johnlink ranks HOME ALONE (1990)

This came across HBOHD as I was on the couch with a napping Quinn this morning, and I figured I’d watch it for the first time since middle school. I didn’t realize the behind-the-camera power this had, with 80s icon John Hughes writing the script and original HARRY POTTER Director Chris Columbus helming the project. Add in a memorable John Williams score, and you can see how this project had the tools for success, even before release!

I watched HOME ALONE (1990) on 11.30.10. It was, I would guess, my tenth viewing of the film, but my first in probably fifteen years. TRAILER HERE

Like the recently ranked RED DAWN, this is a childhood fantasy film. Who at eight years old didn’t dream of their family going away for awhile and having a run of the place? Who didn’t fantasize about being the hero when some tough baddies tried to break in to the house?

I probably saw this six times in the theaters as an eight or nine year old. It was a favorite as a kid, though (for no good reason) it didn’t have the staying power as an adult that PRINCESS BRIDE or GHOST BUSTERS has enjoyed. I feel like they don’t make live action kids flicks like this anymore. Where today’s animation is among history’s best, all told, our live action kid’s stuff has concepts like The Rock portraying a hockey player who is forced to become the Tooth Fairy.

But all that is incidental. How does HOME ALONE hold up? Well the premise is almost quaint, with two giant families rushing onto an international flight without being checked individually. But that’s how it was back then, I guess. The film, really, has aged well and holds up to today’s filmic standards.

There is a truly great scene in this film where Macaulay Culkin stops in a church and runs into his scary neighbor, played by Roberts Blossom. The scene is about family, regrets, fear, and what Christmas means. In a lesser movie, with lesser writers, a lesser director, and lesser actors, this would have been the sort of ‘awww shucks’ FULL HOUSE type of scene which permeates¬† many family films. But it works to great effect here, aided certainly by the choral background. That scene is this film in a microcosm: It shouldn’t necessarily work, but there is just the right amount of charm and talent to make it work anyway.

The work both Blossom and John Candy do, as supporting characters, really help this film. But we all remember Culkin, and we all remember the Wet Bandits, played wonderfully by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. They provide real menace without ever being too adult, and they provide a sense of danger while still being buffoons. Having watched a bunch of Chaplin and Keaton lately, the gags at the end of HOME ALONE are certainly inspired by that sort of slapstick humor. The difference is that Chaplin and Keaton didn’t have to cut away so their stunt double could do the fall.

There is a bunch of homage in here. Pesci’s character is Harry Lime, named after Orson Welles’ THIRD MAN character. Roberts Blossom’s scary old man is named Marley, named after Scrooge’s old partner from A CHRISTMAS CAROL.

So I expected to come at this movie this morning and give it all 4s and 5s. But I walked away impressed, this movie did hold up. Sure there are some lines Culkin says which sound forced. Sure the death trap house at the end is contrived, but this movie has so much heart, and so much going for it, that it overshadows its flaws. A great way to start the Christmas movie season!


FILM: 6; MOVIE: 8; ACTING: 7; WRITING: 6 (What is this?)



~ by johnlink00 on November 30, 2010.

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