Looking back on…Home Alone

Home Alone (1990)
Directed by: Christopher Columbus
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy
Written by Jason 
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November of 1990 saw the release of a movie many (myself included) consider one of the modern classics of holiday films: Home Alone.  Starring a young actor named Macaulay Culkin with a cast that includes names like Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara, and the late great John Candy, it was the highest grossing film for the year in North America and had an remarkable 12-week streak as the #1 film at the box office.

Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, who finds himself home alone after wishing for his family to disappear. Ok, actually what happens is he gets into a fight with his older brother while the family is preparing to leave for their Christmas in Paris and has to spend the night up in the attic. A winter storm causes the power to go out, which leads to:

  1. Everyone oversleeps
  2. Chaos ensues in getting everyone up and into their vehicles
  3. A nosy neighbor kid gets mistaken for Kevin while a headcount is done
  4. Family leaves for airport, makes it in the nick of time
  5. Kevin wakes up in the attic, Home Alone

While all of this is going on, a pair of thieves named Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern), who go by the moniker of The Wet Bandits have been breaking into other family homes in the neighborhood and have set their sights on the McCallister house.  

Once Kevin’s mom realizes their mistake, she attempts to get back to Chicago.  All the while, Kevin recognizes that his house has been targeted by the Wet Bandits and he must defend it against them. Kevin sets up several booby traps throughout the house and Harry and Marv make their move on Christmas Eve. Do the Wet Bandits succeed, or are they get taken down by a 9 year old boy? Does Mom make it home in time to celebrate Christmas with her son? And did “Old Man” Marley really murder his family with a snow shovel?

This has been a Christmas movie staple for me since its release in 1990. I remember seeing it in theatres and having it on VHS (as well as DVD). It’s highly rewatchable and just a fun movie altogether. It’s almost like Die Hard for kids.  It has a great cast with memorable characters, quotable lines (John Hughes wrote the script), and a John Williams score, which you can never really go wrong with. It’s something special when a song written for the movie becomes a staple on radio stations when Christmas music gets played each season; Williams did that with Somewhere in My Memory.

One of my favorite scenes is at the beginning of the third act, with ‘Old Man’ Marley and Kevin in the church. I love the interaction between them, and how this 9-year old boy encourages this old man to reach out to his estranged son. It’s just always struck me as highly poignant, and I love how it leads into the scene where Kevin puts his plan into action.

I cannot talk about this movie without mentioning the physical “humor” side of Harry and Marv attempting to rob the McCallister home and the assault Kevin puts them through. Pesci and Stern do a great job in their roles; as a kid, it was hilarious to me but the older I get the harder it has become to watch the punishment they go through.

Final thoughts: Home Alone stands the test of time, and even though the premise wouldn’t happen today with all the technology we have, it’s a great film to include in any Christmas time traditions.

Rating: 8.5 out of 10

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