)
The 90’s got of to a madcap start with Christmas with Macaulay Culkin in his breakout film role Home Alone. It has become synonymous with Christmas in the 90’s for being a new classic for the holidays. We are about 25 years removed from it, so why has it lasted so long?
Kevin McAllister (Culkin) and the rest of the McAllister family are heading to Paris to spend the holiday abroad. Kevin is constantly bullied and sent to his room by his mother Kate (Catherine O’Hara) after getting into a fight with his brother. Obviously pissed off and sadden by the whole of affair of his family picking on him all day, he wishes that he could get his family to disappear. When he wakes up the family is gone and Kevin is left behind. Of course, Kevin thinks his family has really disappeared. Kate also realizes her son is missing and travels her way back in order to make sure he is safe. However, Kate’s assurance for Kevin’s safety is taken for granted when the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern respectively) set up a plan to rob the house and make with goods. Kevin, who has done pretty well for himself, must stop the bandits from invading his home and ensure the holidays are safe once and for all. Hilarity, as it should, ensues.
This film is something nostalgic for me. This and it’s sequel Lost in New York are my Christmas classic and I love seeing them back to back every year. With that said, it is pretty dated and some stuff comes across as too cheesy and cornball. Around this time though, I’ll take that anyday. Culkin as Kevin is great. He’s naive, smart and seems to be having a blast. He is also a kid trying to understand the world and has a lot of heart. Though brave in his plans to stop the bandits, he is upset he has no one to celebrate with. This makes scenes like him talking to Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) so poignanat. Here is a man who is pratically alone due to him and his son not being on the best of terms, yet longs to see his grandkids and mend fences. It’s beautiful how Kevin handles it because he understands the importance of family now. At the end when his mom returns and they hug, it gets me every time because Kevin learned so much. I’m tearing up right now just thinking of it. O’Hara as the concerned mother is also great because you can see she wants her son to be safe and would do anything to help him. It’s a beautiful aspect many forget due to the humor in it. The heart shown throughout the film is pure delight and heck, we even get a John Candy performance out of it, so that’s always a great bonus.
The main aspect the film is remembered for is its slapstick humor. Pesci and Stern are great together. Pesci is a brute and Stern if a goofball and the two are a dynamic that work. When they take bumps, spills and have to put up with Kevin’s traps, these two really shine at being the big laughable bad guys. It’s as if writer John Hughes wanted the goons of bigger villains to have some time in the spotlight and gave them everything they needed. The traps and ideas Kevin has are fun, creative and would make Jigsaw grin. They range from classic jokes like the slick ice on stairs to deadly by lighting someone on fire. Kevin is pretty much a sadist and we love it.
Now, the sequel is pretty much the same movie except in New York and has Tim Curry being awesome. It’s a retread of the same tropes, but it’s just fun to watch all the traps again and again. I love this movie and watch it every year to get back that old childhood Christmas feeling. Home Alone is here to stay.