Dec 13, 2014

Review: Home Alone (1990)

So a warning here, Home Alone has been a childhood favourite of mine for a long time and I know that I'm far from the only one in that regad. It's difficult to critically evaluate a favourite movie, but I'll try my best anyway. I make no promises to not throw logic out the window though.

The teaming up of Chris Columbus and John Hughes feels like a match made in heaven if you ask me. The work these guys have done meshes together quite nicely and the proof is in the pudding when you look at the success that Home Alone had during its box office run. People loved Home Alone. People continued to see it long after Christmas was over, making it not just one of the most successful Christmas movies, but one of the most successful comedies of all time.


Genre: comedy, family
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Produced by: John Hughes, Tarquin Gotch, Mark Levinson, etc.
Written by: John Hughes
Music by: John Williams
Running time: 103 minutes
Production company: Hughes Entertainment, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation
Distributed by: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, 20th Century Fox, Cannon Film Distributors, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $18,000,000
Box office: $476,684,675 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Hillary Wolf, John Candy, Larry Hankin, Michael C. Maronna, Kristin Minter, Diana Rein, Jedidiah Cohen, Kieran Culkin, Senta Moses



It's a wild evening in the McCallister household, the night before a trip to Paris. Amid all this, a discontent eight year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) never seems to be able to get his way. The last straw occurs when his older brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) eats the final slice of Kevin's favourite kind of pizza, resulting in his mother (Catherine O'Hara) putting him to bed early up in the attic by himself. In the mad scramble to make their flight on time, the McCallisters forget about Kevin and leave him home alone which is almost too good to be true for Kevin who can finally do what he wants.


As the opening credits begin with the familiar score of John Williams playing alongside them, I couldn't help but feel that Christmas had really begun. I'd liken it to putting on that old, familiar pair of shoes that are slowly coming apart before your eyes. You don't care about that though, just like I don't care about the problems that Home Alone might have. I felt like I had finally arrived home for the holidays.

It goes without saying that Macaulay Culkin is an absolute treasure in HA. His deadpan delivery is spot on and he's fed all sorts of quotable lines. There's no eight year-old that talks like Kevin McCallister but it's part of the reason why Home Alone is so easy to love as a kid. You wanted to be Kevin, you wanted to be as cool and as wisecracking as he was. He's the ultimate kid superhero. Hughes' script also does a great job at putting you in Kevin's shoes, such as the scary basement scenes and drumming up sympathy for him even though he's pretty much a spoiled brat.

It also can't be stated just how awesome the contributions of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are as the villains of Home Alone. Between the Harry Lime child-friendly swearing and the vacant brainlessness of Marv Merchants, there's a lot of laughs to be had from these two.

Harry and Marv all the same present real danger for Kevin McCallister. As much as Home Alone descends into cartoony violence that would feel right at home in a Looney Tunes episode, there are some moments that Chris Columbus successfully shows a significant level of threat for Kevin's well being. This is of course balanced with light humour, but it's all the same there which I like.

The rest of the cast is well rounded out with the likes of Catherine O'Hara, John Heard and even a cameo from John Candy. I absolutely have to mention the greatness of Roberts Blossom who plays Old Man Marley, another potential threat for Kevin. Buzz explains to him how Marley is the South Bend Shovel Slayer but was never convicted because of a lack of evidence. He's definitely creepy looking so it must be true.

The way in which the story gets to the point where Kevin is left home alone is slightly farfetched, but John Hughes is able to make you let your guard down pretty much with humour alone. In fact, there's maybe a bit too much humour in Home Alone. We seem to get a whole lot of Kevin McCallister sideshow scenes.W ho cares though  right? The fact that these scenes are legitimately funny is what makes it all work.

Where Home Alone also really works is in terms of family-themed drama and Christmas sentimentality. (Spoilers) The scene where Kevin has a chat with scary old Marley and realizes that he's not a bad guy is an amazing scene and a perfect example of the kind of magic movies can make. Kevin finds out just how valuable his family is and he want them back. Of course I'm not sure how he goes from that to deciding that he needs to riddle his house with traps to stop Harry and Marv, but it's all cool. (End Spoilers) The ending is also particularly well executed from that standpoint.

These drama scenes and a lot of the movie in general probably owe a lot to the wonderful score of John Williams. It's a soundtrack that I love to listen during the holidays and it's got its fair share of instantly recognizable tracks.

So is Home Alone the greatest Christmas movie ever? It probably isn't in reality, but it's up there as one of my favourite movies to watch when it starts getting wintery outside. It's a really silly movie that somehow is able to massively deliver on the drama side of things. I don't think that Kevin McCallister is that far off from being just as revered during the holidays as Rudolph, Frosty or the mean old Grinch are.



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