My Favorite Movies – Home Alone (1990)

16 Nov

By Tanner Smith

It’s the hugely successful family comedy that didn’t get many positive reviews from critics at the time–well, it still remains a holiday classic to this day, so I wonder who brainwashed who?

I grew up with “Home Alone” and I still watch it every holiday season. It’s hilarious sometimes, heartwarming other times, and altogether a delight to watch every time.

And believe it or not, this is actually one of the first instances that pop into my head when I think of “character development.” Look at Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) at the beginning of the film and then look at him at the end of the film–this 8-year-old little bratty pissant has learned self-preservation and the value of family. It’s intriguing to see this kid’s coming-of-age journey in between.

I can see someone (let’s say an adult) watching this movie for the first time and thinking to themselves, “This is an annoying self-entitled little puke–why am I watching a movie about him?” And…yeah, in the early scenes, Kevin can be a bit much for the audience to handle, let alone his large family. But that’s just because most of us would rather forget how annoying and bratty we were at that age.

Then the kid is accidentally left alone in his large suburban household, after his extended family left for a vacation to Paris in a hurry. Well, now what’s to do? Easy answer: jump on the parents’ queen-size bed, eat all the junk food, go through your older brother’s private collection, watch violent movies, and do things your parents would never let you do before (like ride a sled down the stairs and out the front door)! That’s the first day alone–but on the second day, he needs a new toothbrush, so it’s time to steal some hidden money from the house and go out to buy one. And on the third day, he goes grocery shopping and even does some laundry because he knows when there’s play, there’s also work to be done.

Kevin is smarter than maybe even he thought, which also comes through when he learns of the constant reappearances of two burglars, Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), outside the house. He comes up with clever ways to fool them into leaving–turning on all the lights, setting up a fake house party with mannequins (seriously, how many mannequins are in this house??), and matching firecrackers with a TV-movie shootout. (“Keep the change, ya filthy animal!”)

But the charade doesn’t fool the “Wet Bandits,” as they’re called, for long, as they learn the kid’s home alone and decide to rob the house with him inside. So, Kevin sets up elaborate traps all around the house for them to fall into…bringing us to the hilarious sequence late in the film in which Harry and Marv get beat up…BAD!

This whole extended sequence is the comedic highlight of the film–it’s a kid’s wish fulfillment to take down the bad guys, and this takes it to the extreme. It’s been proven that many of these pranks would actually KILL someone in real life (go watch the “Honest Action – Home Alone” video on YouTube for a health professional’s opinion)–but in a movie, seeing irons and paintcans bounce off their heads and knock them to the ground is a riot to watch because Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are hamming it up big-time and play it as jerks who have it coming–it’s like a Three Stooges short or a Tom & Jerry cartoon in that the harder the hits, the funnier they are.

Eh…except when Marv steps on a nail. That was too much for me. (OUCH!!)

Obvious joke is that Kevin has become the Jigsaw Killer, to which I say, “Go see ‘Better Watch Out’ for a twisted version of ‘Home Alone’–the kid in THAT movie makes Macaulay Culkin’s sociopathic character in ‘The Good Son’ look like the Nutcracker Prince!”

What else is there to love about “Home Alone?” There’s actually a lot.

For one thing, I already mentioned that it was heartwarming. The way Kevin’s mother (Catherine O’Hara) practically threatens violence in her complicated journey to get back home to Kevin on Christmas Eve is funny but also very sweet. And of course, there’s the scene that even made George Costanza cry in one episode of “Seinfeld”–the church scene, in which Kevin has a moving heart-to-heart with an elderly, formerly intimidating neighbor (Roberts Blossom).

John Williams’ music score is also great, with a lot of memorable orchestral themes making for the best music composition I’ve ever heard in a comedy.

Director Chris Columbus’ work is often what could be labeled as “workmanlike,” but he deserves credit here for his uses of the colors red and green in the backgrounds and foregrounds to give the film a Christmas atmosphere. That’s another reason I love to watch this film around Christmas–it just FEELS like the type of film to watch during the season.

And of course, there’s young Macaulay Culkin, who was in the spotlight for a long time after this movie, which sadly didn’t do his life and career any favors. (Though, at least he seems happier now.) His work here in “Home Alone” is absolutely genuine, giving us a very bratty but also very innocent character to follow throughout the film. By the end, we’re happy that Kevin has learned his lesson…until “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.”

“Home Alone 2″…is basically the same movie except set in New York. You could call it “Home Alone 2: The Search for More Money” (of which it made a bundle, because of course). Culkin and Columbus even make fun of what a pointless sequel it is in “Home Alone’s” audio commentary. But with that said, I do enjoy watching this sequel every year too. It has enough fresh humor and a certain charm to it that makes it fun for me to watch… Just don’t expect me to call it a legit good film–let me put it this way: it both “is” and “isn’t” “22 Jump Street,” at the same time. But if the people who made it can mock it and have fun with it at the same time, why shouldn’t I?

“Home Alone” is another holiday treasure written by the late, great John Hughes (“Planes, Trains & Automobiles”). I’ll probably watch it about 4-5 times by Christmas Day. (And that goes for “Home Alone 2” as well.)

One Response to “My Favorite Movies – Home Alone (1990)”

  1. Robert Horvat November 16, 2021 at 5:33 am #

    Daniel Stern who played Marv, originally knocked back the role. When things didn’t work out with his replacement, he was asked to come back. Thank god he did. For me, he is absolutely brilliant alongside Joe Pesci as the duo known as the ‘Wet Bandits’. I think they do a decent job in the sequel too. As bumbling idiots you can’t ask for more, right?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: