Monday, October 19, 2009
No real-life fantasy can even begin to compare to the glory of parent-free burglar-thwarting amazingness that is Home Alone. Even the most imaginative of children lack the capacity to dream up a scenario so perfectly aligned as to leave you both completely free to wreak havoc on your own home as you see fit and act as the hero. In child imagination-run-wildland, it's pretty much the perfect crime.
Many of us have a soft spot somewhere in our hearts for Christmas movies. I'm pretty sure it's congenital. In the case of Home Alone, however, Warner Brothers gave us the ultimate one-two punch: a heartwarming family Christmas movie with a heaping helping of general kid mischief. The film's iconic nature was no accident; it was written and produced by cinema auteur extraordinaire John Hughes. The man who gave us classics as National Lampoon's Vacation, Ferris Bueller's Day Off, and Sixteen Candles found his most financially successful project in Home Alone.
The film also acted as a star vehicle for Macaulay Culkin. While Culkin had acted in previous movies such as Uncle Buck, it was Home Alone that ultimately gave him the elite status of bona fide breakout child star. Home Alone largely hinged on Culkin's solo scenes, in which his well-timed humor and general adorableness won over audiences worldwide. Kids everywhere wanted to be his character Kevin McAllister. We got our chance, too, when Nintendo released the Home Alone video games as part of the fast-growing franchise.
Home Alone revolves around the bustling McAllister family, a large clan who gathers to fly together to Paris for the Christmas holiday. In the chaos and stress of transporting the entire family from the house to the airport in the morning, the McAllister's completely forget about Kevin who has been banished to the third floor as punishment for his behavior at the previous night's dinner. Upon receiving his punishment, Kevin wished that his family would disappear. Incredibly, he wakes up the next morning to find that his wish is reality. Not a bad deal, overall, when you're an eight-year old kid yearning for a little space.
Almost immediately after boarding the flight, Kevin's mother Kate (played by one of my personal favorites, Catherine O'Hara) muses that she is certain she's forgetting something. After ticking through her mental checklist, it finally occurs to her that she's left her eight-year old son alone at home. Oh well, at least they remembered to lock up and set the alarm, right?
Kevin's totally reveling in his new found freedom, indulging in junk food, jumping on the bed, and generally causing destruction and mischief within the confines of his lonely house. His carefree parentless lifestyle is interrupted by the Chicago Police, upon whom his parents called to ensure his well-being and general not dead-ness. As if that weren't enough to shake things up, he also discovers that the infamous "Wet Bandits" burglar duo is headed his way on a rampant crime spree. Talk about your bad luck.
Kevin ingeniously devises a defense system made up of elaborate booby traps. Sure, it's a little violent, but come on, these guys are criminals. We don't see little Kevin bopping his mom on the head with a hammer or anything. As long as it's directed toward the bad guys, a little violence is A-okay in setting an example of angry revenge for children. Really. It's a commonly understood rule. Regardless, Kevin must be some kind of genius to come up with this stuff. Here's a little comically soundtracked montage someone (not me, of course) put together on YouTube of the general anti-robber mechanisms:
Needless to say, that stuff looks painful. It was all pretty slapstick, though, and in good fun. We never really thought these bad guys were going to shoot up the place, leaving a mangled Kevin in their wake. We knew our hero was safe and sound, and probably more dangerous than Harv and Marv (our merry burglar men) combined.
Simultaneous to all of this anti-burglarizing, there's also a subplot involving allegedly creepy neighbor Old Man Marley. The kids in the neighborhood are convinced he's offed his family, so imagine Kevin's surprise that he's actually a lonely old man painfully estranged from his son. Marley and Kevin become unlikely friends, and Marley even swoops in and rescues Kevin from a rather inextricable burglar-induced jam. All this sweetness and togetherness leaves Kevin ready to reunite with his parents, hopeful for their return.
On Christmas morning, Kevin wakes to find his mother and later his whole family returning just in time to celebrate the holiday together. Magically, there's no evidence of the break-in (save for one of the intruder's flashy gold teeth) of the family's none the wiser to Kevin's solo antics. Marley and his son reunite per Kevin's insistence, and all in all, it really is a wonderful life.
It wasn't the most probable of plot lines, but it sure did leave an indelible impression on moviegoers. The film became one of the highest grossing ever, showing you don't need flashy cinematography and Oscar-worthy acting to be a resounding success. All you need is a mischievous little boy, some injury-prone robbers, and one semi-creepy but inevitably lovable old man, and you've got yourself a winner.