Home Alone (1990)

(On DVD, November 2016) I had watched bits and pieces of Home Alone over the years, but never the whole film until now. What’s most interesting about its first few minutes is the relentlessness through which John Hughes’ script justifies its hair-raising premise: What if a kid was, indeed, left home alone over the holidays? What would it take (a large family, strife, imperfect communications, accidents) for it to happen, and for the family to be unable to come back? Home Alone virtually backflips in an attempt to make its premise seem plausible. Then it’s on to the fun and games of a kid outwitting burglars with subterfuge and too-clever traps—like a clock, the film winds up over most of its second act, then lets loose over the third one. Macaulay Culkin may not have had much of a career after the first two Home Alone movies, but he is a pivotal part of this one, with his character’s good-hearted innocence fuelling most of the first and second acts. The traps do get to be excessive toward the end, but that’s the kind of thing to be forgiven if the entire film can stand a chance. Otherwise, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern make for capable antagonists, and Catherine O’Hara brings a bit of honest motherly sentiment to the slapstick. While I’m not entirely convinced that Home Alone is a Christmas movie rather than a movie set during Christmas, it’s a decent comedy despite a few first-half lulls, and director Chris Columbus makes an impressive debut choreographing the mayhem. Call it a semi-classic for a reason.

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