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Movie Review

Home Alone

Reviewed by: Brett Willis
CONTRIBUTOR

Average
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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Older Kids to Adults
Genre:
Comedy
Length:
1 hr. 43 min.
Year of Release:
1990
USA Release:
November 16, 1990 (wide)
Relevant Issues
Video cover for “Home Alone”
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Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation. Fun for the whole family with games, activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, color pages, and more! One of the Web’s first and most popular Christian Web sites for children. Nonprofit, evangelical, nondenominational.
Featuring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, John Candy
Director: Chris Columbus
Producer: Tarquin Gotch, John Hughes, Mark Levinson, Mark Radcliffe, Scott Rosenfeldt
Distributor: 20th Century Fox

Something about this film struck a chord with our latchkey-kid society, in a way that went even beyond its $286 Million domestic box office. For a long time after its release, newscasters (at least in my city) would report real-life “home alone” incidents in a way that tied them to the film, even taking a breath and then pronouncing “homealone” as though it were one word (kind of like “helpmeet”).

Through a far-out but theoretically possible combination of events, 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is left behind when his large family and his cousins go on a Christmas vacation to France. Once the mistake is discovered, Kevin’s mother desperately tries to get back to him as soon as possible. In the meantime, Kevin imagines that his family has disappeared because he, in anger, had said he wanted them to disappear. He has a blast for awhile, getting into things he shouldn’t and pigging out on anything he wants. But that soon gets old, and he wants his family back. Meanwhile, he has to contend with Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), a pair of burglars who call themselves the “Wet Bandits” but could be better titled the “Two Stooges.” Harry and Marv are hitting every house in this rich Chicago neighborhood while the families are on vacation, but they especially target Kevin’s house. One major draw of the film is the way Kevin continually outwits the burglars. (In real life, he could have just called the police right away; but what fun would that have been? Maybe he was afraid of being arrested himself for wishing his family out of existence.) Another selling point is the subplot in which Kevin befriends and connects with a lonely old man in the neighborhood and they end up helping each other.

Content Warnings

The opening scenes, of the combined families getting ready for the trip, involve moderate profanity and a lot of jealousy and fighting, capped off by Kevin being banished to an attic bedroom. The left-behind Kevin goes through his brother’s private stuff, including girlie magazines. Kevin scares off a pizza delivery boy with fake gunfire, just for fun (later, he uses the same trick on the burglars). The final battle between Kevin and the burglars involves a large amount of slapstick violence, much of which would be crippling or lethal if it were real. The “feel” of the film is that the violence shouldn’t be taken too seriously, but children below a certain age won’t realize that and may be frightened and/or engage in imitative behavior.

Overall, the film is fun for any audience old enough to know that it’s only a fantasy.

Followed by:Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (1992) [same characters, similar plot, more violence] and “Home Alone 3” (1997) [new characters]


Viewer Comments
I was about 8 years old when I saw this with my mother in the movie theaters. To me, it was totally awesome! It was funny, clever, and witty. It did have the usual “3 stooges” slapstick stuff, but it was good enough to keep me entertained. This movie should be considered a classic in the comedy genre.
My Ratings: [Good / 3]
—Shannon, age 20
Another movie that makes light of a undisciplined, ill-mannered child’s actions, and calls it fun. Kevin is hard to like, esp. early in the film when he’s being a pest, and smarting off to his mother. Some of the pranks he pulls on the burglars are downright sadistic. It is only later in the film that I felt any kind of sympathy for the kid, as it dawns on him how alone he really is without his family. Parents should impress upon their children who see this film that all practical jokes aren’t harmless or funny.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Hillari Hunter, age 39