The most interesting thing about rewatching Chris Columbus’ 1990 film, Home Alone, is seeing Joe Pesci play Harry Lime and be a goofy burglar. It is to watch Macaulay Culkin in retrospect, knowing all the things he later struggled with as an adult, and marvel at the excellent performance he gave as a 10-year-old kid. Everything wears a new gauze with nostalgia. And last year, Macaulay Culkin tweeted jocundly on his birthday, “Hey guys, wanna feel old? I’m 40.” To rewatch Home Alone is to revisit an aspect of one’s childhood, regardless of who you are or where you are from. And perhaps to reaffirm the niggling suspicion that this might be the best Christmas movie at least till date—because let’s not get carried away, there is Mitchell Leisen’s 1940 film, Remember the Night.
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Home Alone’s synopsis is quite simple. A young troublesome child, Kevin McCallister, has problems connecting with his family and extended family on the eve of their Christmas vacation to Paris. After a dining room altercation with his brother, Buzz (Devin Ratray), his mother (Catherine O’Hara) sends him up into the attic early. The family wakes very late the next day and in the hullaballoo of getting to the airport, they forget Kevin at home. When he wakes, he celebrates being left alone. But soon, he finds that family is important, and he must defend his home against two notorious burglars (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern).
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The beauty of Home Alone is that it continuously insists, scene to scene, that the viewer suspends their disbelief. In any real world, Kevin would have been beaten to a pulp by those burglars, probably none of those pranks would have worked, and it is near impossible, no matter how meticulously this film set it up, that he would have been forgotten by his parents. But this is a feel-good Christmas movie on the values of family. To top that, Macaulay Culkin steals all the hearts away with his portrayal of Kevin; a petulant child that just wants to be given attention by his family and absolved of the wrong allegations. When his family returns home after a rigmarole, his mother stands at the foot of the stairs and says “Oh Kevin, I am so sorry”. Then he smiles and runs into her embrace just before the rest of the family comes into the house. Even though Macaulay Culkin has gone far from that sweet little kid, become a father himself and fuelled numerous controversies, his legacy will remain forever. Home Alone is evergreen because the values the movies espouse will always be relevant, love and safety within one’s family; defending your home against intruders, and transmitting those values to others.
Retro Rating: 8.3/10
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- That film Kevin plays to frighten the pizza guy away is a fictional meta-film titled Angels with Even Filthier Souls.
- Catherine O’Hara as Kate McCallister isn’t given enough credit. Her performance was excellent because unlike most of the other lead characters, she didn’t really need to exaggerate her expressions for comedic purposes.
- Joe Pesci is an outstanding actor; if he had to play a toilet seat, I am beginning to suspect he’d win an Oscar for the role.
Home Alone is available on Disney+.