What is the most-watched film of the entire Christmas season? The one where a kid runs around the place, doing whatever he wants, but must fight off a pair of bandits? Chances are, if you said Home Alone (or its direct 1992 sequel), you’d be correct.
Home Alone was released on November 16th, 1990, starring the eight-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin). He stays subjected to massive ridicule from his family the night before they pack up to head to Paris for the Christmas holidays, and he clamors that he wants to “live alone” and wishes his family would disappear. Overnight, a storm causes damage to the power lines, and the family wakes up late to rush to the airport. Unfortunately, Kevin gets left behind. Overjoyed with freedom and wackiness to do whatever he wants around the house, Kevin gets to set off fireworks, eat ice cream for dinner and watch Angels with Filthy Souls, and ride a sled down the stairs. The mom, though, recognizes that they left Kevin behind mid-flight and scrambles to get back home by Christmas.
Unfortunately, Kevin is scared by his next-door neighbor, Old Man Marley, who is rumored to be a serial killer. And Kevin is not the only one who wants to enjoy the house. Two burglars, Harry, and Marv (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, respectively), have been robbing the neighborhood and want to target the McCallister’s mansion. Kevin has no choice but to defend his home from them by setting booby traps and injuring them.
The film subtly details how a child’s abandonment can lead them to conceive elaborate ways to inflict suffering onto other humans. Even when leaving milk and cookies for Santa, the traps range from doorknobs heated to scorching temperatures to staircases tarred and spiked with nails to lines cut to have people fly right into brick walls. As the audience, we enjoy witnessing “the Wet Bandits” deal with the pain and suffering as they wish to steal and harm a child. Sure, many of us are thrilled when the off-limits areas are now available to explore in a household, but not when someone wants to harm us or our property.
Home Alone is also a traditional tale about how a child starts to miss their family, but Culkin’s cute performance and the side journey of him understanding the true nature of Old Man Marley is heart-warming. Christmas is a holiday to embrace the love in our hearts and recognize that, even when hiding in others. Kevin and even his mother come to understand the power of goodwill and caring for one another.
In addition, the set design, John Williams’ score, the memorable quotes, the facial reactions of Kevin, and the inventiveness behind each trap magnify this film’s holiday viewing experience. If anyone hasn’t fallen in love with the wackiness of Angels with Filthy Souls from a kid’s perspective, they’re missing out. Writer and producer John Hughes stumbled upon a brilliant topic when writing out the screenplay to not forget your kids when heading on vacation. Director Chris Columbus found joy in the Christmas theme and brought in some deep layers and the potent ending.
It’s a Christmas film that is synonymous with the holiday itself, and even if it spawned a cornucopia of sequels that are undoubtedly terrible (minus the direct but less-inspiring sequel filmed in New York), Home Alone is a Christmas classic for everyone to embrace joyfully.