Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Movie Review: Home Alone

Stars: 4 out of 5
Pros: Entertaining story with laughs and tender moments
Cons: A little slow in spots, a little too brutal at the end
The Bottom Line:
A boy left behind
Believable and funny
Not perfect but fun

“I Made My Family Disappear.”

If you followed pop culture at all in 1990, it was impossible to miss the phenomenon that was Home Alone.  Everyone was talking about it and clips were everywhere.  I didn’t go to the movies much back then, so I missed it at that time, and I’d never gotten around to watching it.  I finally decided to fix that this year, and I can see why the film was so popular back then and many people still love it today.

The McCallister family is heading to France for Christmas.  The day before they are set to leave, everyone arrives to stay with Kevin’s family outside of Chicago.  Between his siblings and his cousins and the adults, there is a house full.  And everyone is dumping on poor 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), the youngest of the family.  When he loses it, he is sent up to the attic for the night.

In the rush to leave the next morning, the family misses Kevin, and he wakes up to find out his wish to be alone has come true.  While his mother (Catherine O’Hara) frantically tries everything to get back to him, Kevin revels in his freedom.  That is, until he figures out that two burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) are planning to rob his house.  Can he stop them?

I’ve got to say from the start that I was very impressed with this film.  It set things up so well that the premise and complications Kevin’s family faced along the way trying to get in touch with him were completely believable.  I was expecting to have to go along with the premise just as a set up to the film, but it actually worked and made sense.  Likewise, the now famous climax is set up well early on as we are told about some of Kevin’s earlier antics.

Likewise, there are some very good quiet, tender moments late in the film.  Nothing to make you cry, but definitely showing some character growth.  A sub-plot involving Kevin’s neighbor was great, although it did feel like it was in there for filler.

Of course, this is a comedy.  As it was billed at the time, this is a family comedy without the family.  While I don’t know that I laughed outright at it, I certainly smiled at some of the things that happened.  This was especially true when Kevin was reveling in his freedom or later when he was trying to act like a grown up.  Even the scenes with the rest of his family were fun if not quite at the level of the scenes with Kevin on his own.

I do have two minor complaints with the film.  It starts out a little slowly, especially if you know what is going to happen.  Yes, they have to set things up, but it feels like they could have been a little quicker about it.

The other complaint is the battle.  While I know they were going for slapstick comedy, this one just seemed to venture on the side of painful instead of humorous to me.  Yes, some of it was pretty funny, but at the next moment I’d cringe.  And, honestly, why didn’t the burglars just leave?  If I were them, I would have.  That’s the only point where the premise of the movie falls apart.  Too bad, too, since they’d set the rest up so well.

The movie made a star out of Macaulay Culkin.  I felt he was a bit over the top early on, but as the movie went along, he really settled into the part and helped make Kevin believable.  Since so much of the film centers around him alone in the house, that’s a very good thing.  He certainly made many of those scenes fun.  The rest of the cast was great, especially Catherine O’Hara, who was believably frantic in a way that was funny without ever going over the top.

While it’s easy to nitpick here or there, the overall movie is still quite entertaining.  While Home Alone might never be part of my Christmas staple movie list, I’m glad I watched it and would certainly enjoy seeing it again.

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