Wednesday, 25 December 2019

Movie Review: Home Alone (1990)


A family Christmas comedy, Home Alone strikes all the right tones in a tale of a kid forgotten behind at the most magical time of year.

In a Chicago suburb, the McCallister family prepares for a Christmas vacation trip to Paris. Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is the smart but exasperating eight year old youngest son, generally overlooked by his parents Kate and Peter (Catherine O'Hara and John Heard) and tormented by his siblings. With the family chaotically extended by the presence of Kevin's ornery uncle and his brood, no one notices burglar Harry Lyme (Joe Pesci) disguised as a police officer scoping the soon-to-be-empty house.

In the travel day rush the family bundles off to the airport and then onto the plane with Kevin forgotten home alone. He has to fend for himself, keeping a wary eye on spooky neighbour Marly (Roberts Blossom), and gradually realizes Harry and his partner Marv (Daniel Stern) are intent on burglarizing the house. On the plane Kate awakens to her blunder, and once in Paris immediately starts the long trip back. But unscheduled travel arrangements during the Holidays will prove a challenge.

Writer and producer John Hughes turns his attention away from teenagers and towards the younger kids. Maintaining his sharp wit and ear to the ground, Hughes conjures up a Christmas classic in a story where be-careful-what-you-wish-for applies to both the kids and adults.

In the lead up to the Paris trip Kevin makes a nuisance of himself by just being a kid, but his unintended mess results in hot emotions and sharp words. Kate banishes him to the attic, out of sight and out of mind, and Kevin wishes his whole family would just disappear already. Both their wishes come true, as the next morning the family is free of Kevin's presence and he awakens to an empty house, sure he was responsible for everyone's disappearance.

With director Chris Columbus capably translating Hughes' vision to the screen, what follows is a journey of redemption for Kate, and she has to overcome every conceivable travel nightmare to make it back to her son as soon as possible. Her trip will include a travel leg in a U-Haul van with John Candy's legendary (sort of) polka band, Hughes elegantly tying Home Alone with 1987's Planes, Trains And Automobiles.

Meantime Kevin is growing up in a hurry, confronting fears including the boiler in the basement and the mysterious neighbour-with-the-shovel. But worse is to come, the bumbling burglar duo of Harry and Marv absolutely intent on hitting the prized McCallister house (Hughes never quite explains how this family came to live in a luxurious mansion). Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are admirably dedicated to the doofus antagonists roles, and add immeasurably to the film's madcap physical humour.

Home Alone reaches a quite hilarious climax with Kevin concocting a defence of the house to thwart and humiliate the robbers at every turn, in the hope help will arrive in a true Christmas miracle. Here Hughes even manages a nod to the intervention by the misunderstood next-door presence from To Kill A Mockingbird territory.

With Columbus cajoling a superlative and ridiculously appealing performance out of young Macaulay Culkin, Home Alone ticks along in perfect harmony with the spirit of personal growth through family appreciation, laughing all the way.






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