PG, which is 1990s for R. PG meant nothing in the day. Yeah, it's a family film, but what we considered a family film then versus a family film now is night and day. There's a lot of swearing in this movie. I am not going to show this movie to my kids for a really long time. Henry gets scared at any kind of violence, even violence towards bad guys. I guess I should be pretty happy about that. It probably means that he has empathy. Either that, or he's a monster who only wants to see the hero suffer. Regardless, there's some violence and bad language. Also, Kevin looks at a Playboy.
DIRECTOR: Chris Columbus
People getting hit with stuff is funny. It's funny today as it was then. I watched this movie for the billionth time this Christmas. When I used to teach junior high, we used to show this movie the day we left for Christmas break. I don't care how many times I've seen this movie, it's probably one of the few comedies that makes me laugh every time. I know that comedy should be about surprise, but this movie works so well with me. I still groan at every single hit. I don't care how well MythBusters debunks the hits. I know that the Wet Bandits should be dead from the paint can alone, but it's funny to see people get hit with things.
I don't think that I'll ever watch the sequel again if I don't have to. That being said, check every so often on this page for the inevitable review for Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. It's starring our current Commander-in-Chief, so that's something. But I kind of want to focus this analysis with the knowledge that Lost in New York exists. The thing about the original Home Alone is that it is a really tight film. Yeah, it's a Christmas movie, but it is a Christmas movie that intentionally subverts everything that a Christmas movie should be about. It is about bad behavior, a wrathful God, and violence galore. People argue whether or not Die Hard is actually a Christmas movie or not and I have to say it has to be if Home Alone is acceptable as a Christmas movie, Die Hard might have to be as well. Home Alone is totally a Christmas movie (which few people argue against) because Kevin learns the value of the human spirit through his adventures alone in his home town. He grows as a human being and devalues presents. Okay, that's fine. But if I want to teach my kids about the true meaning of Christmas, am I going to start at Home Alone? Nah, I'm going to show them Home Alone (eventually!) because people get hit hard with stuff by a kid who is pretty hilarious. But I digress.
Home Alone works because it is tightly written. John Hughes, who isn't in the director's chair for this one, wrote this really tight script. It's deceptively tight. It takes a couple of viewings to catch some little things that he threw in there to make the story nearly airtight. (The only thing that completely bothers me about the movie, and I'd love correction on this, is how lackadaisical the Chicago PD are about a call from a mother saying a kid is stuck at home.) But starting from the beginning of the movie, Kevin is given completely unlikable traits. He's a complete brat, but still manages to maintain some sympathy. To do this, Kevin has to have a handful of characters, his family, that completely push every one of his buttons and character flaws. There are a billion characters in this movie. He has this sympathetic beginning because he is actually alone from the start of the narrative. (This is a metaphor on my part, but it is leading an interesting direction, so I'm going to keep following this.) Kevin acts out because he is constantly overlooked. This is most personified by his Uncle Frank and Buzz. These are two characters who notice him, but in the most toxic ways possible. Uncle Frank, a grown man, blames Kevin for everything and calls him "a little jerk." This is all the attention that Kevin gets without advocating for attention. He can annoy his other siblings and cousins by directly asking them questions, but their intentions are to limit the conversation to the bare minimum it would take to get rid of Kevin. They are actually talking around him. It doesn't minimize Kevin's terribleness. After all, we need Scrooge for "A Christmas Carol", but it doesn't make him the bad guy. This is not what I was planning on talking about, but I like thinking about it.
The details lie in how it got to Kevin getting left behind and all of the moments being set up. It's a kids' movie. There's a lot of excuses to be lazy. This is the era of Ernest P. Worrell. Comedies were allowed to be super dumb. But everything in that movie is set up and paid off. I love this kind of stuff. It's not on Edgar Wright levels, but it is close. How Kevin gets left behind is brilliant. It seems like this should be simple, but lots of little events happen that are all explored. (The garage is open! Guys, the garage is open.) But the character stuff is all great. Kevin's big phobia of the neighbor is absurd, but it ends in a really touching way. As a movie that stands alone and wasn't supposed to be the mega Christmas explosion that it was, it is nearly perfect. There are so many small lessons that Kevin learns, making it ultimately a Christmas movie. The only big question I have in terms of set up is why Kevin decides to make an ornate meal of macaroni and cheese immediately before the Wet Bandits hit. The clock even shows that it is 8:57 when he pulls his microwave dinner out. What is he thinking? I started this whole thing keeping Lost in New York in mind. I talked to Doug Benson on Twitter once (name drop, I know) and he said that Ghostbusters 2 is ultimately a repeat of the first Ghostbusters movie. I kind of disagreed with him, but I saw where he is coming from. Lost in New York is a crime when it comes to that. Everything was so intricately planned for the first movie and all of those beats are simply repeated in the second movie. I shouldn't be talking about the second film, but it actually kind of stains the first movie. By having the second movie cover the same beats as the first film, it means that Kevin learned nothing from this first experience. The big message of the film is that Kevin needed to learn to accept people instead of instantly fearing them. That's a major moment for Kevin. But he then treats the homeless bird lady exactly like he treated his neighbor. Why would this beat be repeated? It is so important that Kevin learned something about humanity. Like, if they made "A Christmas Carol 2" (I'm writing it in my head right now), how disappointing would it be if Scrooge went back to being a jerk? No, it should be about Kevin teaching someone else the value of humanity so they can avoid the problems of the first one. How great would Lost in New York have been if Kevin and Fuller were stuck together? He would then teach Fuller about the lessons of the first movie? Then, Kevin would be frustrated with Fuller, only to realize that he was treating his brother like his neighbor? Genius. I just wrote a perfect Home Alone sequel.
You know who, with years of retrospect under my belt, doesn't suck? Macaulay Culkin. I can totally see why that kid got way too famous way too fast. He's perfect in this movie. There's a bunch of kids movies where the kids kind of suck. There's a handful of actors out there who are actually good as kids and Macaulay Culkin was one of them. I want him to be okay. I don't know why I want that now. I imagine it is pretty easy to laugh at someone who burned so bright and how he plummeted to Earth. (I'm being sympathetic.) He's so good.
Also, I don't know what's with me and good Christmas movies. I only get weepy at Christmas movies. It used to just be Scrooged. The end, with Calvin. I'm not going to go into it because I don't want to cry. Then, I emotionally added It's a Wonderful Life. Okay, that one makes sense. This watch? I almost cried twice. The first time was when John Candy offered Catherine O'Hara a ride on Christmas Eve. That's an odd choice. I wasn't expecting that. (Catherine O'Hara looks so grateful that she is going to be able to see her child. What have kids done to me?) The second is when Kevin forgives his mom and I just lose it. What am I doing at work? I should be home with kids and hugging them forever. But Home Alone does what it shouldn't be able to do: it makes me really excited for Christmas and family. That's what it was made to do. But if I showed you the disparate parts of that film and told you that you would be emotionally welled up, it wouldn't make any sense. Heck, I'm sure it still doesn't make a lot of sense for a lot of you. I don't know how both Christmas and family has broken me, but they have. Regardless, I want to know when to show my kids these movies. I'm so desperate that they see every fun movie that I'm getting them off the plates when they are too young. But I just can't wait sometimes. Maybe my oldest would like it...
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.