The holiday times bring many traditions in to our homes. For many it is a time when the parents bring the kids out to pick out the annual Christmas tree and in the schools the teachers would plan the holiday pageants for the students to perform. At work many companies have their parties for the staff. Even a huge industry like Hollywood has its own form of traditions. For some reason that I could never fully understand Christmas day is one of the big opening day for new movies. Unlike the summer season where the big action blockbusters rule the day Christmas is traditionally the time to premiere family flicks. The Christmas movie goes way back, almost to the start of the industry. In 1990 a different kind of movie was released; a family film without the presence of a family. The film was ‘Home Alone’ about a kid left behind while the entire family goes overseas to Paris on a holiday vacation. Since the child was about eight this is definitely a case of child neglect and someone should have called family services but in the hands of Hollywood it is a comedy. It was well received and resulted in several sequels; in typical fashion this first movie was the best in the lot. This film has become a perennial holiday favorite and has been enjoyed by families actually together for the last 18 years. It made an instant star out of the young star, Macaulay Culkin and the scene where he splashes on some aftershave, holds his hands to his face and screams has become part of the popular culture and parodied ever since. The film was made on a budget of $15 million and more than made that back in its first weekend. The overall gross of the film set a world’s record for the time and resulted in the ill fated and diminishing sequels. The DVD of the film first hit the stores back in 1999 and there has been numerous other releases on its own or packaged with other holiday films and the rest of the franchise over the years. Now the definitive release of this film has hit and good news for high definition fans; it is in Blu-ray.
The script was written by a legend in Hollywood, John Hughes. In the eighties he single handedly reinvented the teen angst flick with movies like ‘The Breakfast Club’, ‘Pretty in Pink’ and ‘Sixteen Candles’. This screenplay was part of his transition to family faire that continues to this day although now he uses a pseudonym of Edmond Dantes. Under this name he created another long lived family franchises the ‘Beethoven’ flicks. You might think that a story about a child left to fend for himself alone in the family home would be frightening for kids but this is such a well constructed comedy that it comes across as nothing but fun. There is a turning point in the film where Kevin (Culkin) realizes that his family not only wasn’t bad but he misses and needs them. Adding to the tension that drives the humor is a pair of burglars intent on robbing the homes in Kevin’s neighborhood, including his. This potential source of danger is turned into slapstick thanks to the well crafted script by Hughes. The thieves are so inept and outright stupid that you rapidly begin to believe that two grown men could be outplayed, out maneuvered and out played by a resourceful child. There is also a good deal of remorse shown with the parents especially the mother once she comes to the realization that her youngest child is home alone thousands of miles away. This provides the right touch of reality and drama to highlight the comedy.
Directing this movie was Chris Columbus. He is one of the best known directors of his generation. This was only his third film coming in after the lesser known comedies ‘Adventures in Babysitting’ and ‘Heartbreak Hotel’. He also went on to several other notable comedies as well as the film adaptation of ‘Rent’ and the first two movies in the wildly successful ‘Harry Potter’ series of films. Here his challenge was to create a movie based on the most implausible set of circumstances possible. He had to make the audience forget about the basically heinous act of child abandonment and concentrate on the adventures young Kevin is experiencing. Of course the silliness of the humor here takes over providing the necessary humor. Columbus paces the film perfectly. Kevin is faced with one problem or difficulty after another and has to come up with some way out of it. Naturally the solutions are all from the perspective of a child. The film is best known for the Rube Goldberg like booby traps that Kevin sets for the bad guys. Paint cans fly down hitting the crooks in the face. Kevin constructs an elaborate set of robes and objects to make it seem that people are in the house. The abuse that the criminals take would actually kill a real person but that is part of the fun. There is nothing like physical abuse to make for a family holiday flick.
There is a lot of excitement in the large McCallister household. The family, including aunt, uncle and cousins, are getting ready to spend the holidays in Paris. As every man, woman and child are busy packing little Kevin feels left out. As the youngest of his siblings he is used to being neglected but this is just too much for him. With the overcrowding Kevin is relegated to sleep with his cousin who wets the bed. In order to have a dry night he sneaks off to thee attic for the night. In the next morning Kevin oversleeps and when he awakens discovers that the family has left without him. Things are so hectic at the airport that no one notices that Kevin is absent. At first Kevin is alarmed at his plight but soon comes to enjoy being on his own with one to bother him or order him around. Meanwhile, there is a pair of burglars afoot in the neighborhood; Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marty (Daniel Stern). They have the neighborhood staked out so they know which homes are empty by the preset timers turning on the lights. They want the McCallister home since it looks to be one of the better ones on the block. Their initial attempts are easily foiled by Kevin but the bad guys are intent on breaking in. Kevin decides to booby trap the home to make life horrible for Harry and Marty. This only gets the crooks angry and even more determined to get back at the kid.
Even though there is some flaws here this movie is a classic. It is one of the few flicks with Joe Pesci where his language is fit for a family film. This Blu-ray release is the best presentation of the movie ever. The 1080p video is excellent and accompanied by a DTS HD lossless audio that provides an amazing sound stage. There are also a nice set of extras to add to the fun. This is one that will be enjoyed by all for a long time.