A Look Back: Home Alone

If you’ve ever been a put-upon child – perhaps a middle child struggling to distinguish his or herself from the pack – who wouldn’t identify with young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) in the opening scenes of “Home Alone” (a 1990 blockbuster action comedy film which held records until (ouch) “Hangover 2” came along according to Wikipedia). Not only is he the target of teasing and multiple misunderstandings by his siblings (including real-life brother Kieran), he can’t even get his family to allot him a few slices of plain cheese pizza. Eventually his parents (John Heard and Catherine O’Hara) get fed up and banish Macaulay to the farthest reaches of the house, since his bed has been coopted by relatives.

The next morning, Macaulay (a sound sleeper), awakens to find the whole caboodle vanished, although he initially assumes someone is pranking him. But no.

“I made my family disappear!” he marvels, with the magical thinking of kids that age. And apparently he has. Both parents oversleep and must rush to get everyone assembled and accounted for before they head off to Paris via plane. The way he’s overlooked is more or less believable as everyone is in a major hurry. (What’s bizarre, however, is that the parents manage to make this mistake repeatedly in the sequels.) Anyway, this being the pre-cell phone era, Macaulay does not have a way to get in touch with his parents, not that he is all that eager to initially. However, it eventually dawns on John and Catherine that they are missing a member of their brood, and though they are sure nothing bad could happen, Catherine ditches the flight plan, and grabs a ride in a bus going cross-country driven by John Candy, playing the leader of a polka band. Apparently, Catherine hasn’t seen “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” so she accepts a ride. This could be a whole other movie, but the real drama stays with Macaulay. (Candy and Culkin had previously starred in Hughes’ “Uncle Buck” where they did have chemistry.)

Unbeknownst to the boy who’s home alone, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are keeping an eye on the neighborhood, planning to burgle homes that have been deserted for the holiday. But soon Macaulay realizes that they pose a threat and takes steps to protect his home from theft. He does wind up getting help from an unexpected ally, but the main credit for foiling the duo goes to him. Swedish children’s book heroine, Pippi Longstocking, when faced with an identical situation, merely picked up the burglars and put them on a high perch, but of course, lacking superhuman strength, young Macaulay must devise a series of booby-traps, all of which hit their intended targets twice as hard as they’re expecting. Let’s just say that they will need to check into the medical ward, after they are locked up.

Eventually, Macaulay is reunited with his family for a belated merry Christmas. This movie, of course, launched its young star’s career like few of his peers in that era, not to mention he wound up with a trademark – that “Scream” -like face that you can see on the cover.  An interview with Macaulay around that time depicts him bargaining with the interviewer – cash in exchange for him to make “the face”, but then he explains he doesn’t get an allowance. Not that mattered much after “Home Alone” opened.

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