CINEMA REMEMBERED: Home Alone and The TOMMY-GUN Moment

THIS WEEK: Home Alone (1990) A young boy is left behind while his family goes on Christmas Vacation. He also must defend the house against burglars.

HOW IT STARTS: One of the robber’s cases the house. He checks the backdoor, where little Kevin McAllister (Macaulay Culkin) has a big surprise waiting for him.

20th Century Fox

THE PREFACE: Written by John Hughes (Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off), Home Alone was one of the legendary screenwriter’s last projects. Actually, this physical comedy with a nice family message, is Hughes’ last great movie. Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Harry Potter) directs the zany story, ensuring it’s exciting when it’s supposed to be, dramatic when necessary, and hilarious most of the time.

Macaulay Culkin is so good as the obnoxious Kevin McAllister that he became a household name. He didn’t just rely on his cuteness either, this kid nailed his complex dialogue as well. There are several quotable exchanges throughout. Appearing in films since a young age, Culkin had already stole the scenery from John Candy in Hughes’ Uncle Buck. Unfortunately, like most child actors, once he got older the roles faded away. Along the way, Culkin has appeared in several memorable films like My Girl, The Good Son, and Saved.

20th Century Fox

Home Alone was a family movie that didn’t talk down to its audience. In fact, a lot of scenes showed Kevin doing what children (from any decade) always wanted to do. Most of it involves rule breaking, like staying up late, watching adult movies, eating tons of junk food, and sledding down the stairs through the front door and across the front lawn (…naturally).

This word of mouth blockbuster had all the comedy you could ask for, with a positive family message, it also had great Christmas songs on the soundtrack, and a fantastic score from master composer John Williams. Hughes and Columbus created one of the best holiday films that still lives decades later.

20th Century Fox

THE SET-UP: A lot of the fun of Home Alone is the 3 Stooges style of comedy, with household hand-made Goonies booby-traps. Those bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern) picked the wrong house to rob. Pesci cased the house earlier, to make sure it’d be worth the risk, when the McAllister house was buzzing with activity of extended relatives gathered the night before vacation.

The stage is set rather well, as we discover that Kevin feels ignored. They ordered all these pizzas and not one is plain cheese (his favourite). A fight breaks out between Kevin and his older brother, Buzz. Of course, our tiny hero gets all the blame, leading him to make a holiday wish he never wanted to come true. He wishes his family would disappear. And they kind of do – forgetting him behind as they make a mad dash for the airport the next morning.

20th Century Fox

At first, Kevin loves this new-found independence. He plays around the house, breaking all the rules he ever wanted to. One night, he gets a craving for cheese pizza. Not wanting to get busted for being home all alone, Kevin comes up with an elaborate plan. He synchs up an old black & white gangster flick, with appropriate dialogue, getting the pizza delivery boy to leave the pizza at the back door and run away from a hail of (supposed) bullets.

This idea will come in especially handy against the Wet Towel Bandits.

20th Century Fox

THAT MOMENT: Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern ready themselves to rob the McAllister’s house. They split up. Stern takes the back door, where Kevin is waiting with the best booby-trap of all. The pizza delivery boy prank was just a warm-up. With the VHS tape all cued up, Kevin presses play. Stern listens in, hearing two tough guys in an argument. Our clever hero grabs a pot, snatches his “borrowed” firecrackers, and lights the fuse at the perfect time.

Stern listens as the movie gangster seemingly threatens him specifically. Kevin watches on with glee, wondering how scared Stern will be. The gangster bellows, “I’ll give you to the count of ten, to get yer ugly, yella, no good kiester off my property, before I pump you full of lead.” Let’s just say, Stern is alarmed.

20th Century Fox

The gangster counts, “One. Two. Ten.” Blasts ring out from a Tommy-Gun, rapid fire, timed perfectly with the explosion of a string of firecrackers. Stern freaks out and bolts for safety. Kevin lip-synchs the gangster’s laughter, and the dialogue, “Keep the change you filthy animal.”

As a child, this Moment stood out particularly because a boy my age defended his home from robbers. This part was better than the pain inducing booby-traps because Kevin used his mind and creativity to his advantage. While Kevin is a clever hero, Stern and Pesci obviously aren’t the brightest bulbs.

THAT MOMENT REMEMBERED: Watching this Moment as an adult, you can see how cartoony the scenario is. With Williams scoring each pratfall throughout the movie, it really feels like watching the classic Looney Toons. In reality, these robbers would have much more severe injuries. However, in reality Kevin probably would have called the police for help right away, despite jeopardizing his new-found independence.

The character that changes most upon re-watching decades later is the old neighbour (with the shovel). The kids treat the man like a horror story. By the end, Old Man Murphy will play an important part in the movie. It’s clear Hughes was aiming for a Boo Radley comparison with To Kill A Mockingbird. We dismiss our heroes because of our prejudiced impressions, only to learn that we should be more open-minded.

20th Century Fox

The overall message of Home Alone is how important family is. This is an especially good moral during the holidays. The message is also handled well, without hitting us over the head with it. While children will enjoy this for all the slapstick comedy, there is also a lot of witty dialogue for the adults to enjoy as well.

How long will this holiday classic endure? Is this the 90s version of something timeless like It’s A Wonderful Life? We shall wait and see. Seeing Home Alone as a child and then an adult will mean something different, but more importantly it will pull on the strings of nostalgia and remind you of a more innocent time.

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Director:

Chris Columbus

Writer:

John Hughes


NEXT WEEK: To celebrate the release of Hateful Eight, Tarantino Round 3: JACKIE BROWN.

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