Like the previous year’s “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”, “Home Alone” was written by the prolific John Hughes and although they’re set in different parts of Illinois, it’s a nice thought that the Griswolds and the McAllisters actually only live a few doors down from each other.
When a power cut causes the family to oversleep for their airport pick-up, they have to rush to the airport and board the plane for their flight to Paris, only to realise they’ve left their son Kevin (McCauley Culkin) behind. Meanwhile, the neighbourhood is being cased by notorious serial burglars The Wet Bandits and they’ve targeted the McAllister’s home for their next job.
The highest grossing comedy of all time, “Home Alone” needs little introduction. It’s the film which launched McCauley Culkin’s career and here he’s got just the right amount of wide-eyed cuteness, precocious attitude and charm to carry the whole film. The scenes of his independent living are pure child wish fulfilment of all the things you’d wish you could do if your parents weren’t around: watching as much TV as you want, meals composed of ice cream and treats and staying up as late as you want.
Kevin’s overhearing of The Wet Bandits plans and his defensive plans are, of course, the film’s high point and director Christopher Columbus does a great job of translating the slapstick laws of physics from “Tom & Jerry” cartoons into the real world. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern do a superb job of being the fall guys for gag after gag while still managing to retain an air of threat and menace, giving us an exciting finale.
This is, really, one of those films which has become a Christmas classic because it takes place at Christmas rather than revolving around the ‘magic’ of the holidays but running unassumingly alongside the main farce here is a very sweet subplot about Kevin’s scary old neighbour, Mr Marley. Kevin’s interactions with Marley throughout the film are welcome, quiet moments amongst the hubbub and hilarity and provide a lovely poignant moment right at the end which prevents the film feeling shallow and empty and adds a dash of the traditional redemptive Christmas flavour.
It also goes some way to redeeming the one thing which always bothered me about “Home Alone”, which is how awful Kevin’s family are to him – at the beginning and then to a lesser extent when they reunite at the end. While the extended family can kind of be overlooked, it’s always really annoyed me how callous and dismissive Kevin’s parents are to him and his feelings. From a story point of view, it helps to give credibility to the idea they could accidentally leave him behind but it still niggles at me. You’d hope at the end that the parents would have learned their lesson but the fact that it happens again in the sequel makes Catherine O’Hara a real contender for worst cinematic mother (non-psychotic division) of all time.