What better way to usher in the Christmas spirit that watching a young boy, who was left home by his parents, essentially destroy two would be burglars. And I don’t mean that sarcastically, it is awesome to see this every year and I never really get tired of the physically comedy or seeing Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern get angrier and angrier as they fail to capture young Macaulay Culkin at every turn. It is one of the few movies that I grew up watching that do not feel extremely different now compared to when I was a kid. That is with the exception of Culkin’s acting which is sub-par to say the least… but he is a kid…I mean… what do I really expect? He does a fine job for the type of role– no one expects any Oscar performances here.
When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother (Catherine O’Hara) makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realizes that two con men (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) plan to rob the McCallister residence, and that he alone must protect the family home.
The biggest thing that struck me so many years later is that Kevin, out hero of the story, comes off as actually rather annoying overall. Sure he is a kid– but I think he acts a little too helpless. This isn’t really a critique on the character, though, as it makes for the “defense of the house”-bit that much more impressive… i just find it surprising that I haven’t noticed it until now. But his family, man…, they are just horrible. I don’t even know where to start! I’ve always though that his parents were well… shitty… for one, they totally forget about him when the leave for their vacation, but there is a whole host of other things not to like about them as well. His mother and father are extremely smug and self-absorbed and while it is clear that they do care for Kevin, but it always feels a bit forced… as if they put up with him just because they are legally obligated to…. maybe leaving him behind was their subconscious’ way of telling them to dump the kid, who knows.
Still despite being annoyed with the family, which you are obviously supposed to feel, the movie is rather enjoyable even when they are on-screen. The film does a great job of setting up the chaos that would allow for the McCallisters abandon one of their own and they do it rather casually. They show you bits and pieces but don’t really shove it down your throat.
My favorite characters, however, are the some of the smallest roles in the film. The subplot of Old Man Marley and his connection with Kevin has always been really cool to me. Especially thinking back to when I was a kid and how easily you could get freaked out simply by how a neighbor looked– and then to have that image of him shattered in a church where he spills his guts out to Kevin while giving him solid advice… I don’t know man… it just always stuck with me? They have a similar character in Home Alone two that I always like as well– maybe I just like helpful old people… But also Gus Polinski (John Candy) is an awesome character as he might just be the best example of the Christmas spirit that can be found in the movie. He helps out Mama McCallister by giving her a ride home when no one else would and he even tries to console her along the way! John Candy, you will always have a special place in my heart, man!
But this movie would be nothing without the physical comedy of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, the wet bandits. They sacrificed their bodies for a few laughs and, let me tell you, 25 years later, it was well worth it. Odds are when you think of Home Alone you immediately think of the wet bandits or at least what Kevin McCallister did to them. Every year I love to see them writhe in pain as they attempt to subdue the little kid and fail. It is because of them, in large part, that this movie still holds up. Physical comedy is something that can withstand the test if time and be multi-generational unlike many other forms of comedy, but only if it is done well. Home Alone is a staple for many homes for adults and kids alike and it is because of the wet bandits!
With that said, I would have to recommend watching this movie every year. EVERY YEAR. The laughs are always there and I feel like most people can connect to at least one or two of the characters in the movie. And it does a solid job placing Christmas themes into a rather dark movie so you still feel good after watching it. It is one of my favorite Christmas movies and definitely a classic that can be watched as a family every year without it feeling tedious.
Near the end of the film, as Kevin looks out of the window to see Mr. Marley reunited with his son, a hand holding a camera is clearly visible.
The concept for Home Alone originated from just one scene from Uncle Buck with Macaulay Culkin interrogating the babysitter through the mail slot. The scene gets recreated of course in Home Alone, only this time with Culkin using Daniel Stern’s face for target practice.
Daniel Stern didn’t actually scream during the scene where a spider is on his face. This would have scared the spider, so he merely mimed the scream and it was added in later as a voice-over.
Joe Pesci had trouble remembering that he was in a family-friendly movie and kept dropping F-bombs during his character’s angry outbursts. The director gave him the advice of saying “fridge” as a G-rated substitute.
Angels with Filthy Souls, The gangster flick footage, was created specifically for Home Alone.Although it is heavily inspired by the James Cagney movie, Angels With Dirty Faces.
The famous movie poster for the film with Macaulay Culkin screaming is based on the Edvard Munch painting, “The Scream.”