Yeah, I’d wanna leave that asshole family too. Except, Catherine O’Hara. I want her around always.
I’m a firm believer that some of the most enjoyable kids movies are the ones that are rooted in pure, childlike wish fulfillment. The ones where every kid’s fantasy comes to life. Movies like Spy Kids (2001), Recess: School’s Out (2001) and Sky High (2005). Of course, the crown jewel in this catalogue of movies is the beloved Christmas classic, Home Alone (1990). Could you imagine? Waking up one day to find your most annoying relatives have disappeared and you have an entire beautiful, enormous house to yourself? And then you get to physically torture two moronic criminals? Ahhh, warm and fuzzy yuletide feelings. Seriously though, this movie is a Christmas staple and I’m so excited that it gets to be my first Wayback review of the holiday season.
Home Alone follows Kevin McCallister, an 8-year-old boy who after an oversight by his large, chaotic family, wakes up one morning to find himself inexplicably home completely by himself. For the bullied and overlooked Kevin, having the house to himself first seems like a dream come true. But when a pair of robbers set their sights on his house, Kevin must now defend his home with nothing but household goods and his own wits.
I always seem to forget the trifecta of legendary talent that’s behind Home Alone. You’ve got Chris Columbus directing, John Williams doing the score and John Hughes writing the script. Incredible! Speaking of John Hughes, yes, he wrote iconic movies like Sixteen Candles (1984), The Breakfast Club (1985) and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986), but did you know that he also wrote the screenplay for 101 Dalmatians (1996) and the story for Maid in Manhattan (2002)? Talk about versatility. While Ferris Bueller’s Day Off will always be my favourite Hughes movie, I can see why many cite Home Alone as theirs.
Home Alone is a movie that oozes childlike wonder and youthful fun. In everything from direction, to music, to dialogue, there’s an inherent sense of whimsy in Home Alone that manages to appeal to both kids and adults. Sure, it’s full of outrageously silly physical comedy (oh, we’ll talk about it) but it’s also surprisingly whip-smart in the way the characters and story are written. I never noticed before, but Kevin mentions early on that he was making ornaments out of fishhooks, laying the groundwork for the level of craftsmanship he’s capable of later. Even the unfortunate occurrence of a freak storm knocking out the phone lines, the entire family oversleeping and the chatty neighbour kid being mistaken for Kevin, though convenient, are entirely plausible. There’s a wonderful balance between the hilarious absurdity and the stone-cold realism of what poor Kevin has to endure to survive being home alone. He literally has to flee from potentially murderous criminals! The combined efforts of Columbus, Williams and Hughes make Home Alone a timeless comedy that manages to deliver so much more than the typical Christmas fluff. Of course, a classic movie is made all the better by its perfect cast.
Okay, so I know he went on to star in fan-favourite movies like My Girl (1991) and The Pagemaster (1994), but what happened to Macaulay Culkin? After the 90s he just stopped appearing in mainstream movies. Which is a shame because if he’s as talented as an adult as he was as a child, Culkin could have become the king of Young Hollywood. In his iconic role as Kevin McCallister, Culkin is pure perfection. The mark of a great child actor is if as an adult, you can watch their performance without wishing they’d just shut up already. Culkin is a great child actor, one you can’t get enough of when he’s onscreen. A lot of young actors could have easily made the role a bratty and unbearable one but Culkin does the opposite.
From the very beginning, you’re on Kevin’s side. He makes Kevin relatable, earnest and brimming with honest charisma. Culkin possesses an old-school moxie and vibrant likability that makes a winning performance I’ll happily re-watch every year. I mean, it’s worth re-watching solely for the charming collection of chunky knitwear that Kevin rocks throughout. Oh! And of course, anytime you have the divine Ms. Catherine O’Hara in your movie that automatically deems it worthy of multiple viewings. Sure, Kevin’s mom, Kate, may be a more reserved role for the wildly talented O’Hara, but she still infuses each scene she’s in with a healthy combination of humour and heart. She also gets to claim one of the simplest yet iconic lines in cinematic history: “KEVIN!”
Speaking of iconic, easily the most memorable part of Home Alone, the part anyone will tell you is their favourite, is when Kevin sets a series of ingenious traps to protect his home from Harry and Marv, the Wet Bandits. It takes up the last half hour of the movie and my God, is it a laugh-riot from start to finish. No matter how many times I see Daniel Stern get hit in the face with a paint can, or Joe Pesci get his head scorched by a flamethrower, or the pair slip and fall on ice, I howl with laughter.
Every. Single. Time.
This is top-notch physical comedy that never fails to fill the room with raucous laughter. The brilliant, and border-line lethal, traps that Kevin springs on Harry and Marv are made all the more hilarious by Pesci and Stern’s priceless reactions. And the fact that you want to see these two bumbling villains knocked down a few pegs. Obviously the pop culture references and technology are dated, but the astounding comedy in Home Alone is anything but. Seriously, if you don’t cry-laugh every time Marv steps on those broken ornaments, you need to get your funny bone checked out.
Home Alone totally holds up. There’s a reason why it remains one of the most beloved Christmas movies of all time. Masterful craftsmanship, iconic performances and timeless humour are all wrapped up in one of the most unforgettable stories of wish fulfillment ever. I mean, ice cream for dinner, violent movies and going through your sibling’s personal property? Every eight-year-old’s dream! Of course, the dream of this 23-year-old is to one day live in a house as gorgeous as the McCallister house. Seriously, this house always has and always will be #GOALS.
Are you a fan of Home Alone?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!