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Saturday, 12 November 2016

Weekend TV Movie Review: Home Alone (1990), Film 4

Home Alone
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Catherine O' Hara
Genre: Christmas Comedy
Worldwide Box Office Gross: over $400 million 

Plot: When bratty 8-year-old Kevin McCallister acts out the night before a family trip to Paris, his mother makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters mistakenly leave for the airport without Kevin, he awakens to an empty house and assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement sours when he realises that two con men plan to rob the McCallister residence and that he alone must protect the family home. 

'Less Sentimentality & A Better First Half Would Have Made Home Alone An Even Better Movie'

Sometimes, it's easy to forget that there is a lot more to this film that meets the eye than Macaulay Culkin: he is arguably the main star of the show, but in this offering as well, it kind of makes you wonder what a wasted potential he was as a child actor and that he could've been one of the most well-known Hollywood movie actors, today in his 30s. 

That's not to say this film is awful: it has its moments, it's amusing in places thanks to the slapstick and physical comedy and is still one of Chris Columbus's best ever movies. But the saccharine, syrupy nature of this film - a running theme throughout many of Columbus's efforts in Home Alone 1 and 2, Mrs Doubtfire and less so in Stepmom, pretty much undercuts this film, slightly. 

The late John Hughes was responsible for the screenplay of Home Alone: he was also behind hits in Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club and Ferris Bueller's Day Off to name but a couple. 

During their mad rush to the airport, the McCalister family make a quick dash to the plane, only they forgot one thing: Kevin. With Kevin left all home alone, he is left to run amok, have fun, do whatever he wants & watch TV, whenever he wants. Yet his happiness is somewhat short-lived, as a pair of crooks try to break into the house. & with that, Kevin has to take the law into his own hands, in order to defend it. 

I enjoyed the parts when he uses the videotape and filthy animal line- although why the pizza delivery boy didn't look through the window and noticed it was only Kevin in the house, all alone, beats me. 

Kevin McCallister is both a hindrance and saviour of this film and walks a fine line between both: hindrance in that he can be annoying in a Jerry mouse in Tom and Jerry sort of way, and savour because the things he does to stop the burglars from stealing the things inside the house are genius. Which is why the final third of the film is best remembered and makes this movie more well known, more so than for all the events leading up to it. The scenes here are thus, entertaining though veers more slightly towards the childish side. The booby traps are clever and when they go off are highly amusing and also very effective. Some of which will make you wince and even howl with laughter. Daniel Stern's scream as Marv after he finds a spider sitting on his face, is just unbelievably funny. Depending on your tastes, you may find the scenes either juvenile or just harmless fun. It kind of helps that as it's a comedy, the crooks are so dumb and thick-headed their idiocy at undermining Kevin, all because he is some little kid, pretty much backfires in their faces. Unlike most people, he is not a completely likeable character, but neither is he one that necessarily comes across as a 'bully'. 

It's not a huge surprise that Home Alone was a tremendous hit at the box office, way back in 1990; in addition to watching Adventures in Babysitting, there are 1 or 2 elements from that film that appear to have been incorporated into Home Alone by Chris Columbus, or of which are influenced by that film in Home Alone. The part where Chris and the kids have to go on a journey to rescue her friend is akin to Kevin trying to protect his family's house from some bad guys. The idea of a little kid outsmarting a pair of dumb adult crooks and the pratfalls, slapstick and silliness is all fun to watch. 

The mindless violence in this film is very Tom & Jerry, cartoon-like, where really nothing or no one is truly harmed or is overly gratuitous. It's kind of funny that there are lots of sentimental scenes and of Kevin making friendly banter and chit- chat with the old man at the church (which was nice to see) - and yet when he's at home he starts acting all gung-ho against the robbers by firing a rifle into Marv's head for example. Therefore, I just think that Chris Columbus and/or John Hughes should've opted for a full-on, full-scale farcical comedy approach and not have all of these sentimental scenes. The Saccharine-filled nature could have been toned down a little, especially for a Christmas- themed film. But alas, this was a formula Columbus has repeated with Mrs Doubtfire, and thus, that film also garnered huge box office success. I guess they had to have a bit of both, just to make Home Alone not too overly sentimental in its feel, but also not too over-the-top and wacky. Yet I felt that balance just wasn't quite there. 

Nevertheless, I quite liked John Candy's cameo in this film and his interactions with Kevin's mother and it was nice of his character to give her a lift on her way home to see her son. I would have wished for him to have more scenes in Home Alone

John Williams's scores for the movies are so wonderful and memorable, and this one is no exception. As for the ending, I found it a tad too sickening in a diabetes type of way and was too overly sentimental. The film works best if you just approach it as a fantasy-like Christmas movie and as mere escapist fun. 

Final Verdict:

The subplot with the burglars breaking into the house was vital for this film; because this film was built upon and centred around that aspect, that without it, none of the events, slapstick, booby traps would have worked as well and made a lot of sense to audiences. 

For me personally, as much as I enjoyed watching this movie, I didn't truly love it. I was like 'hahaha, okay'. Kevin McCallister is kind of annoying but also smart. There is no denying the holiday theme and message plays a huge role in the tone of the film and in evoking that tone, but in reality, the success of Home Alone was pretty much down to the slapstick comedy and silliness, more so than for any other reason. 

Best remembered for the third act had the story and first half been as stronger and as inviting as the comedic scenes, and with less focus on its sentimentality, Home Alone would have been a much better movie, all-round. 

But as it stands, this festive effort from John Hughes and Chris Columbus is still worth seeing. 


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