'Home Alone' has succeeded in establishing itself as a Christmas tradition, spawning off three sequels (including a made-for-television flop), and a whole franchise in and of it.
Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, the average American child. He has an attitude almost expected of a Chris Columbus film from the eighties. He lives with a large family, which, right now, being around Christmas time, is about quadrupled, flooded by relatives' children, all of whom pick on poor, poor Kevin (sympathy long lost later into the film).
One day Kevin wakes up from his sleep to find his wish has come true: his parents (John Heard and Catherine O'Hara) have disappeared. Enthralled by this, he proceeds to do everything and anything he was not allowed to do before, including eating ice cream in the morning, watching violent gangster films, jumping on the bed, wrecking his brother's room, and having some fun with a BB gun. Unfortunately for Kevin, his parents have not just disappeared - they have accidentally left him at home before going to Paris!
Trouble really starts when two pesky burglars, Harry Lime (Joe Pesci) and Marv Merchants (Daniel Stern), decide that their next burglary will be at the McCallister residence. Little do they know Kevin is more than prepared, arming the house with an array of booby-traps that would impress top spies in the American government.
John Hughes, writer/director/producer of my favorite comedy, 'Planes, Trains and Automobiles,' wrote this film, and it is no wonder. It is just like Hughes' humor. It mixes emotion, belly laughs and a warm-hearted ending all into one little bundle called a movie. John Hughes' films, in my experience, are usually very good, mainly because he approaches films at a very classic level. He doesn't resort to crude, kid jokes, like 'The Master of Disguise' or 'The Tuxedo,' to name a few recent flops. He almost always levels everything out perfectly in his scripts, and nothing is different here. Also, he places Kevin and co. in a large brick home in a large neighborhood in Chicago; a home that very much resembles those in 'Planes.' and 'Uncle Buck' (I would not be surprised if it is the same home).
As for the acting.
Macaulay Culkin is not at his best here. His best performance would have to be in an earlier John Hughes film named 'Uncle Buck,' where he had more of a cute charm than an acting charm. Here, he could barely act his way out of a plastic bag. Fortunately, with great performances by John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, Pesci and Stern, his bad acting is long forgotten by the time we become absorbed into the film.
John Heard and Catherine O'Hara bring Kevin's parents to life. They seem almost complete opposites. Kevin's father, Peter (Heard), is very calm and laidback. His mother, Kate (O'Hara) is extremely nervous almost all the time, fretting throughout the film. She is aggravated very easily and, like all mothers, her instinctive nature to care for her child is what drives her to the point she goes to in the film.
And then there's Pesci and Stern. My favorite lot of the film. They perfectly blend humor, pain and aggravation to the film.
Pesci's character Harry is very strict, easily agitated and picks on Marv for a great many things. Marv, the stereotypical 'tall, stupid one,' is completely stupid. He does things that would make a hamster blush. Yet he is the character I have found many like the most, mainly because he is so stupid you have to feel sorry for him. Stern brings a great trait to the character of Marv, and I am very pleased he got the part. It's a hard choice to decide which baddie is better, so I just say I like them both the same.
All in all, 'Home Alone' is probably the best Christmas movie to rise out of the film industry in the last twenty years. It seamlessly blends humor, pain, emotion, human instinct and some great booby-traps all into one little bundle. This film has stood the test of time greatly.
4.5/5 stars -