Posted by: Alan | December 24, 2008

Review: Home Alone (1990)




Home Alone

Director: Chris Columbus

Writer: John Hughes

Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara


Christmas is coming, so I thought it would be fitting to do a Christmas movie review. And what better film than the classic John Hughes family romp, Home Alone? I just watched this movie again recently, and it’s definitely one of my favorite Christmas movies, but I couldn’t help being cynical and disbelieving to some of the situations involved. Come with me now as I take you through the crazy, mixed up world of one Kevin McCallister and his zany family!

The Premise

The McCallisters are a large family. They have a large house, many rooms, and, presumably, a lot of money. So naturally they decide to take a vacation to Paris for Christmas. It should be noted that there is technically two families going on this trip, and they are all staying at the McCallister house in Chicago. Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) feels neglected by his family and expresses a large amount of disdain for them. Needless to say, things go wrong the night before they have to leave and Kevin gets sent to his temporary room in the attic without dinner. He argues with his mom (Catherine O’Hara) and tells her he hopes to never see his family again! Then they all go to sleep.

That night a storm hits the Chicago area and the power goes out briefly, resetting all the clocks. Due to this the family sleeps in, and rushes to get ready and get to the airport in time! For some reason, they neglect to wake their youngest child (Kevin) sleeping in the attic, and then go to the vans, and perform a headcount where some asshole neighbour gets counted in Kevin’s place because he is being a dick and playing with toys in the van. They get to the airport, STILL unaware they are missing a child, and get on the plane because they are in such a hurry! So Kevin is left ‘Home Alone’!

At first he’s upset, but quickly realizes it’s all a dream come true! He goes grocery shopping, does the laundry, eats a really disgusting looking mixture of ice cream, peanut butter and marshmallows, and watches ‘trash’ movies. He’s having the time of his life, at least until the burglars show up.

He has a couple run-ins with the burglars, Harry and Marv, who call themselves the ‘Wet Bandits’ because they flood every house they rob. They were planning a big heist on the McCallister house and now this little kid is screwin’ up their plans! They try to get him many times, but are always foiled by the crafty 8 year old. So they decide to descend on the house one last time, but Kevin concocts an elaborate plan to, essentially, try to murder the burglars when they come to his house.

I think that, in the end, Macaulay does a pretty good job acting in this movie. He is a child actor, so you can’t expect high caliber acting, but really I was pretty happy with his performance. He pretty much has to carry the entire movie too, since the premise alone says he is alone and does stuff alone. But on top of that, the supporting players all do pretty admirably as well. Catherine O’Hara is fantastic as always, and the rest of the family are all just fine. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are pretty spot on with their stupid burglars and perform fine. I also loved the Old Man character, at least at the ending. Read below for more info on that.

Okay, the plot here is pretty ridiculous, and not very believable. But ignoring that, it’s one of the most entertaining Christmas movies I’ve seen. The way they end up leaving Kevin at home would never happen but still works in the world of the movie. The majority of the antics Kevin gets into are pretty enjoyable to watch, and the stuff with the burglars (until the ending, which I will get into later) is all fun family stuff.

The only character I really felt weird about was the Old Man, and here is why. The characters right off the bat talk about Old Man Marley, and how he supposedly killed some people and use turned them into salt or something silly like that. So naturally Kevin is creeped out by him, and has several run ins with him during the film until Christmas Eve when he meets him at church, where it turns out he’s really a nice guy! They have a heart to heart, and Kevin is even saved by him at the climax of the movie. Sounds good right? Heartwarming, happy ending, etc. But here’s the problem: until the church scene, the Old Man really doesn’t give us ANY reason to doubt that he is crazy and wants to kill people. Here is a rundown of Kevin’s encounters with Old Man Marley:

1. Watching him shovel snow: Kevin and his relatives are watching him shovel snow. Buzz (Kevin’s older brother) tells them the rumor about the old man and as this happens, he suddenly looks up at them and stares menacingly. They quickly leave the window in terror. Nothing wrong here, he was just looking at them, although a bit of a scary look.

2. Running outside at night: Kevin was just scared by the burglars, but decides it’s stupid to be scared and runs outside claiming ‘I’m not afraid anymore!’ But then, Old Man Marley walks up to him and instead of SAYING ANYTHING , he STARES AT HIM. Not just an innocent stare either, a creepy old man stare. Those are the worst kinds. Kevin runs back in the house and is OBVIOUSLY frightened, but the old man still says nothing. Ok, maybe he is shy, whatever. Still creepy.

3. Meeting at the corner store: Ok this one is the worst one. Kevin is inquiring about a toothbrush at a convenience store. While the clerks are busy discussing things, Old Man Marley enters the store, and slowly walks up to the counter, SLAMS HIS HAND DOWN ON THE COUNTER, and STARES AT KEVIN AGAIN. Doesn’t say a word, and his hand is bloody and bandaged on top of that. Kevin is FREAKED OUT, rightly so, and starts backing away slowly, while Old Man Marley continues to just STARE AT HIM. Does he not realize how fucking scary that would be for an eight year old? And then later he wonders why kids in the neighbourhood don’t like him.

The score for this movie was done by John Williams and I associate it so much with Christmas that I had to research whether or not it was original work or some classic Christmas music that they just used for the movie. Honestly, whenever I hear that score I just feel all Christmasy inside, and it’s awesome. There are some other great music choices in the movie, which I generally associate with this movie as well (Run Rodolph Run, for one). I just think all the music fits in perfectly and fits the mood of the film excellently.

As I mentioned, this is one of my favorite holiday movies, and it will always be a film I can watch once a year. However, during my most recent watch there was a huge thing in the movie that actually bothered me quite a bit. I’m talking about the climax of the film, where Kevin sets up a bunch of traps for the burglars and hilarious hijinks ensue. Of course, when I was a kid, this was all hilarious and it was great seeing the bad guys get hurt by the good guy. But in retrospect, Kevin was trying to, well, commit murder. The traps that he made are pretty fucking terrifying and would leave the burglars with more than just comically damaged costumes/makeup. For instance, having an IRON drop on your FACE from that high up? I’m pretty sure that would deliver some kind of brain damage. Paint cans to the face? Burning your head with a blowtorch? A nail through the foot? (which is probably the most ridiculous of all the traps, as if he knew the tar would force him to let his shoes and socks come off while he walked up the stairs, and then step exactly where the nail is). This is all pretty major stuff.

In the end though, that is a minor complaint, and this movie will remain a Christmas classic and remain in my heart with fond memories. That old man is still creepy though.

– Alan


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