Home Alone was one of the most successful live-action comedies ever made, topping the box office for twelve weeks and making its combination of charm and torture a holiday staple. Written by John Hughes and directed by Mrs. Doubtfire’s Chris Columbus, the now-classic Christmas movie made young Macaulay Culkin a household name and (hopefully) prevented countless parents from neglecting to bring along their children on vacation.
The film doesn’t start off like the kind of film I would enjoy. Kevin and his relatives are realistically bratty, with little reason to like any of them. Once he is actually left alone, the plot improves dramatically. What kid hasn’t wanted the whole house to themselves and the freedom to do what they want when they want how they want? Yet Kevin turns out to be surprisingly responsible, in contrast to his inattentive mother (and father), who spends the rest of the film mostly making up for her lapse in judgment by displaying sympathetic, if pointless, worry for her abandoned child. Luckily, though, the blame isn’t all on her: Kevin is by no means an angel and his admittance of such allows him some proper remorse. His conversation with Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) in the church perfectly addresses both of their familial conflicts. (Incidentally, the scene begins with my VC’s favorite Christmas song, “O Holy Night,” and ends with mine, “Carol of the Bells.”)
Of course, much of the film’s credit should go to Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci as Marv and Harry, the two bumbling thieves who deserve a place amongst memorable comedic odd couples. Their persistence is matched only by their stupidity in walking into trap after trap set by the devious boy of the house. Pesci’s constant muttering of “Razzin, frazzin…” is hilarious (yes, he amuses me), while the spider scene proves Stern as one of the great male screamers of our time. Plus, for added comedy, Hughes brought along John Candy from Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for a small but humorous role as a kindhearted polka bum.
John Williams’ carol-infused score is also outstanding, and his own little noel, “Somewhere in My Memory,” deserves a spot in my End Credits Song Hall of Fame. Only the sweet closing scenes are actually set on Christmas, but the whole film illustrates the Christmas season, with films like It’s a Wonderful Life (in French!) and Miracle on 34th Street included for good measure. Also, it thankfully doesn’t shy away from the sacred aspects of Christmas, including a crèche scene, a church, and themes of forgiveness. All in all, Macaulay Culkin’s first major role was his best, yet another Christmas film that my family revisits year after year.Best line: (Kate McCallister/Mom) “Tell me, have you ever gone on vacation and left your child home?” (Polka king Gus, after a pause) “No, no. But I did leave one at a funeral parlor once. Yeah, it was—was terrible too. I was all distraught and everything, you know, the wife and I, and we left the little tyke there in the funeral parlor all day. All day. You know, we went back at night, when you know, we came to our senses, and there he was, apparently he was there alone all day with the corpse. Yeah, he was okay, you know, after six, seven weeks he came around and started talking again… But he’s okay. You know, they get over it; kids are resilient like that.” (Kate) “Maybe we shouldn’t talk about this.” Rank: 55 out of 60
© 2014 S. G. Liput
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