This article is part of The Daly Planet Presents: The Twelve Days Of Christmas Movies, a daily series leading up to Christmas Eve 2015. To see all other entries click here.
The year was 1990. I was 8 years old and in the 4th grade. We had traveled to Texas that November to spend Thanksgiving with family, after one of the most memorable flights in my life, upgraded to first class on a DC-10, seat 2G. It was magical. Adding to the magic that trip was the movie we saw over Thanksgiving, Home Alone. The movie was right up my alley. I was the same age as Kevin McCallister. I loved books about kids who managed to survive alone on their own wits – The Boxcar Children, My Side of the Mountain, The Island of the Blue Dolphins, Julie of the Wolves. It’s a popular theme for children, empowering people who have little control over their lives.
I watched Home Alone and its sequel (I refuse to acknowledge the others exist) many times over the course of my childhood, but I hadn’t rewatched it since reaching adulthood. I have fond memories but I’ve found that many of the things I loved as a child don’t live up to the nostalgia and are better off left in the past. So I was a little nervous about watching it in order to write this review and possibly tarnishing my memories.
As it turns out, I still really enjoyed Home Alone. Even though I knew the plot and all the jokes by heart, I still laughed out loud. Macaulay Culkin is brilliant. He lights up the screen from his first scene. He’s precocious and adorable. His face is so expressive. As a kid I identified with him, as an adult I just want to give him a hug and tell him to stay away from drugs. Home Alone catapulted him into child stardom, and like most child stars, he’s had a rocky go of it.
When we were kids we used to reenact the scene where Kevin slapped his face with the aftershave over and over. It made us hysterical. I have to confess, when I saw it again, I still laughed. Maybe I was just laughing at how ridiculous I was as a child.
Yes, the plot is ludicrous and unrealistic. There are no burglars that dumb. There are no kids that smart and capable. There is no way Kevin could have set up all of those booby traps in only a few hours. And then cleaned up all the spare feathers, ornament pieces, and other assorted detritus by the time his mom returned on Christmas morning. This isn’t a movie about reality. It’s a fantasy for every kid who has ever felt bullied and powerless. And that fantasy clearly had remarkable resonance. Home Alone was the number one movie in North America for 12 straight weeks, long after the holidays had come and gone, and became the highest-grossing live action comedy of all time.
What I didn’t expect – for this movie to make me cry. I definitely don’t remember crying any other time I watched it. When I was a kid, my mom used to always cry at movies. I was so embarrassed, couldn’t help thinking, “What is wrong with her? Why can’t she keep it together?” Well, there’s something about having a kid that makes you prone to crying at any moment. I remember one of the first times I went to the movies with my family when my daughter was an infant. I started tearing up at a Google commercial and desperately tried to hide it. What was happening to me? And it only got worse from there. So a silly, cheesy, kids’ comedy movie that never held any real suspense for me since I knew exactly that was going to happen? Yep, I cried.
Home Alone is a pleasant trip down memory lane for children of the late 80s-early 90s. The ugly wallpaper in every room! The landlines! Payphones! The terribly unflattering clothing! The noisy, chaotic, packed family gatherings! Being able to get to your gate at the airport quickly! Unfair treatment by older kids and adults! The joy of getting away with stuff when your parents aren’t around!
And it’s laced with the best Christmas music – “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” during the mannequin Christmas party, “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” while Kevin tries to get ready in the bathroom like a grown man, “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” while Kevin gives the burglars a beatific smile as they are driven away in a police car, and my personal favorite, “Carol of the Bells” as he leaves the church and hatches his plan. Sometimes movies are more than just simple entertainment – they’re a reflection of a place and time in your life. Home Alone, for me, is ultimately being 8 years old (okay, almost 9) in 1990. It’s being a kid at Christmas at that point in history in the U.S. It’s inseparable from the experience of my childhood. I can’t hate it no matter how bad it may be from some objective, adult standpoint. You can never go home again, but you can watch Home Alone.