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Home Alone

Home Alone

What She said:

She

Seeing Macaulay Culkin today, it's hard to imagine that he was once a superstar amongst child actors.  Two decades ago, that kid was churning out movies like it was nobody's business.  One of his most memorable is the Christmas classic Home Alone.  Granted, this film boasts a storyline that is so implausible that it borders on fantasy, but it still manages to hold true as a classic family movie with a sharp comedic edge.

Kevin McCallister is a precocious eight year old, who endlessly torments his family.  But don't get me wrong, Kevin's family seems like a bunch of jerks.  His parents are preoccupied with the fact that they have relatives in town and that they will be taking the whole group and jetting to Paris for the holidays.  Honestly, there are so many kids running around when we first meet the McCallisters that it's hard to figure out just how many are Kevin's brothers and sisters.  I'm pretty sure he has two brothers and two sisters.  So, there's some sympathy for the parents who are trying to manage the group and get some last minute packing done for the trip. 

A late night power outage causes the McCallisters to nearly be late for their flight, but they manage to make it by the skin of their teeth.  Problem is, they've somehow managed to forget Kevin.  Of course, they don't realize this until they're up in the air, and so they have to land, get a return flight, and get back home as quickly as possible.  That's easier said than done.  In the meantime, Kevin wakes up to realize that he's home alone, literally.  The boy is thrilled to have the run of the house, but at the same time he also faces typical eight year old fears.  There is a horrid furnace in the basement that wants to eat him, and a neighbor that he swears is a murderer.  Kevin's fears become very real when two serial robbers show up and want to break into the house.  But Kevin, however immature and annoying he is to his family, is also remarkably brilliant, and he devises little ingenious ways to foil the would-be robbers.  The Wet Bandits, so they're trademarked, try their darnedest to burglarize the McCallisters but they end up with more than they bargained for when they meet Kevin.

Most kids of my generation idolized Kevin McCallister.  I was actually seven when this film came out, and so I marveled in the fact that this kid could live on his own and defeat bad guys with no outside help.  He sets up a series of booby traps that are impressive by any standard, and you simply cannot get enough of that little kid evil smirk.  Written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, Home Alone is both breezy and riddled with dark humor.  Despite the fact that Kevin McCallister consistently defies the odds, making for a pretty unbelievable plot, a viewer very easily excuses the film's unlikeness because the dialog and situational humor is so tightly written.

In many ways, this movie stands the test of time well.  It's still very funny and enjoyable to watch.  However, it also oozes early '90s.  Fortunately, it's in a nostalgic way and not at all cheesy.  Culkin may not have been the most seasoned actor at the time, but he successfully carries this movie on his back, which is a pretty big chore to ask of a child star.  Catherine O'Hara and John Heard are delightfully flighty and clueless as Kevin's parents.  And Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern make the perfect comedic duo as the Wet Bandits.  Both are forced to flex their physical comedy chops, and both step up to challenge to the viewer's delight.  You're greeted with plenty of slipping, falling, and smacking of heads.  It's truly charming.

As the movie centers around the holidays, there's an overarching theme of family and togetherness around Christmas.  Kevin being left alone is somewhat sobering, but it's nice to see his parents' panic and genuine concern once they realize that they're missing the boy.  Of course, this movie would not be complete without a happy ending, and the entire family is reunited on Christmas, as is to be expected.  This will tug on your heartstrings just a little.

One final thing I'd like to point out about this movie is the surprisingly well-written musical score.  It's somewhat shocking to learn, but the score for this film was composed by John Williams.  He really does a wonderful job of creating a nice collection of melodies that embody the season and the story.  This is an all around solid film, that leaves you with a good feeling.

Thumbs up. 

Home Alone

What He said:

He

The McCallister family is planning a trip for the holidays. They are going to Paris to spend Christmas with family.  Peter (John Heard) and Kate (Catherine O’Hara), their children, Peter’s brother and his wife, as well as their children are all spending the night at Peter and Kate’s house. It’s a little crowded, they are leaving early the next morning, and people are on edge.

