January 5, 2018

Home Alone (1990)
Grade: 50/100

Director: Chris Columbus
Stars: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern

What it's about. The McAllister family lives in a large home in a wealthy American suburb, and plans a Christmas vacation in France. The father is John Heard, the mother is Catherine O'Hara, and their many bratty children include adorable tyke Macaulay Culkin. Because it is a movie, Culkin is accidentally left behind at home, while his family have boarded an airliner to Europe.

Because it is a movie, Kevin is sufficiently resourceful to have a pizza delivered, go grocery shopping, attend a church, and, more famously, inflict myriad injuries on overconfident burglars Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. If full cans of paint hurtling down a staircase won't stop them, perhaps Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) will, courtesy of his trusty snow shovel.

John Candy, who earlier teamed up with Culkin (and writer John Hughes) in Uncle Buck, has a welcome supporting role as a polka bandleader who helps reunite O'Hara with the child left behind. Eventual movie star Hope Davis has a cameo as a French ticket agent.

How others will see it. Home Alone was one of the biggest box-office films of the year, along with Ghost and Pretty Woman. It is certain that residuals are much higher for Home Alone than either of its peers.

Critics recognized the audience approval, and though the film made few annual Top Ten lists, it did receive two Oscar nominations for its John Williams score. It was also nominated for two Golden Globes, but in more significant categories: Best Comedy and Best Comedy Actor (Culkin).

Today at imdb.com, the movie has a whopping 364K user votes and a lofty user rating of 7.5 out of 10. It is true, though, that younger audiences enjoy it more than do older demographics, and a small gender spread (higher from women) also exists.

One user reviewer aptly compares the two burglars with The Three Stooges. It's slapstick galore, and watching the burglars get the comic violence they deserve is the whole show for many, though the deadpan Culkin is admittedly engaging.

The vast success of Home Alone spawned a similar sequel, Home Alone 2. Other sequels have made since, to lesser effect since they lacked Culkin, who by then had aged out of his role.

How I felt about it. Because my late wife loved this movie, I have seen it and Home Alone 2 both in the theaters and (several times) on television. It is watchable but never believable. Heard would have to be a film star to afford to take his oversized family on a Paris vacation, and that is before considering his mortgage payments.

There is zero chance that the family would board the plane and take off without noticing Kevin's absence. I suspect that a house equipped to feed a slew of kids would have enough groceries to tide Kevin over without a trip to Walmart, and it would sure be easier to call 9-11 when the burglars show up than to set up elaborate booby traps all over the house.

And why would the burglars attempt to enter a house when they know there's a kid inside. With a working phone. And no end of sabotage awaiting them.

Many would say I am missing the point, which is a mixture of Crime doesn't pay, Christmas is for families, and root for the underdog. But I understand the point. It's still a stupid movie with a cute kid and two cartoon characters for villains.