Home Alone (1990) / Comedy

MPAA Rated: PG for some language and violence
Running Time: 103 min.

Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, John Candy, Angela Goethals, Devin Ratray, Gerry Bamman, Terrie Snell, Hillary Wolf, Kieran Culkin
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenplay: John Hughes
Review published April 23, 2004

Perhaps the biggest surprise about Home Alone is not that it is liked by many people, especially as a movie to watch around Christmas -- it's that it would become a mega-blockbuster, shooting straight up to become one of the top grossing films of all-time.  As to the reasons why, I can only speculate, as this is, in my opinion, not even a good movie.  With a ridiculously contrived plot in every detail, John Hughes' (Christmas Vacation) script is full of outrageously hard-to-swallow machinations, and even stranger motivations, ranking among his very worst.  Chris Columbus' (Nine Months, Bicentennial Man) broadly physical-minded direction keeps the slapstick quotient heavy, as we watch a young boy behave like a complete brat, while menacing thugs get (deservedly, in a way) tortured for the final half.  Is this a film really worth waiting in line for?

Macaulay Culkin (Saved!) stars in his breakthrough role as 8-year-old Kevin MacAllister, who through a fluke gets left behind at his Chicago home while his family takes a vacation in France.  Without a working phone, and with all of his neighbors also gone, Kevin has to take care of himself until his parents return.  Trouble is that with everyone gone, the neighborhood becomes prime real estate to a couple of scheming thieves, who see the MacAllister home as their big prize catch.  Meanwhile, Kevin's family realize their error too late, and are desperately trying to get back home -- no easy feat during the busy holidays.

Part of the problem I have with Home Alone is the unrealistic acting of the quintessential cute boy, Macaulay Culkin, no doubt continuing his shtick as set forth by the previous John Hughes flick, Uncle Buck.  I guess you either love it or hate it.  Drives me crazy, if you must know.

Then you get to see little cutesy-wutesy Culkin lay the smackdown on the heartless thieves, setting up booby-traps until they beg for mercy.  They crack their heads slipping down stairs, they get their faces singed by scalding hot irons, they skewer their feet on broken glass, etc.  This is all in the form of heart-warming family entertainment, mind you.  Basically, it's just live-action Looney Toons.

Home Alone marked the beginning of the end of John Hughes as a creative force, who has spent the remainder of his career penning screenplays for such movies as Dennis the Menace, Baby's Day Out, Beethoven, Flubber, and the two Home Alone sequels -- almost all kid stuff.  The formula of broad slapstick, sticky schmaltz, and simple premises continued throughout many of the worst children's fare, and one can blame Home Alone for a good part of why most live-action kids flicks are so devoid of anything truly worthwhile. 

I realize this movie has a huge audience who watch it repeatedly, but I have to stick to my guns and call 'em like I see 'em.  Home Alone is hyper-marketed, spoon fed sentimentality wrapped in a cute, loveable package.  Entertaining?  Well...ok...I guess...  Just don't tell me this is a good movie.

-- Followed by Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Home Alone 3, and Home Alone 4

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo