'Home Alone' @ 30
"I made my family dissapear!"
Director Chris Columbus and producer John Hughes, a powerhouse team of creative and comedic power, come together to deliver a family Christmas classic. ‘Home Alone’ is a brisk 90 minutes and combines everything needed for the festive season – comedy, heart and family. Oh, and Christmas of course.
It is a simple story. Following a chaotic start to a planned McCallister Christmas vacation in Paris, everyone makes the flight, except young Kevin who is accidentally left home alone!
It falls to the 8-year-old to become the man of the house while his family desperately try to find a last-minute flight home from Paris as the clock ticks down and they will be forced to spend Christmas away from Kevin.
But Kevin isn’t just faced with having to do the shopping, laundry and other chores, but also repel the threat of neighbourhood burglars Harry and Marv as they plan to rob the house on Christmas Eve.
To make matters worse, Kevin is haunted by the story about his old neighbour who is also a serial killer!
It made an international star out of 10-year-old Macaulay Culkin, and it's easy to see why. Fresh from 1989s ‘Uncle Buck’ that put him on the map as a bright-eyed young actor, here as Kevin he delivers everything you’d expect from a little one left home alone; joy, sadness, fear, confidence and sheer childhood imagination. This portrayal encapsulated the minds of young audiences that watched him live out a fantasy on screen and enticed older viewers with the joys of childhood innocence long since gone by.
Kevin is the child who can do what every child dreams about. He can eat junk-food without restraint and watch forbidden films. He can raid rooms to find hidden goodies. He can buy toys without judgement at the local store. All this and more never fails to tap into what it means to be to be a child without a care in the world. Yet Columbus never forgets to ground us in just how scary the world can be for a child who must learn to grow up far sooner than they should. Branded as a shoplifter by accident, learning to conquer the fear of a dark basement and taking responsibility for one’s actions are presented here, but in a tender and gentle way. Culkin conveys a real sense of isolation and sadness alongside the joy of the season that heightens how much family is important at this time of year.
Coupled with parents Catherine O'Hara and the late John Heard who lead the family and their chaotic race back to America, this is a wonderfully family orientated film. From spending too much time together, from NOT spending enough time together and then bickering, laughing, fighting and valuing each other, this film has family running through the narrative from the opening scene right to the closing credits. This family unity (even when split by thousands of miles) is so strong and sums up what family means to everyone at Christmas. You do whatever it takes to be together, and even if you fall out, there is always time to say sorry. It’s heart-warming and very relatable for those of either big or small families, especially when crafted by cinematographer Julio Macat and scored by John Williams; some of the frames in this film speak volumes with just music and are so simple and beautiful.
Of course, this is a comedy film and there is comedy a-plenty!
Not just the timeless one-liners such as “Look what you did you little jerk!” or “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal!”, much of the comedy comes in the guise of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
Pesci plays Harry, the brains behind the operation, and Stern is Marv, a little more dim-witted and naïve. The two together are comedy gold; one small and one tall, one smart and one dumb. It’s a classic Laurel and Hardy mis-matched pair who bounce of each other (literally) and their environment to give lots of slapstick, toe-curling but family friendly comedy. Even with our nefarious but somehow lovable duo, there is no swearing or strong violence. It’s all done to deliver maximum laughs and memorable antics in a safe way for viewers. Such is the way that the booby-trapped finale lives on as the most memorable moment of the film showcasing amazing practical stunt-work, prop design and good triumphing over evil to save Christmas!
‘Home Alone’ is pure festive escapism and is still a firm Christmas classic as it turns 30 this year. The talent on and off camera create a heart-warming, comedic and timeless film suitable for all ages, and was so successful it bore the sequel ‘Home Alone 2: Lost In New York’ in 1992.