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Home Alone (1990)

| December 25, 1990 | 0 Comments

As far as I can tell, John Hughes has never written a movie that didn’t have a human touch. That’s his magic touch, the plots of his movies are not complex but the characters always contain a level that makes them slightly more dimentional then most. Hughes is mostly known for adventures involving teens and adults like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Sixteen Candles, Planes Trains and Automobiles and The Breakfast Club, films that are simplistic in their plots but wonderful in their humanity.

Those films stayed pretty close to the ground, plot-wise, but Home Alone is a little different.  It is not about teenagers, but about a plucky little kid with a story that leans more toward fantasy.  This one involves possibly the greatest kid in the history of the world and his adventure foiling two burglars who try to break into his house on Christmas Eve.  This is an adventure that The Little Rascals might have gotten involved in decades ago. That’s a good thing.

The kid is Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin), a cute 8 year-old whose over-large family is getting ready to take a trip from Chicago to Paris to spend the holiday with relatives.  The night before their departure, the power goes out and the family wakes to find that they have only 45 minutes to catch their flight.  In the rush to get to the airport, the family inadvertently leave little Kevin behind.

Kevin is an amazing kid.  He’s resourceful, mature; he remembers to take a bath and even does the laundry.  He even goes to the store on funds pilfered from his older brother Buzz.  However, he also has free reign of the house, especially his brother’s room where he makes use of the bee bee gun.  There’s no reality to Kevin, but I don’t think that was the point.  No kid would do many of the things that Kevin would do, and if indeed a kid were this smart, he might even think to call the cops and let them know that he’s been left at home by himself.  This is a fantasy, so we just have to sit back and enjoy it at that level.

Meanwhile, two separate events are taking place elsewhere.  On a plane somewhere over the Atlantic, the realization dawns on Kevin’s mother (Catherine O’Hara) that she has left her son behind.  As she does her best to get back home, a potential threat is looming for the pint-sized hero in the form of two idiotic burglars Harry (Joe Peschi) and Marv (Daniel Stern) who are taking advantage of the fact that the people on Kevin’s street are away for Christmas.  Harry sees the McAllister’s luxurious house as a gold mine. Kevin finds out their coming and sets up a series of booby traps.

Home Alone is a fun, good-hearted movie.  Director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes do a nice job of creating a film that is both heartwarming and very funny.  The heartwarming stuff comes from a relationship that Kevin develops with the old man next door.  They seem to have a mutual problem, but in a touching scene in a church they talk about the meaning of their problem and of the meaning of family.

What makes the film really work is the performance by Macaulay Culkin, a cute kid but not a cloying one.  He has pitch-perfect timing in his comedy and there are moments when he hits his mark so perfectly that you wonder if the filmmakers worked with him for days on end or if he really is that good.  I like to think he is.

The funny stuff comes in the film’s third act as Kevin attempts to defend the house against the burglars using traps that no 8 year-old kid in the world could ever devise.  They involve a lot of carpentry, engineering and foreknowledge of where the burglars are going to stand when he springs the traps.  It is violence on par with the Road Runner cartoons, or more accurately with the Inspector Clouseu pictures. It is violent, but not bloody or unpleasant.

You have to put that stuff in the back of your mind.  Home Alone isn’t a perfect movie, but it is a good one.  You have to take it at face value.  As I said, this is all pure fantasy, and it’s a lot of fun.

About the Author:

Jerry Roberts is a film critic and operator of two websites, Armchair Cinema and Armchair Oscars.
(1990) View IMDB Filed in: Comedy, Kids