Hello, Spongey here.
Merry Christmas, everyone! (Or, even the date this is going up, Happy Festivus). It’s time for this year’s official Christmas review. For the past few years, I’ve been using these to review good Christmas movies, mainly nostalgic ones to see how they hold up. The first few were of the good but fairly flawed kind but recently we’ve gotten into some quite good ones like Gremlins and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
For this year, we’ve got an interesting one. It’s a big classic and I’ve only seen it perhaps once or twice. Yeah, it’s not that crossed my path per say as a kid so it took a bit to get to it. At least I saw it quite a few years ago instead of recently.
Much like The Santa Clause before it, I have previously looked at some of the others. I did full reviews for the awful Home Alone 4 and the shockingly …competent 5th movie. I did 2nd for one of my Twitter polls, than a Letterboxd review for the third one as part of me reviewing every Raja Gosnell film.
That’s the main thing this franchise should be known for, frankly. Raja started as an editor on these first two before upgrading to director for Part 3, starting this legendary line of work.
Anyway, this is interesting as far as Christmas movies go since it didn’t need to be given how universal the basic idea is. But they went that route and the rest is history. As for backstory, this product originally started at Warner Bros. However, they had a limit on their budgets and the movie went past it.
Thus, they took it to Fox, thus meaning I can review this off Disney+! Actually, they apparently started making a deal with Fox even before that cause they feared it would indeed exceed it and they wanted a backup plan. That’s pretty sneaky, I like that.
Releasing in 1990, it had massive success to the point where basically every family movie in the rest of the decade ripped it off. That perhaps could give it a Seinfeld is Unfunny effect for some but we’ll see. It was written by John Hughes who needs no introduction, being pretty renowned, mostly in the 80’s as this sadly started his weak 90’s streak of just rehashing this movie’s antics.
The director is Chris Columbus, who is also pretty well known. Amusingly, he wrote Gremlins which we did last year. He also recently returned to Christmas with Christmas Chronicles 2 so that’s an amusing tie in there.
Interesting fact, the original choice was Patrick Read Johnson, who I know as the director of When Good Ghouls Go bad. Because everything I talk about needs to tie into R.L. Stine somehow.
Anyway, how well does this supposed classic hold up all these years later, at least in my opinion? Let’s see.
This, is Home Alone
After the neat opening credits, the movie begins with the McCalister family preparing for a Christmas vacation they are going on. This family consists of the father Peter, played by John Heard, the mom Kate, played by Catherine O Hara, as Twitter learned recently, son Kevin, played by Macauly Culkin, and older siblings Buzz, Jeff, Megan and Linnie. What the hell kind of name is that last one?
Kevin’s the kid who isn’t listened to that much and gets made fun of by the older siblings. They like to use phrases like “cheek face” and “phlegm wad,” because non existent 90’s slang. One also says ass, to mark this as a 90’s family movie. That part isn’t altered for Disney+, thankfully.
A cop shows up and after taking forever to find Peter, he says he just wants to make sure houses are taking the right precautions as there have been robberies as of late. Fairly sure they don’t do that, kinda tips me off that something is wrong here. But whatever, during dinner Kevin makes a small mistake (as a result of Buzz) and spills a drink all over the place. Based on their reactions, this is the most heinous crime you can possibly commit.
Kevin is forced to go up to his room, which is the last straw for him. I do like that he apologizes even among his complaining, it balances things out even if he’s generally right to complain. But then out of frustration, he wishes that he didn’t even have a family. A bit much but it makes for a classic Be Careful What you Wish For situation.
The power gets knocked out, so their alarm clocks don’t wake them up one time and they gotta scramble hard. In the rush, they forget Kevin although he is included in the head count because of some random kid that happens to be there. The sister who did it wasn’t even looking so really this is all her fault. During that dinner scene, a passport that I assume was Kevin’s was accidentally thrown away so really they’d up shit creek either way.
I do like how the pieces come together, as contrived as some of it kinda is. Kevin wakes up to find that his wish has seemingly been granted, as he is, of course, My Girl. Wait…
Once he figures this all out, naturally he celebrates. One of the first things he does is look at a Playboy.
“No clothes on anybody, sickening!”
