Director: Chris Columbus Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern Synopsis: “An 8-year-old boy who is accidentally left behind while his family flies to France for Christmas must defend his home against idiotic burglars.” Runtime: 103 minutes
“You guys give up yet? Or are you thirsty for more?”
After already being featured in my favourite Christmas movies list, I have come to the conclusion that Home Alone is like Marmite, and you either enjoy this movie or you don’t. You either get lost in the film and its cartoon like attempt at violence and mischief, or you berate it for being too far-fetched and lacking in any common sense.
Personally, I still like this movie, and after seeing it again for the first time in about 6 years now, I can honestly say it still stands up, and provides us with a charming little Christmas movie.
The storyline behind Home Alone is simple enough. An 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is left to fend for himself over the Christmas period, after his family board a flight to Paris without him. All goes well for Kevin for a day or so as he adapts to life without his family, he sleeps in his parents bed, eats too much ice-cream and watches violent movies. Things really hit the fan for Kevin though, when two bumbling burglars, played by Joe Pesci (Harry Lime) and Daniel Stern (Marv Merchants), scope out the McCallister’s household for their annual payday.
This, I believe, is where the movies detractors have a field day. Why doesn’t Kevin get help? How does he make such elaborate traps? Can an 8-year-old kid really outsmart two adult career criminals? If this is your view of the movie, and you find yourself asking these kind of questions, then perhaps the film is not for you. Yes, the movie is implausible at the best of times, but the key is to sit back, enjoy it and take it for what it is.
Although the first half of the film can be slightly trying at times, the second half is where things really pick up, and once Kevin decides to stand his ground against the would-be intruders, the slapstick comedy really comes into its own, and provides us with some memorable scenes, that still work even after multiple viewings.
After taking a supporting role in 1989’s Uncle Buck, Home Alone was Culkin’s breakout role, and is the film that essentially made him a household name, and is still probably his most famous role to date. Culkin is truly charming throughout the movie, and while he never really has to break a sweat, his blend of innocence and street smarts creates a winning formula.
While Culkin provides the anchor for the movie, the rest of the cast do a fine job in supporting him throughout. Catherine O’Hara as Kate McCallister plays the worried mother, who is determined to find a way back home and make sure her son is safe. O’Hara performs an admirable job in a limited role, and helps to convey a sense of urgency when no one else around her seems to be helping her find a way back to her son. Her scene where she forces an elderly couple to part with their airline tickets is particularly touching.
John Candy has a cameo role in the movie and plays Gus Polinski who, along with the rest of his polka band, agree to give Kate a ride back home from the airport, and despite having limited screen time, he almost steals the show. Candy has a nervous charm about him, and provides one of the movies most memorable and albeit darker monologues when attempting to comfort Kate, he instead makes things worse by telling her of the time he left his child in a funeral parlour for a whole day with nothing but a corpse for company. A speech that was entirely improvised by Candy nonetheless.
Home Alone somehow spawned four sequels, the last of which was released in 2012 on the ABC channel in America. Multiple video games were also released, which followed the premise of the film and had you playing as Kevin McCallister while you attempt to stop Harry & Marv from burglarizing your house. I presume none of this was foresaw when the original movie was being made. While I have a vague recollection of the second film in the series, my memory tells me it was enjoyable enough, but nowhere near as good as the original.
In summary: While not hitting every beat along the way, Home Alone remains a classic Christmas movie, that can be enjoyed by the now adults who first saw it 23 years ago, and is certain to keep entertaining younger audiences for years to come.