Kicking off a series of Christmas movie reviews is Home Alone from 1990.
Everyone knows Home Alone. It is played almost constantly from Thanksgiving until Christmas. It was a the favorite Christmas movie of every kid in the 90’s. Its popularity with kids is easily understood. It’s a total child wish fulfillment. He gets the house to himself when his family forgets him and leaves on a trip. He gets to do everything he wants. He also gets to defeat two criminals and be the hero. Within that story are some major problems and some incredible high points.
The first problem with the movie is how mean everyone is at the beginning. Kevin is the youngest in the family and everyone is constantly calling him names and ignoring him. That’s understandable from his siblings, but his parents seem detached and cold toward him. At the same time Kevin is also mean to them. He is rude and snide. This is just not a nice family. It’s totally believable that a Kevin would wish away his family. The audience wishes his family would disappear too.
This is a problem because it ruins the central relationship between Kevin and his mother. They have two interactions at the start of the film. One in which she is talking on the phone and tells him to leave her alone. In the other she is banishing him to the attic and behaving sternly with him. In both scenes neither of them convey a loving relationship. They are sarcastic and distant with each other. The rest of the film Kevin pines for mom and she engages in a desperate race to get home to her son. It just makes it hard to swallow.
Once he’s on his own the movie really starts to cook. The film feels true to what a kid would do alone. Watching movies he’s not supposed to, eating junk food, going through his brothers stuff. The film is shot from his perspective and the world feels true to his point of view.
Of course the whole movie can’t be Kevin hanging out alone. Enter the wet bandits Harry and Marc played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. This pair is such a brilliant comic pair. Pesci is classic Pesci. Serious, short fuse, a real threat. Stern is this big goofy bad guy who is the perfect foil for Pesci. It’s an odd pair, but it works wonderfully.
The best part of the movie though is the neighbor. He’s introduced as a frightening figure. Kevin’s brother tells him he’s a serial killer who mummifies his victims with road salt. From Kevin’s point of view he is the scariest person imaginable… Until he talks to him. The neighbor is played by Roberts Blossom who can look terrifying one minute and like the warmest kindest grandfather of all time the next. Their story together, brief though it is, says so much about family, fear, and childhood perception. It’s the best part of the movie. It deepens it, enriches it, and elevates the whole film.
Is this movie deserving of all the holiday hoopla? Yes and no. Some elements of the film don’t work. The mean family that leaves him without realizing it and then leave him alone again almost as soon as they get home just doesn’t work. The development of Kevin’s character, burglars, and especially the final scene with the neighbor all work so we’ll that they make up for the weaknesses. It is a flawed yet lovable Christmas movie.
My cup of tea B+