That was funny. I don’t usually single out moments like that in actually good movies but whatever.
He puts on a movie called Angels with Filthy Souls which is a noir movie that is not real and everything we see of it was shot for this movie. It’s cool how far they went to create this when it wasn’t needed. I like how he yells “Mom!”, it echos and cuts to mom on the plane. It sounds simple but there’s something about the edit I like.
She senses a disturbance and thankfully it doesn’t long after that for it to hit her that they left Kevin. This I really like. It would have been easy for the family to just be forgotten about until near the end but instead they realize their mistake fairly quickly.
Time to meet our villains, two burglars named Harry, played by Joe Pesci, and Marv, played by Daniel Stern. Harry was the cop earlier, trying to scope out the scene.
That was rather smart of him given how bumbling they’re gonna be later. The fact that these people were easy to fool is likely why they robbed this neighborhood instead of a richer one,
They start to get into the McCailster house but Kevin hears them and hides. Meanwhile Mom calls the police but of course they are quite useless at first. Side note, there’s this woman on a phone booth before Mom takes over and given her reactions I really wanna know her story.
Anyway, they eventually do send a cop over to the house to check on Kevin but naturally he’s not gonna answer a knock given there’s a bad guys so the cop thinks no one is home. You could just…go in and check. Our tax dollars at work, people. I’ve always wanted to say that.
Mom stays at the airport while the others go to Peter’s brothers house. Things calm down back at home, so Kevin can do that one scream. It’s funny how the actual context is just him trying to shave and not his reaction to anything actually important. Kevin isn’t too afraid anymore, infact he even leaves home to buy a toothbrush. …Don’t ask.
While at the store, he sees a creepy neighbor guy that was rumored to be a serial killer. I forgot to mention that since it wasn’t important until now. Gee I wonder if he’ll turn out to be a good guy. Either way, Kevin is scared and runs. A cop runs after him because damn they really need that toothbrush but Kevin escapes.
He bumps into Harry and Marv, who then follow him to see which house he goes into. Kevin catches on and hides elsewhere, now knowing what he is up against. These guys have no clue what monster they have just created, lord have mercy on their souls.
But before that, Kevin just pulls a trick that makes it seem like his house is busy. He uses these mannequin dummy things that they just happen to have I guess? It’s funny but weird. Kevin then orders and pizza but uses the clips from that movie to talk to the pizza guy. He pays him but plays the clip where the guy in the movie opens fire, so now the pizza guy is gonna call the cops, good going Kevin.
Later, being without his family finally takes a toll on him as he regrets his “wish”. That’s nice but forget that, in the next scene he goes shopping! Okay, this bit is funny with how he talks like an adult but it’s slight whiplash after the last bit.
That night, Harry and Marv find it odd that the house is quiet now so they check it out. Also, one of them says “shit” which truly secures this as a 1990 PG movie. That is also left it on Disney+. Kevin uses the movie to trick them but they want to stay a bit after to see who is in there to have a face to give to the authorities or something. Yeah, right after you explain why you were there to begin with.
Elsewhere, Mom is at the airport and at her wits ends. So much so that she gives this speech that I’m too lazy to quote but is really good. We really see how desperate she gets to finally get back to Kevin. Thankfully, John Candy is here to off her a ride! Neat cameo, I just wonder if he’ll offer her a train ride to go along with that car one, since she’s also been in a plane. …That was forced.
Kevin goes out to do something but despite his best efforts when he gets back inside, the criminals catch on that he is home alone and they have been getting tricked by a kid. They leave to plan things and Kevin visits the local Santa Claus protrayer (screw you wordpress, that’s a word) at…I don’t know, can’t tell if this is a Santa’s Village or what. Most likely but still.
He tells Santa that instead of presents this year, he just wants his family back. D’aww. Also, I think like this fake Santa is somewhat nice, I figured he’d be a grump. Now it’s time to get surprisingly religious as Kevin visits the church where he bumps into that old man from before.
It turns out he is not a serial killer and is just a nice guy. No surprise there. He reveals that he’s here to see his granddaughter sing as it’s one of the only times he can see her. See, he had a falling out with his son and afraid to call him since he’s afraid it won’t turn out well. So he can relate to Kevin’s situation of getting upset with family and regretting it.
