a critiQal film review Home Alone (1990)

Plot: When his family accidentally leaves him behind on a trip to France for Christmas, 8-year-old Kevin (Culkin) is forced to fend for himself. As his mother (O'Hara) races back home to him, Kevin has to fend off notorious burglars Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern), who have set their sights on his family's home.

Reviewed
629 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 8s)
  • ...while Culkin's overacting gets annoying, the film does have a certain charm.

When we decided we were going to watch a new Christmas movie every day this week until Christmas, we immediately headed to Blockbuster® – and found the pickings rather slim. With only a few movies to choose from (most of which we alreaady owned), we settled for the hit that made Macaulay Culkin a household name – Home Alone.

While we had both seen the film before, neither of us had seen it in quite some time, and we figured we’d give it another go. Of course, we, like everyone else, had grown quite sick of Culkin after the release of Home Alone – partially due to the myriad of sequels the film produced (of which Macaulay was a part of at least one) – and the major hype around the film. After all, for a while, Home Alone was the top grossing movie of all time – beating out classics like Star Wars and E.T..

So what about this rather simple movie about a kid fighting off some burglars had such mass appeal? We couldn’t remember, so decided to try to find out.

Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone is not exactly a consumate actor. Sure, some viewers may think it’s just because he’s a kid, but that excuse doesn’t hold up in light of other impressive kid performances (Haley Joel Osment in The Sixth Sense, Kristen Dunst in Interview With A Vampire., etc.).

The biggest thing Macaulay has going for him in Home Alone is the film itself. Due to the shenanigans going on, his overreacting sillyness actually fits in well with the rest of the film. Sure, it gets a bit annoying – just like his scream of horror every morning – but for a large part of the film, the viewer doesn’t mind it that much.

Joe Pesci, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Viewers already know he can act, so why he took on the role of a bumbling crook doesn’t make much sense. Instead of acting, all he and Daniel Stern have to do is react to the variety of things thrown at them. Maybe it was because it’s a lot easier to react than act, or maybe the paycheck was big enough he could overlook everything else.

The rest of the cast, including Catherine O’Hara and a special appearance by the late John Candy, are largely background nosie to Macaulay, Pesci and Stern. Catherine O’Hara pulls off the loving mother who’s made an awful mistake very well, showing both her anger and her fear as she argues her way back home – but even her performance is rather brief in comparison.

Of course, Home Alone‘s plot borders on the ridiculous – even more so now when viewers think back to how many films have since copied it’s formula (kid vs. everyone). Must be the smell of box office gold that got to everyone.

With it’s silly plot, it’s over-acting little star and the disgraceful role for Pesci, viewers would think this movie is downright awful. Yet, for some strange reason, it’s not. Instead, through all of the antics and the bad acting, a certain charm leaks through that captures the viewer’s interest. Maybe it’s the sight of little 8pyear-old Kevin setting up his own Christmas tree, then staring forlornly at it, completely and utterly alone. Whatever the case may be, that charm allows viewers to overlook the really bad parts, and enjoy the simpleness of the film for what it is – light Christmas-themed fun.

Don’t overthink Home Alone – you’ll probably end up hating it (again). Instead, pull this one out every 5-10 years and give it another viewing. Small doses of the film spaced few and far between will help keep Home Alone more charming than annoying.

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