Part #4 of the 2016 Christmas Countdown.
Home Alone is a fun family film about bungled burglaries and awful parenting. An admirable performance from MacAulay Culkin and a strong, industrious supporting cast make this a must-see at Christmas time.
The McCallister family are preparing for a Christmas break in Paris. On the morning of their departure, Peter and Kate (John Heard and Catherine O’Hara respectively) race against the clock to get all of their relatives and their squabbling kids crammed into taxis to make their flight. In the resulting panic, they neglect to wake up their eight years old son, Kevin (MacAulay Culkin).
Kevin wakes up later that morning to an empty house. It’s only when they’re en route to Paris that his family notice his absence. While his family desperately fight against holiday traffic to get home, Kevin has to fend off two hilariously incompetent burglars, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), using an array of amusingly implausible traps and obstacles.
Normally, having a young child as the central character of a film would put an awful lot of pressure on the poor lad. It’s the kind of pressure that could wilt a seasoned thespian and completely derail a film, but director Chris Columbus took the gamble and somehow made it work perfectly.
The inclusion of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern was the key to success here. As good as Culkin is in the lead role, it’s Pesci and Stern who handle most of the heavy lifting. So good are they at the pantomime villains, it’s easy to overlook Culkin’s inexperience and really get behind his character.
Home Alone falters only when the story centres on Kevin’s family and their ordeal of trying to get back home. It’s hard to sympathise with parents who can forget to bring a child on holiday. It’s only when Kate runs into John Candy’s Gus Polinski, the head of a small touring polka band, that these scenes become more interesting.
Overall, Home Alone works best when it focuses on Kevin outsmarting Harry and Marv. A surprisingly affecting subplot involving a seemingly sinister neighbour provides the heart-warming factor, but everything else is just good, clean, family friendly entertainment.