Home Alone is a classic
Released in December 1990 by the genius of Chris Columbus and John Hughes, this was a hit children’s film that no one ever would have believed would be a cult classic almost 25 years later, for both children and adults alike. Every Christmas I watch this film. Hell I watch it throughout the year as well; because this film is my all-time, never gets old, favourite film to watch- EVER.
I grew up with this film, as I was 5 when it was released. This is one film that I can actually recite word for word, and even play in my head in its entirety. I know it that well and I am in no way ashamed of admitting this. I have been to Winnetka and Wilmette, Illinois twice, just to walk around the neighbourhoods from my favourite film, but more importantly, to see the Church and the House in the flesh which were made into icons by being featured in this classic.
Home Alone Is A Simple Story
It is almost Christmas in Chicago and the McCallisters are heading to Paris to spend the holidays with family. But they should be crying over their spilled milk because this is the exact catalyst that leads Kevin, their youngest son to be left home alone after his ticket is accidentally thrown into the milky trash, and he is exiled up to the attic after fighting with his brother Buzz over a lack of cheese pizza. In what is clearly an out of sight, out of mind situation; poor Kevin is left home alone as the family race to the airport after a hectic morning of power outages and a nosy neighbour have them believing they have everyone in tow.
Throw in a crazed shovel-slayer murder suspect, and 2 idiotic burglars who have their eyes set on the ‘silver tuna’ that is the McCallister house…and we have far more than just a ‘home alone’ story. I love this film for so many reasons. But why should you? And why should you choose to watch Home Alone this Christmas, and EVERY Christmas from here on out? It’s pretty simple really.
1. The McCallister House
If there is one Christmas film that has managed to do the Christmas look well…it is this one! The two storey mansion house which is the backdrop to this story is beautiful; and even more so being covered in snow and decorated to the nines with Christmas lights-and that is just the exterior and front yard!
The interior of this house is just as amazing with its Christmas style of reds and greens, a grand staircase, piano, rooms galore, and everything from a scary basement with a century old boiler that ‘comes alive’ making Kevin remind himself, ‘It’s only my imagination’; to the coolest attic bedroom anyone could wish for on the third floor, even though to some, ‘It’s scary up there!’. Everyone wanted to live in this house…I know I did!
This house; is as much of a character in this film as Kevin is! It truly is amazing!
2. The Pizza Focus
Buzz and Kevin have a hate-hate sibling relationship. When Buzz knowingly eats all of the cheese pizza, leaving none for Kevin he explains, “We did, but if you want any, somebody’s going to have to barf it all up, cos it’s gone”, which only escalates their argument into the spilled milk incident.
But a bigger running highlight in this film involves the pizza delivery guy from Little Nero’s. Not only does the metal statue on their front step continue to be knocked off its mount by this guy’s car (and every car it seems); he also features in one of the more memorable comedic moments later on when Kevin plays a joke when he is delivered his cheese pizza ; by using the audio from a mobster film called ‘Angels with Filthy Souls’.
“Keep the change,” has a WHOLE new meaning after watching this!
3. The McCallister Family
Although Kevin hates his large family to the point he jumps up and down in anger of it, “This house is so full of people it makes me sick, when I grow up and get married-I’m livin’ alone!”; special mentions do need to go to a few characters who stand out more than others.
Buzz, is the older brother who doesn’t care very much for the little brother he lovingly refers to as a ‘trout sniffer’. The key scene for these two and one of the film’s best one-liners is easily the moment Kevin asks to sleep in Buzz’s room the night before the trip, so he can escape sleeping with cousin Fuller the renowned bed wetter who will never “go easy on the Pepsi” before bed time. Buzz’s response that he wouldn’t let Kevin sleep in his room, “If you were growing on my ass” is pretty self-explanatory of their relationship.
Kevin is the youngest son and has a special bond with his mum, which is why she is the first to realise something is wrong when they are flying to Paris. As his days on his own progress, he begins to miss his mother, especially when the burglars begin to target their house; so it is fitting that she does everything in her power to get back to Chicago to her son; offering everything from 1st class tickets to her earrings to an elderly couple, even though the elderly lady has a “Whole shoebox of them, dangly ones.” The reunion Kevin and his mum have at the end of the film is very heartfelt and shows exactly how special their bond is as mother and son, and always brings a tear to the eye.
A special mention does also have to go to John Candy’s cameo as Gus Polinski, ‘the Polka King of the Mid West’ and his scenes with Kate McCallister. He really doesn’t make her feel any better about what she has done, even though he tries!