It’s honestly pretty effective, especially given it’s being dropped in so late. I like the parallel and how they both help each out, as Kevin says he should just call his son so even if things go badly, he won’t be afraid any more of what will happen. Also, the old man’s name is Marley, ha ha.
With all that cleared up, Kevin runs home and gets ready to fight off the bad guys. I really like this gearing up montage but yeah, finally time for what we’ve all come to see. When they show up, his first act is to shoot one of them in the nuts with a BB gun. Because even good family movies need to fill a quota.
Then we get a bunch of traps and antics. It’d be pointless to just recap it all so we’ll skim over most of this, but there’s some fun stuff here, mostly with their reactions. Although some of it goes a bit far, like what I think is a nail or something like that in the stairs that they are lucky he didn’t step all the way on. Not to mention Harry’s head being set on fire.
Frankly, if I were them and I got up to the paint bucket, I’d just give up but you gotta admire their dedication. Also yeah they should have a concussion from that. Also, Kevin says ass!
Eventually they end up outside and then inside a house they previously broke into. They actually think ahead and capture Kevin but Marley just happens to show up to save him. That’s awesome but boy is it convenient. The police are called and the two are taken care of. The climax itself was cool and I like Marley saving the day so…I’ll allow it. My recap just makes it sound weaker than it is.
Kevin wakes up on Christmas Day to see that his wish hasn’t come true, which is a good somber moment. But then Kate shows up right after, man what timing. Joke aside this I really nice and satisfying. But let’s keep the good timing going as the rest of the family shows up as well, having taken the morning flight.
Kevin tells them he just hung around which will work until they see on the news that a kid caught two criminals. Anyway, it’s all a happy reunion. Kevin looks out the window to see Marley and his son reconnecting, that’s nice. The score does a good job of selling this moment.
Which is good because this is how it ends. Well actually it ends with Buzz yelling about hiss room so we can end on a freeze frame. But otherwise, that’s the end. It works better than my recap makes it seem, I swear.
I honestly don’t have a whole to say here. In a way, it sort of speak for itself. I wouldn’t say I’m totally in love with it but I do really like it in the end. My main problem is that can drag a bit. It’s not that long but can drag at times and there’s some slight filler. Nothing awful but it could be tighter.
Some of Kevin’s lines early can be a bit annoying although this is balanced out as it goes along. Otherwise, this is still pretty solid. The story is good with the whole be careful what you wish for thing, where Kevin learns to appreciate his family despite how much they annoy him. He is right to be upset but of course doing what he did is a bit much.
There’s a good heart here that makes it hold up better than so many of the rip offs and even the sequels. The mom’s reactions give it more of a sense of realism despite all the silly traps. Harry and Marv are pretty fun, mostly due to the actor’s reactions. Joe Pesci is especially good here.
Once we do get to the traps, it’s pretty fun but it is the other stuff that makes it good overall. This could have easily been one of those annoying cynical movies but the good heart balances everything out, and the humor is mostly good. It didn’t need to be a Christmas movie per say but it does add a certain special-ness to the whole thing.
I wouldn’t say the movie is one of my favorites, it’s more like a good movie that happens to have more to it to make it better. Still, I do really enjoy it and again, it has a good heart that makes it very good. And…yeah that’s it. Sorry I don’t have any new insights, it happens sometimes, ya know?
Rating: Very Good
I wasn’t quite sure but that speech alone brought it up for me. If you want my thoughts on the sequel, it is indeed a blatant rehash but having the same crew does help give it a slight edge over the others since it can still have heart. And Tim Curry, can’t go wrong there. The third was just kinda mediocre and you all recall how bad the 4th one is. 5th one was okay but this really shouldn’t even be a franchise.
And apparently they’re doing some sort of remake, Whatever. Anyway, hope you all manage to have a happy and safe holiday season despite all…this. Don’t let all the doomers get to you after all.
That ends the 2020 scene by scene reviews. As for how I want 2021 to start…I think we should start it on a negative note so that everything else can look better by comparison. And oh boy my choice is…interesting, should be fun. Provided I find it reviewable, couldn’t fit in a viewing before I posted this.