Today’s vault review is brought to you by special request so blame Dylan, not me.
The McCallister home is in chaos because fifteen people are crammed inside, preparing to fly to Paris for Christmas. Amid all the yelling and hustling, the youngest, eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin), let’s everyone know he’s had it with them. Granted, he’s not the nicest kid, but that doesn’t mean the smart aleck should get screwed out of his cheese pizza or have to bunk with his cousin, Fuller (Kieran Culkin), a known bed-wetter. As he’s sent to bed by his mom, Kate (Catherine O’Hara), Kevin proclaims, “I hope I never see any of you folks again!” His wish is answered when he wakes up to find he’s home alone. Meanwhile, a pair of crooks, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), try to rob what they think is an empty home only to find a gallon of whoop-tooshie in the pint-sized man of the house.
Despite being a Christmas movie, Home Alone reigned number one at the box office from mid-November of 1990 through the beginning of February. It was made on what would now be considered a modest budget of about $18 million, and went on to become the highest grossing film of the year domestically. However, big bucks at the box office don’t always translate to great movies and Home Alone is no exception.
Don’t get me wrong, Home Alone has its moments. If it didn’t, it would never have earned as much as it did. Preparing to watch this again for the first time in years, I expected the slapstick hijinks between Kevin and the crooks would bother an older me. In fact, these scenes comprise about fifteen minutes of the runtime and are still hilarious, albeit cheesy. There’s a silly cameo by the late John Candy as the Polka King of the Midwest that warms my heart. But the most engaging element of the story is the subplot between Kevin and his mysterious old neighbor, Marley (Roberts Blossom).
No matter how charismatic the young Macaulay is, not even he can keep audiences from overlooking the flaws. First, you have to accept a mother would leave her son behind. Director Chris Columbus tries to make this plausible with an incorrect head count and a lost passport, but it’s unlikely that a kid as annoying as Kevin could somehow be overlooked by a mother who’s endured his nagging from birth. Also, how can two seedy men skulk around a swanky neighborhood in broad daylight without a cop or neighbor noticing? Given today’s flight standards, the family would never have made it out of O’Hare International, but Kate’s heart-wrenching return pilgrimage was unlikely even in 1990. More so, how rich are the McCallisters that six of them can turn around and fly back from Paris on Christmas Day?
I know, I know; that’s the magic of the movies. You set these implausible things aside and enjoy the cute kid, his mischief and the warm fuzzies the ending gives you. Even so, I can’t ignore that Kevin’s annoying screams happened about three times too many.
Watching Home Alone again, I was reminded of a quote from Serendipity the Muse in Dogma when questioned about which one of the twenty top-grossing films of all time was she not responsible for. She said, “Yeah, the one about the kid, by himself in his house, burglars trying to get in and he fights them off? I had nothing to do with that one. Somebody sold their soul to Satan to get the grosses up on that piece of shit.” I wouldn’t be that harsh, but like so many movies, some of the glitter has been been scuffed from this holiday trinket.