By Christian DiMartino
Here’s a hot take: I do not believe Home Alone is great. Don’t get me wrong, when it’s funny, it’s really funny, and it is a movie that I set out to watch every year. So, why do I have to be “that guy?” Well, because also, each time I watch it, I find myself pointing out moments that are, in my eyes, rather stupid, along with things that irk me. Thankfully for the case of Home Alone though, the good do outweigh the bad.
Macaulay Culkin’s performance seems to be overshadowed by the final act, it seems, in the eyes of pretty much everyone. Yes, we remember it for Culkin yet we watch it for that final act. Before diving into the final act, I’ll start with Culkin, whose performance is honestly good. Not that he’s really doing anything groundbreaking, yet what we might not think about is that he is essentially a 10 year old kid who was bestowed the opportunity to carry a movie on his shoulders for 80% of it. That is no small feat. Much of Home Alone is indeed Culkin’s Kevin McCallister… well, alone. That has to be a daunting task, but Culkin approaches it well.
We know the movie and how it unfolds but eh I’ll explain anyways. On the night before a huge, expensive Christmas family trip to Paris (how John Heard’s Peter McCallister affords this will always be a mystery), young Kevin has a huge overreaction to his older brother Buzz, who taunts him about eating some cheese pizza. Kevin pushes Buzz, and the whole family of 15 causes a ruckus in a brief 30 seconds, causing the whole family to stop and finally turn on him. Well, actually, the family was pretty harsh to him even BEFORE this incident. Everyone ignores him, one cousin calls him “Les incompetents.” Yet it’s with the giant incident where they really let it rip. Uncle Frank gets it started. “Look what ya did, you little jerk!” he exclaims, as another family chimes in with, “Kevin, you’re such a disease!”
Merry Christmas! Jesus Christ, what is the matter with these people? Yeah, he overreacted, and caused a ruckus over something pretty stupid but… he’s like, eight years old. It’s not like he burned the house down (little do they know though, he’s probably pretty capable of such a thing). Anyways, as he is sent to the attic for punishment, he famously tells his mother (Catherine O’Hara) that he wishes he didn’t have a family. Harsh, yes, but these people are monsters, especially in the eyes of an eight year old. Lo and behold, after the parents’ alarm doesn’t go off, they frantically pack everything and head to Paris… without realizing that Kevin isn’t actually there, so when he awakens in the morning, his family has disappeared.
Thrilled by this news at first, Kevin soon learns to find out that taking care of yourself as a child is not ideal. He tries to rebel against his horrible family by watching rated R movies and going into their rooms, yada yada. In the meanwhile, there are two criminals, Marv and Harry (Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci) hellbent on breaking into the McCallister home. Once Kevin catches wind of this though, he sets up plans to fire back against them, which of course leads to the climax, which is the talk of legend.
Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel didn’t like Home Alone because of this final act. What? How? The rest of the movie is fine, give or take its annoyances (more on that in a minute), but the climax is hysterical. I’m not even into The Three Stooges or any of that but it’s hard not to chuckle, particularly because of the reactions from Pesci and Stern, both having a villainous ball.
Home Alone is a good movie, yet as I mention, there are things that irk me. Such as the McCallister’s. Horrible, horrible people. They do make up for it once they realize that Kevin is gone, but even that proves to be annoying once they start guilt tripping people into helping them get home. They’re the only big problem with the movie, though there are little, stupid moments along the way. Take a scene in which Kevin sees his scary neighbor at a grocery store. Kevin runs away from him, of course, while holding onto a toothbrush that he hasn’t paid for. Not only does Jimmy, the grocery boy, chase after him, but also, so does a police officer. Okay okay okay… this scene is too much. First, why would Kevin go to this place solely to pick up a toothbrush? Didn’t he go grocery shopping early in the movie, and does he not own a toothbrush? Also, again I remind these people that Kevin is EIGHT YEARS OLD. Does the whole bloody town have to chase after him over a toothbrush? And why wouldn’t the little idiot just drop the damn thing? Did he really need it THAT badly?
Also, take a scene where Kevin decides to watch an R-rated movie, against his parents wishes. The movie within the movie, the cheeky Angels with Filthy Souls, ends in bloodshed. It’s a funny scene. To Kevin’s great horror, he pauses the movie, and screams, “MOM!” Now, is this necessary? It’s not like he was watching John Carpenter’s The Thing or something. Plus, it’s kind of weird to think about, since Kevin ultimately proves to have a thirst for blood.
Then there’s the film’s closing moments. As a kid, the storyline involving the scary old neighbor and his estranged daughter used to bore me. As an adult, it resonates. It is moving and sweet, and leaves me teary eyed. I see why George Costanza wept. Yet the filmmakers kind of shoot themselves in the foot with this scene. After seeing the old man reunite with his daughter, Kevin feels joy for him, and so do we, in a moment that is made even more touching thanks to the brilliant score by John Williams. Yet they don’t end the movie on that note. Instead, they end it with, “Kevin, what did you do to my room?!” I get that they wanted families to leave in good spirits, but that emotional moment would’ve sufficed.
I have written more bad than good about Home Alone, especially for a movie that I thoroughly enjoy. It is funny, it is fun, and it is a film that burns in the memory. Even the moments I dislike in Home Alone have continued to linger in the memory, not just because I’ve seen it 1,000 times but because it’s certainly, well, memorable. A good chunk of Oscar bait pictures don’t burn in the memory, but Home Alone sure does. So much so that, of course Disney with all their greed is seeking to remake it. No, honey, just no.