Written by: John Hughes
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O’Hara
The holidays present a joyous and equally stressful time for adults where they get to experience the season with their children but must also manage every aspect of planning as well. This coincides with traveling, with its own set of stressors, which combined with the holidays make it easy to forget some things. Typically, this means leaving behind a toothbrush or an important document, but the worst-case scenario must be leaving one of your children. A horrific fear played out in the Christmas classic, Home Alone.
Heading to Paris for Christmas this year, the McCallister family has some pre-trip tension with the youngest, Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) causing trouble. When the family oversleeps for their flight, they rush out to the airport, and not until they’re in the air do they realize they left their son back at home. Now alone at home Kevin receives the freedom he has been craving but must now fend off thieves looking to burgle his home.
Ignoring the insane improbability of the event leading up to the main plot of this feature, Home Alone has become a staple in my many family homes when the Christmas season arrives. It truly has everything one could want for some family fun with a child being the main protagonist, with enough peril to entertain the adults. It seemingly also plays into the childlike fantasy younglings have of what it would be to do whatever they want without parents nagging them to do their chores or eat their vegetables. With no one at home with him, Kevin has everything he could possibly want but as a lesson, it hits the truth that family means more than just nagging individuals telling you what to do. Kevin learns this lesson himself as well as teaching it to others.
Fun in this feature comes obviously from the scenes of Kevin defending the house from the wet bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci), and Marv (Daniel Stern). At first, it becomes about making the bandits believe the kid is not home alone and once it fails, he needs to stop them from entering the house. In an objective sense, this situation could easily be a horror film considering the danger Kevin’s in with these bandits trying to enter the house but the tone certainly dictates the overall mood and the fun-loving nature of the story. Turning this nightmare scenario into an opportunity to lay out the biggest booby traps.
The extravagance of these booby traps remains the best part of this feature because it has the playfulness in the way Kevin uses it to keep these bandits put from the perspective of the thieves; this is Jigsaw from Saw levels of trap construction. I mean dropping a hot iron on the guy’s face could have easily cracked Marv’s skull were this film Rated R. Instead it leaves a nasty imprint on his face. This among the other traps makes for a hilarious sequence of childlike innovation to an almost absurd degree but at least it runs parallel with what we can expect from a ridiculous circumstance of a parent forgetting their child at home when going through airport security. It’s hard to believe this actually occurs to set up the film and even more so when it happens again in the sequel.
Cast members in Home Alone have made these characters iconic. Macaulay Culkin’s portrayal has made his reaction to putting on aftershave instantly recognizable and he does fairly well as an actor mostly holding his own in certain scenes. Then you add the likes of Catherine O’Hara playing the mother desperately trying to get back home to her son. It takes plenty of motherly love to fly back from Paris after just getting there and then taking a truck drive from Scranton to Chicago. O’Hara sells this desperation so well and brings her dramatic style of acting front and center. However, the most fascinating portrayal comes from Joe Pesci and the way he stars in both this feature and Goodfellas released in the same year. He brings his menacing features in both films but the tone dictates the level of violence he’s willing to inflict in this one, which makes it all much funnier.
Bringing plenty of holiday cheer for all to enjoy, Home Alone goes from a dream scenario to a hellscape, and then to some hilarious sequences of two bandits continually getting bested by the imagination and creation of a child. Wonderfully comedic and also frightening if the tone of the film gets changed ever so slightly. This feature demonstrates John Hughes just knows how to create lasting stories with this one certainly not being an exception.