I was seven when “Home Alone” first arrived in theaters, and oddly enough I don’t remember the first time watching it. I did go to the movies to see it, as we always did, but I do fondly remember one night when my brother and I dragged my dad to see it for a third time. Beside “Who Framed Roger Rabbit!” we’d seen “Home Alone” at least three times in theaters, and we loved it. My dad had worked late, and he picked my brother and me up during one snowy night and we debated on what to see in the theaters. He was anxious to watch “King Ralph,” but we begged him to let us watch “Home Alone” once again. He obliged and allowed us to watch it yet again, despite entering the theater mid-way through the movie for the final half.
But “Home Alone” still retains a lot of its magic and comedy value to this day. Even with Kevin McCallister being relatively petulant and obnoxious in the first half of the film, its fun for kids to watch Kevin live out every fantasy we ever had. He eats what he wants, watches any movie he wants to watch, doesn’t have to share any food, and even gets to play with any toys he wants. And after a while he realizes that sharing those experiences with family is what makes them so much fun. Kevin doesn’t learn a lesson in “Lost in New York,” but he at least learns something in the first film about appreciating his flawed family, no matter what.
“Home Alone” is admittedly a fairy tale that doesn’t pretend to be anything else but a fairy tale. It relishes in giving Kevin something of a wonderland for a house, and draws the hero in to a clever character who never stresses the fact he might be murdered by two very angry and wounded thieves in the finale of the film. Kevin never goes to the police, but decides to go home and protect it with far fetched booby traps, Marv and Harry are wounded so badly they could have died during Kevin’s antics, and despite knowing a child is home alone and could potentially be hurt, the local police just knock on the McCallisters door for a while and leave. That said, “Home Alone” still keeps its value and maintains its momentum as a young kid sticking it to really awful adults.
There are no shades of gray about Marv and Harry. They’re petty thugs casing high class neighborhoods and they delight in being slimy spineless thugs. When Kevin finally gives it to them in the finale, there’s no doubt they deserve it, and we have a good time watching him inflict the punishment on them. Pesci and Stern are priceless in their roles as pitch black villains who have no other motivation beyond stealing from houses during Christmas, and inflicting horrible bodily injuries on Kevin when he’s put them through the wringer. “Home Alone” builds up to the slapstick finale well and once Marv and Harry fall in to Kevin’s little traps, it’s still laugh out loud hysterical. Pesci’s screams and cries of pain, along with Stern’s excellent physical stunts and high pitched wails make the ending so worth the wait.
But before that, Kevin’s journey from hating his broadly written eccentric family, to appreciating them despite their flaws is entertaining with Macaulay Culkin capturing this character and redeeming him by the time the film reaches the home stretch. I guess because he feels like he wished his family away once and for all, that he has to protect the house himself, as a means of magically bringing them back from where ever they came from. Catherine O’Hara is also excellent as Kevin’s well intentioned mother who thinks she dislikes Kevin, but goes above and beyond to get home to ensure Kevin’s safety, even going so far as to sell her own possessions in an airport.
I also still enjoy the walk on role by John Candy who plays the leader of a traveling Polka band who offers to drive her back to Kevin free of charge. It’s a wonderfully bittersweet performance, as while their interplay and trading of looks and dialogue are hilarious, Candy’s character also ends up being a rather interesting human being who is also having issues with his family. Kevin’s tale, unlike the sequels, is really about redemption for himself and for his family. It’s possible he figures by the finale that his family is merely somewhere far, rather than magically disappearing, so he takes it upon himself to ensure the house isn’t destroyed or corrupted by Marv and Harry’s thievery.
The finale is for the most part still where the comedy gold is, prompting some top notch physical slapstick that still makes me giggle. Marv and Harry are much too cocky to take Kevin seriously, and by the time they decide to confront him as a serious threat, he’s already inflicted immense bodily harm on them. My favorite moment is still the scene where Kevin puts his brother’s tarantula on Marv’s face, prompting a deafening high pitched scream and nervous breakdown that is absolutely hysterical. Kevin is saved a lot by his mistakes and his good personality, forming an ally in his once scary next door neighbor, who comes to the rescue when Kevin is finally caught by the “Wet Bandits.” When Kevin’s family finally arrive, he’s proud that the house is basically untouched and in prime condition, thus proving he’s not the complete little monster he was the night before the fateful trip.
There’s just something so universally appealing about Chris Columbus’ comedy that still speaks to young audiences today. It’s something the sequels never could quite grasp on to, mainly because the movie should have been a one and done comedy. The movie was so much more about the violent punishment inflicted on these criminals. It’s about appreciating loved ones, cherishing the time you have with your family, and realizing Christmas isn’t only about presents. Plus once we hit a sequel, it just stopped being a funny concept. Leaving Kevin home alone once is an accident, leaving him behind a second time (and in New York), while watching other kids be left alone or behind (in the future sequels) is just bad parenting. “Home Alone” still works as a hilarious and novel Christmas film that has retained its classic status for a reason. Yes, it has major nostalgic value attached to it, but it’s also a very good movie worthy of at least one viewing during the holidays.