Movie Review: Home Alone (1990)

Home Alone is one of those movies that just HAS to be watched every winter. It’s a stone cold classic that never gets old, and more than that, it has aged very well. We’re talking about a movie that’s over 25 years old now! I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….classic stories are classics for a reason. They’re timeless! No matter what you celebrate this time of year, there’s a lot to be loved in this film.

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Before I dig into the film, let’s discuss the history of Home Alone. It grossed over 450 million at the box office, and this is at a time when average movie ticket was less than $5.00. It was the highest grossing live action comedy for 21 years when The Hangover Part II finally dethroned it. If you were to adjust the gross of the film to today’s ticket prices it would still be top dog. It was directed by Chris Columbus, who is very well known for helming the first two Harry Potter films. He was also a screenwriter for Steven Spielberg’s Amblin Entertainment and helped pen Gremlins, The Goonies, and Young Sherlock Holmes. After that he started directing feature films of his own, starting with Adventures in Babysitting. He’s gone on to direct Home Alone 2, Mrs. Doubtfire, the aforementioned Harry Potter films, and many other very successful films. In short, Home Alone was destined for success before it was even set to film.

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With Chris Columbus behind the camera, an obvious talent in the making, the movie needed a story. Home Alone gets its story from one of the all time great film storytellers in John Hughes. He wrote National Lampoon’s Vacation, Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, European Vacation, Weird Science, Pretty in Pink, Ferris Beuller, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The Great Outdoors, Uncle Buck, Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, Home Alone II, and many more. Notice how his writing credits fill an entire paragraph and they’re all classics? John Hughes was one of those once in a lifetime type of talents. Someone who had their finger to the pulse of the youth of America through several decades. Beyond that, he knew how to relate to the adults as well. The ability to do both at the level he did it is unheard of, and no one has been able to match it since his passing.

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Home Alone itself is super simple. An eight year old boy is left at home by his absent minded and very distracted family on their way to Christmas vacation in France. The film follows his exploits of having the entire house to himself, in other words, a dream come true for every kid watching the movie. Simultaneously we get the stories of his parents, mostly his mother, realizing their son is at home and the difficulty getting back to him, and that of two terrible cat burglars who are ransacking the neighborhood while everyone is on vacation. The three storylines intermingle, but none as much as that of our protagonist and the cat burglars. Once he finds out their plot to rob his house he plans an ingenious series of traps for them. What follows is one of the best segments in film history as they are burned, maimed, and embarrassed in high comedic slapstick style.

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I’ve certainly seen Home Alone well into the double digits and it has yet to grow stale or boring. In fact, as I’ve gotten older it’s fun to share the film with my children, who get just as much a kick out of it as I did seeing it theaters back in 1990. That’s where the true magic of Hughes lies….most of the films from that era have no common thread with the children of 2016. Hughes wrote films that anyone, anytime, at any age could enjoy, and Home Alone is most certainly enjoyable.

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