Uncle Frank is a fan favourite. He is the cheapskate uncle who really has it in for Kevin, especially after the milk spilling incident where Frank yells “Look what you did, you little jerk!” at him. Frank doesn’t seem at all bothered by the fact that Kevin has been left home alone; offering sympathy to Kate and Peter McCallister by equating their forgetfulness with his forgetting his reading glasses. (Sorry, who is the jerk?)
4. The South Bend Shovel Slayer
At the beginning of the film, Kevin is scared into believing stories about the next door neighbour, Old Man Marley who routinely salts the sidewalk when it snows. This man is, according to Buzz the ‘South Bend Shovel Slayer’, a murderer who in 1958 ‘killed his family and half the people on this block‘. Although there was no evidence of such crimes taking place, Marley apparently hid the bodies in his salt can where the salt turned his victims into mummies.
Upon hearing all of this, Kevin develops an intense fear for this man, who when his house is first targeted by the burglars, Kevin ends up face to face with after he proudly proclaims ‘I’m not afraid anymore!‘ which leads to the most epic Kevin McCallister scream in the entire film. I love it!
After another run in at the pharmacy, and a chance encounter at the local Church when a choir is singing, Kevin is shocked when the man walks over and says ‘Merry Christmas’ to him. After a sincere talk about Christmas and family, Kevin realises that he had it all wrong about the stories he has heard, and even more, that he truly misses his own family even though he hated them days before and wanted to live alone forever.
At the end of the film, Kevin is not only saved from the burglars but finds a new friendship with this man, who in a tear jerking finale of the film re-connects with his son on Christmas morning following his discussion with Kevin about his past mistakes. This friendship and this ending, truly make this a Christmas film to remember, showing that family mean everything, even when you don’t always know it.
5. The ‘Wet Bandits’ Harry & Marv
If you needed more convincing for watching Home Alone, Harry & Marv are well worth their screen time.
These two so-called burglars offer by far the biggest laughs with idiocies galore as they endeavour to rob every house on the McCallister’s block; knowing they are all away for Christmas, thanks to Harry’s plan of impersonating a cop.
Harry is the smartest of the two, and in charge of this operation which is why on paper, their plan is solid. Marv however, is a bit of a klutz preferring to block the drains in the houses they rob and leaving the water running, in an attempt to leave their calling card as “all the great ones leave their mark…we’re the wet bandits!” Unfortunately, this only helps the cops to charge them with many more burglaries later on as now they “know each and every house that you’ve hit.”
Unfortunately for these two, Kevin McCallister throws an unexpected twist in their plans as he thwarts their multiple attempts to rob his house; leading to the culmination of Kevin’s mission to defend his house at any cost with his ‘Battle Plan’.
When Harry and Marv arrive to finally take down Kevin and rob the house; they completely underestimate Kevin and are taken well and truly through the ringer by having a multitude of torture thrown their way.
Whether it is extra slippery steps, a hot iron to the face, a nail in the foot, the extremist of hand burns, a blowtorch to the head, stepping on Christmas ornaments (especially little orange balls!), a glue and feathers look, or a paint can thrown at their faces, these two end up in all sorts of pain; which is little wonder Marv eventually demands “I’m gonna kill that kid!”
But the highlight of it all is surely the moment Marv has Buzz’s ‘escaped’ tarantula spider placed on his face by Kevin, leading to a scream that rivals his own! An unconscious Harry wakes up to Marv’s spider fear when Marv tries to kill the spider after it lands on Harry’s stomach, “Marv…what are you doin?” A crow bar to the gut is surely not what Harry was expecting when Marv whispered “Don’t Move!” in response, but boy is it funny!
This scene is the best moment of theirs in the entire film and anytime I see a spider myself I immediately hear Marv in my head yelling “Did I get him!?”
6. The Instrumental Music
Lastly, the instrumental music that is heard throughout the film is the most identifiable instrumental music used in a Christmas film in my opinion.
Whether it is the cheery Christmas style, the more sinister ‘taking charge’ sound or the tear-jerking instrumental with lyrics; no one can deny how brilliant this theme tune truly is, and how easily it adapts itself to what is happening on screen.
John Williams is the best musical composer of all time and the Home Alone score is just one more to add to the list of his most beautiful film soundtracks.
This music makes it truly feel like Christmas.
Home Alone is a great Christmas film. It has stood the test of time, unlike some that have withered away over the years. John Hughes was an amazing screenwriter, (and my favourite director) and I will always associate Christmas with this film.
If you aren’t watching this film this Christmas…what are you waiting for?
Get cracking (and i’m not talking about Christmas crackers)!
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