Peter and Kate’s youngest, Kevin, is no exception. He (Macauley Culkin) is the youngest in the family. He’s a wee bit neglected – and the little attention they do give him is not positive – and as a result he acts out a little. He’s not bad, but rather mischievous. Because of that, I think it’s fair to say his family comes down rather hard on him. When Kevin does something, it seems to be a bigger deal than when anyone else screws up.  So when the inevitable encounter with his older brother Buzz – who is the king of the jerks – occurs, Kevin and Kevin alone is blamed. He is sent to his room – which is in the attic – without dinner and is told not to come down until morning. Kevin tells his mother that he hates them all and wishes they would all go away.

Home Alone

Somebody must have been listening, because Kevin gets his wish. Call it fate, Christmas magic, or something else, but Kevin is about to be home alone. Over the course of the night there is a power outage. This causes the McCallisters to oversleep and fall behind schedule. To make up for lost time, they are rushing around the house like maniacs. If you thought their house was hectic the night before, you ain’t seen nothing yet. The McCallisters make their flight, but they are missing something. Kevin!

Despite wishing for it, Kevin is a little confused and scared when he realizes his family is gone. He quickly gets used to it and starts to really enjoy it. He eats whatever he want whenever he wants, watches movies he’s not supposed to watch, and there is nobody around to stop him.

All is going well until a couple of burglars – who have been scoping out the neighborhood weeks in advance – makes a move on the McAllister’s home. Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) know the McCallisters aren’t home. Actually nobody in the entire neighborhood is home, as it seems these people all go on fancy vacations for Christmas. So they plan to rob the entire block. They don’t know who they are dealing with though. Kevin isn’t just any kid. Like I said earlier, he’s a little mischievous. Now that he’s properly motivated, Kevin unleashes his “creativity” on the two unsuspecting crooks. Some good old-fashioned slapstick ensues. This is some real Three Stooges type of stuff going on here.  

There is also a side story with Kevin and the only neighbor left on the block – Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom).  He is  hermit – which is always scary – but the really scary part is that he is rumored to be a hermit because he killed his family! Kevin has never actually met him, but ever since he’s been home alone, he bumps into him everywhere he goes. It’s a nice little subplot.

I’ve been in the mood for something in the spirit of the holiday season for a while now. I absolutely love Christmas Vacation and A Christmas Story, but they’re on all the time. I haven’t seen Home Alone in years, so when it popped up on TV, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to re-familiarize myself with this holiday-themed family classic.

I say classic, but when I looked it up on Rotten Tomatoes, the critics were rough on it. I wasn’t really sure where that came from, because I remember it being a generally well-received movie. The audience reviews at Rotten Tomatoes, as well as IMDB, and Metacritic are much better though. Maybe it’s reputation has gotten better over the years? I don’t know for sure, but I always thought it was entertaining.

I

Home Alone

think this movie is absolutely hilarious on so many levels. When I was watching it on TV the other night, it was the version of the movie that has those factual tidbits pop up throughout the movie. Director Chris Columbus called if the first dark comedy for kids and I have to agree. There’s an ever so slight amount of darkness to this movie. It does revolve around a kid who wants his family to disappear after all. And speaking of his family, they are absolutely rotten to him. It has a very dark sense of humor at times. Macauley Culkin also delivers quite a few snarky lines. He plays a little wise-ass well. It’s also an excellent physical comedy. Watching what Kevin does to Harry and Marv is like watching a real life cartoon. He puts them through hell and it is extremely funny watching it all unfold. Watching them get beat up is very amusing. Their reactions are great too. Pesci and Stern’s reactions are great. They scream, yell, and cry with the best of them. This one scream that Daniel Stern lets out at one point cracks me up every time.

The movie is also a nice little heart-warming story too. The longer Kevin is alone, the more he longs for his family, even if he was really mad at them.  There’s some nice stuff between him and Old Man Marley too. it’s a really over-the-top slapstick kind of movie, but it has a heart too. It definitely puts you in the holiday spirit. Culkin was very good creating balance with the character. He does all the things you’d think a kid in his situation would, but also acts like a little old man at times. Then when you least expect it, he just wants his mom back. John Hughs and Chris Columbus created a really nice little movie.

Rating: Thumbs up.

This movie review was written for your reading pleasure on December 15, 2013.

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