Film Review: Home Alone

Home AloneHome Alone certainly needs no introduction. This 1990 film written and directed by the legendary team of John Hughes and Chris Columbus is a holiday favorite. It stars Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stearn, John Heard, Roberts Blossom and Catherine O’Hara. The rest of the ensemble cast consists of Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Banman, Hillary Wolf, John Candy, Larry Hankin, Michael Maronna, Kristin Minter, Jedidiah Cohen, and Kieran Culkin as Fuller.

It is Christmastime and the McCallister family is planning a trip to France along with their extended family. As we meet them one by one, a police officer has stopped by to make sure the family is taking all of the precautions to avoid being an attractive target to thieves. It takes the officer several attempts to track down family dad Peter (John Heard) who explains all of the different things they have done to get the house ready. The policeman leaves them to their family dinner when the pizza arrives. 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) has been having difficulty this entire time getting his parent’s attention and when he finds out the last of the cheese pizza has been eaten, Kevin loses it and is sent upstairs to the attic where he proclaims he wishes he had no family.

A storm overnight knocks out the power to the entire block, causing the family to sleep in and not awaken until the airport shuttle bus arrives. They frantically get all of their belongings and while they do take a headcount before going to the airport, they accidentally include a neighbor boy. Come to find out, Kevin’s ticket got wet in the pizza mayhem and was thrown away, so they don’t even notice he is gone as they board the plane.

Kevin wakes up and celebrates his newfound freedom – he made his family disappear. Halfway to France and in mid-air, mom Kate (Catherine O’Hara) finally realizes what that nagging feeling is in her stomach – they left Kevin home alone.

We next find out that the police officer (Joe Pesci) from the night before was an imposter and he and his partner Marv (Daniel Stern) use the disguise to find out which houses to burglarize during the holidays. When they go to Kevin’s house, he startles them by turning on all the lights. Meanwhile, the family is trying to get a flight back to the U.S. but everything is booked. Kate decides to wait in the airport just in case something comes up.

The next day, Kevin steals money from Buzz’s life savings and goes to the store while the crooks burglarize and vandalize a house across the street, turning the water on as they leave as their “calling card.” As they are leaving the scene they almost run into Kevin who recognizes the glint off Harry’s tooth as the same one as the policeman. Marv doesn’t immediately recognize Kevin, but they keep an eye on him.

During his planning on how to protect the house, he meets the neighborhood spooky legend, Marley (Roberts Blossom) who turns out not to be so scary after all. The next half of the movie involves an elaborate plan by Kevin to keep his house safe. This is in extreme contrast to the beginning of the film where every member of the family inferred he can’t even take care of himself. From hot irons to paint cans on a string, to blowtorches and Christmas ornaments, Kevin puts the crooks through the wringer until he leads them across the street to the same house they burglarized earlier.

Meanwhile, Kate was able to get a ride back to the U.S. and also hitches a ride with a polka band who are going to Wisconsin and say they can drop her off. The thieves catch Kevin at the neighbors but are thwarted by Marley and the police soon show up since Kevin called them before running over there. They apprehend the thieves and with the water running know how many houses they are responsible for. Kate comes home and is reunited with Kevin and in only a few minutes is joined by the rest of the family. Everything is hugs and kisses until Buzz yells, “Kevin!”

The holiday spirit flows in this movie and it was an immediate hit as soon as it was released. My viewing, however, wasn’t so good. I was in high school, and I had been helping coach a 8-10 year old Little League team for the past 2 years. One of the kids on the team developed a brain tumor and passed away on December 28, 1990. The funeral was in early January and after the visitation, a bunch of us coaches decided to go see the movie for a change in mood. Most of the film was ok, but then we were hit with a line by Joe Pesci, “Santa doesn’t visit the funeral home little buddy,” and my heart sank. I watched the next hour in a darker mood and then when the polka band is giving Kate a ride, John Candy’s character tells a story about being left in a funeral home when he was a kid. I don’t know what John Hughes was thinking, but two references to kids in funeral homes in an otherwise funny film were two too many. So, this really soured me on the film.

Still, it is easy to get caught up in the sheer joy Kevin finds at being alone. It is equally easy to hate Uncle Frank, especially after his line, “Look what you did you little jerk” that stopped both the scene in the movie and the audience. Kevin manages to go from someone the entire family thinks can’t fend on his own to saving his house and catching the bad guys – something that every kid can probably identify. Feeling helpless that is.

If this film were released today there would have been an added scene at the end telling kids not to do anything pictured in the film, but thank goodness this movie was made in the 90s and avoided having that disclaimer. The many scenes of the cars knocking over the statue outside, and the movie quotes within the movie, make this a great holiday film. Sure, there is the “wise mentor” giving words of advice when Marley and Kevin finally talk in the church, but even Marley’s story ends up with a happy ending.

All in all, Home Alone is definitely a holiday favorite despite the funeral home mentions in the movie. It spawned a ridiculous number of sequels (only one with Culkin, Pesci, and Stern reprising their roles) but stops short of being a true “franchise” for 20th Century Fox.

As of this writing, you can watch Home Alone on Disney+ or can rent it on YouTube, Vudu, Apple Movies or Amazon Prime for $3.99.

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