Once upon a time in the 1980s and early 90s, there was an awesome guy named John Hughes who wrote and/or directed some of the greatest touchstone films of a generation. As a result one such film, Home Alone has become a modern Christmas classic for people of a certain age (ahem, children of the 80s/90s). It really doesn’t get any better, or more early 90s, than eight year-old Kevin McCallister (who lives in like, the coolest house in the world) outwitting two hilariously inept burglars named Harry & Marv (played to perfection by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) on Christmas Eve all while his mother desperately tries to get back to Chicago by riding cross-country in a U-Haul with a polka band-leading John Candy! I should mention that I still do not own this movie on DVD, so I watch it on VHS like a true 90s kid. Because of this, I’ve grown fond of the two awesome ads for Pepsi and American Airlines before the movie starts.
First of all, there are classic lines:
- Buzz your girlfriend WOOF!
- I don’t think so.
- Keep the change ya filthy animal.
- You’re what the French call les incompetents.
Second of all, it’s set in Chicago, which I am convinced is one of the top three best places in which to set a Christmas movie (the other two places are London and New York City). While New York and London are both excellent settings for Christmas movies, I gotta say I’m biased towards Chicago. It’s probably due to my Midwestern upbringing.
Third, JOHN CANDY. Polka king of the Midwest.
Fourth, Catherine O’Hara is basically the greatest 90s mom (minus the whole leaving her kid behind/losing him in New York) of all time other than Betsy Randle who played Cory and Eric Matthews’ mom on Boy Meets World.
Remember how crazy (read: AWESOME) she was as Delia Dietz in Beetlejuice? DAY-O!
Fifth, props to Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern for being such good sports about all the silly pranks they had to endure. I can’t imagine the movie with other actors in their roles.
And in all seriousness, let’s take a moment of silence for the great Roberts Blossom who played Kevin’s next door neighbor, Old Man Marley. He passed away in July 2011. His scene in the church on Christmas Eve with Macaulay Culkin is one of the most heartfelt and honest in the whole movie.
Among my other favorite moments in the movie: the scene where Kevin talks to himself in the mirror after showering then slaps his cheeks with aftershave and also the completely underrated and hilarious phone scene between Catherine O’Hara in Paris and the two lazy police officers back in Chicago. “Larry, can you pick up? There’s some lady on hold; sounds kinda hyper.”
Naturally, everything turns out alright in the end, and Kevin is reunited with his family on Christmas morning.
The Wet Bandits are hauled off to jail, and I assume the entire McCallister family tries desperately to suck up to Kevin for the next year after treating him like crap and being negligible parents. But hey! It’s Christmas and Kevin was responsible and got the milk, eggs, AND fabric softener!
NOTE: As some of you may know, some dumb exec out in Hollywood thought it would be a good idea to do about three more sequels to Home Alone after Lost in New York. I prefer to pretend as though Home Alone 3, 4, and 5 do not exist at all. When Macaulay Culkin left, the series ended. PERIOD. The ONLY acceptable sequel to Home Alone is Lost in New York.
HOME ALONE 2: LOST IN NEW YORK
After the success of the insta-classic Home Alone, naturally the studios were clamoring for a sequel, so instead of Kevin being left at home again, he gets on the wrong plane and winds up in…New York City!
Beyond that, it’s basically the same kind of storyline as the first movie, except you now also have a hilariously inept Plaza Hotel staff played to perfection by the master of all things hammy and awesome Tim Curry, Rob Schneider, and Dana Ivey. Now, if I were Kevin, I’d probably be scarred for life after not only being left behind by my family but also getting separated at the airport the following year. Also, given today’s security standards for airport travel, nothing like what happens in this film would ever happen today. There might be some terminal running to “Run Run Rudolph” by Chuck Berry, but no flight attendant would just let a kid on a plane because he thinks he spotted his dad. This whole situation is a lawsuit waiting to happen. As a kid, I have to tell you, no scene brought me greater joy than when Marv gets electrocuted in the basement of the townhouse. I laughed and laughed and laughed. These days, I find the tool chest bit the funniest. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are the greatest. Seriously.I would be remiss if I didn’t mention how great Tim Curry is throughout this entire movie. Tim Curry is one of the few actors who completely commits to the ridiculousness of any role he’s given and does it with great gusto and pizazz (like THIS).
As the Plaza Hotel concierge, Mr. Hector (I didn’t know that was his name until I looked it up; I always just called him Concierge Tim Curry.), our dear friend Tim is perfectly smarmy and his scene with the rest of the staff as they believe they’re being held at gunpoint (“I LOVE YOU!”) is HYSTERICAL. Oh and I forgot to mention that I have yet to spot a homeless lady in Central Park covered in pigeon poop who is as nice and coherent as Brenda Fricker. Does. Not. Exist. If I ever DID meet a homeless lady as nice as Brenda Fricker, I would most certainly sneak into Carnegie Hall for a concert and treat her to hot chocolate just like Kevin.
I love this film because it gives children both a sense of the wonder of New York at Christmas but also how scary it can be by yourself late at night. That, children, is realism, and sometimes it is missing from our current crop of children’s entertainment. SIDE NOTE: Rockefeller Center is NEVER that empty…even if you were there after midnight on Christmas Eve. Catherine O’Hara is lucky she had no crowds to fight through to find Kevin. Movie magic, kids. This is NOT a plausible situation. Also there would be police stationed nearby who would probably inquire why this child was out alone after midnight on Christmas Eve. The NYPD would be all over this.
Watching this as a twenty-four year old adult who lives in New York City gives this movie a whole new vantage point for me. I recognize nearly all the locations Kevin visits and tell my parents about them. It’s weirdly enthralling to know I can share in Kevin’s adventure in real life (minus the whole Sticky Bandits thing). I DEFINITELY wish I could share in the McCallister family’s sweet, free stay in that gorgeous Plaza Hotel penthouse suite.
But I’m just glad I’m not Kevin’s dad who gets saddled with a $967 room service bill and then YELLS at him. Let’s get real for a sec: after leaving your son at home the year before and then losing him at the airport, is this REALLY such a big deal? I mean, REALLY?! How about you go sleep on the Hide-A-Bed with Fuller, Mr. McCallister since you forgot your son TWICE.
Merry Christmas, you filthy animals!