Is there any film in American cinema, holiday film or otherwise, as iconic as Home Alone? Doubtful. This film is a lot of things: It’s the movie that made Macaulay Culkin a star, the movie that even people who don’t like holiday films love. Home Alone is a film that made almost 27 times its very humble budget in ticket sales, and launched a franchise and a legacy. But all of that aside, Home Alone is just a really, really funny movie. This is the movie that revolutionized the holiday film genre by removing the excessive cheesiness, spirituality, and preachiness, and instead gave us belly laughs centered around an unbelievable yet realistic plot.
Kevin McAllister (Maucalay Culkin), is an eight-year-old boy who lives with his presumably rather affluent parents in large house in a quiet suburb outside of Chicago. The extended family, including Kevin’s aunt, uncle, and cousins, are planning to spend the Christmas season in Paris, so they’ve congregated at the home of Kevin’s parents, Peter and Kate (John Heard and Catherine O’Hara) the night before the flight out. Kevin, who already has a very tense relationship with his much older siblings, especially Buzz (Devin Ratray), is pushed to the breaking point when Buzz’s bullying and his uncle Frank’s (Gerry Bamman) callousness, coupled with the knowledge that he’ll have to share his bed with his bed-wetting cousin (Kieran Culkin), cause him to snap. Although Kevin is punished with being sent to his room without supper, no kid watching the film could blame him for going off on his family. The rest of the McAllisters are assholes, lowkey. They ones who aren’t directly being unnecessarily cruel are simply too busy to put a stop to it.
When Kevin wakes up the next morning to an empty home, he believes that his Christmas wish for his family to disappear is the cause of this. In reality, the fact that he overslept and, due to the sheer size of the family and a nosy neighbour’s presence, his family inadvertently left him behind. At first, Kevin is overjoyed, but that joy is soon tempered when he learns of two bandits who have been scouting the neighbourhood, planning to rob the vacant homes of families on vacation. Through some elaborate planning, Kevin convinces the burglars that his home isn’t empty, but that ruse doesn’t last long, and when Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) realize they’ve been played, they become determined to rob the McAllister house. The only problem is that Kevin is equally determined that his family’s home won’t be victimized.
The ensuing antics are nothing short of hilarious! Watching the persistent but overwhelmed and blundering thieves take on a precocious yet dangerously resourceful child is not only wildly entertaining, but allows children to imagine themselves in the role of the hero, something rarely done at the time and which hadn’t been done with success since The Goonies. In being accidentally left behind by his family and having the responsibility of defending his home thrust upon his small shoulders, Kevin learns to value his home and his family more than he ever has, and in being without a vital member of their family, the rest of the McAllisters also get a much-needed attitude adjustment.
How do you know a movie is really, truly funny? You’re still laughing 27 years later. Home Alone still is, and will probably always be, funny. Seeing bad guys get hurt is funny (It just is; don’t judge me). Seeing a little kid save the day is triumphant. I give this one 5 stars.