Home Alone

A Christmas guilty pleasured turned classic

By Bradley Lane

The John Hughes produced, and Christopher Columbus directed 1990 Christmas classic Home Alone has not always been regarded in that classic status. Critical reception for the film was mostly positive but ultimately consensus was lukewarm citing the implausible plot, mean-spiritedness of the family and especially the gratuitous slapstick violence unleashed on the two villains of the film. Despite these reservations from critics, the film was an instant box office smash hit, and it remained in theaters as late as June of the year after its initial November release. The reason for its massive popularity is immediately evident if you have ever seen the film, Home Alone is one of, if not the most fun films ever made.

The conceit of the film, being left alone without any parental supervision, is a universal power fantasy every child can immediately relate to, and any adult can remember fondly longing for: complete freedom and zero responsibilities. That coupled with the second half’s idea of rising to the occasion and bravely defending yourself from unambiguously terrible goons in spectacular fashion makes for comedic and narrative gold. But the concept alone is not what makes Home Alone so beloved and rewatchable. The true magic behind Home Alone is solid technical filmmaking and profound levels of creative artistry. No, seriously.

The editing in Home Alone by Raja Gosnell has the pinpoint precision of a well-timed stand-up comedian. Apart from the inherently hilarious sight of grown men being outsmarted and beat up by a small child, the jokes throughout are aided by perfect comedic timing in each of the cuts. To use an example from an iconic scene, the wide over-the-shoulder shot of Kevin getting ready in the mirror reveals the setup that he’s about to put aftershave on his face, then slightly before he applies it, it cuts to a close-up to juxtapose his cool collected speech to himself with the joke that he’s a 9-year-old and most definitely did not expect the acholic burn on his face leading to his now iconic scream.

There’s a near infinite number of positives I could mention when discussing why the film works as well as it does (Macaulay Culkin’s charismatic performance, the inspired use of extreme slapstick, the endlessly quotable script or the “don’t judge a book by its cover” messaging) but I want to hone in on one often overlooked aspect of the film’s greatness, its score. Composed by the legendary John Williams, his score for this film is particularly impressive because it seamlessly blends itself in with the classic Christmas tunes worked into the film. It would then be easy for the score to get lost in the timeless songs we already know, but it toes a perfect line between not clashing with the Christmas standards while asserting itself as instantly classic and memorable.

Home Alone is an endlessly enjoyable Christmas classic thanks to great filmmaking, a million-dollar idea and unforgettable performances and is currently available to stream on Disney Plus. – 5/5 Stars