Why You Still Love ‘Home Alone’
I forced myself to wait a month to write this.
On the Tuesday before Halloween, one of my professors asked the class whether we had plans for All Hallows Eve, and one guy memorably said, “No, it gets in the way of Thanksgiving.” For me, Halloween has always gotten in the way of my yearly Home Alone marathon, which begins on November 1 and ends a few days after Christmas. Most people hold off on holiday films until at least Black Friday, so even though it might feel a little early to talk about the classic Macaulay Culkin flick, I’ve wanted to geek out over it since summer ended, so here goes.
Though I roll my eyes at my generation’s nostalgia fixation, Home Alone is a part of the past I never want to let go of. It gave birth to several inside jokes in my social circle, inspired me and my friends to pull elaborate pranks on my grouchy neighbors (for better or worse), and cheered on the little guy. I know I’m not alone in my adoration for the brand — BuzzFeed has 10+ posts on Home Alone, and the articles have garnered more than 50,000 Facebook shares. The stories are light-hearted in nature with headlines such as “12 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About The Movie ‘Home Alone’” and “25 Reasons Why ‘Home Alone 2’ Is Better Than The Original,” but The Week’s investigative viral 2012 article on Home Alone is a testament to its enduring success and cultural relevance.
Like many of us, Lauren Hansen was skeptical of Home Alone lead Kevin McCallister’s ability (and desire) to relentlessly torture and abuse two grown men, even though they happen to be inept robbers out to steal from him. The other problem? The fact that they survive Kevin’s house of horrors but cannot handle being hit with a shovel by an old man. It’s easy to sit through Home Alone and wonder how Harry and Marv could take the wrath of a smart, twisted child, but there’s a reason we’re still thinking about and debating the movie more than two decades after its release.
“The secret of Home Alone’s appeal is that it finds the perfect balance between escapist wish-fulfillment and dramatic relatability,” says my friend and fellow journalist Matthew Rozsa, who, like me, waits all year for Home Alone “season” to commence. “It’s very easy to veer too far toward one end or the other in a family movies, but Columbus and Hughes were gifted at creating a world enough enough like our own that we can identify with it and yet fanciful enough in its premise and execution that we can want to escape into it.”
My friend and comedian, John Hernandez says Home Alone makes light of something with which we’re all familiar, “I love it because it touches on family tensions in a comedic and heartwarming way.”
Some aren’t crazy about Home Alone‘s blatant lack of respect for grown-ups and over-the-top pranks. In 1990, Roger Ebert raved about Culkin’s wildly entertaining, promising performance but criticized the cartoonish treatment of Harry and Marv, “What I didn’t enjoy was the subplot involving the burglars, who are immediately spotted by little Kevin, and made the targets of his cleverness.” You have to suspend reality to enjoy the Kevin-burglar standoff, but there’s also something great about a movie in which the kids outsmart the adults. It’s what many of us wanted to do at a young age, and we can still appreciate the movie now, especially as previous generations continuously smite us for taking too long to grow up and blah, blah, blah.
As the youngest of four siblings, I love Home Alone more than anything because it tells the story of a secretly brilliant and capable runt of the pack. The movie opens with the McCallister clan dumping on little Kevin for assaulting his menacing brother Buzz, who, in the words of Kevin, “started it.” Before flying to Paris, Kevin’s older sister tells Kevin, “You’re what the French call les incompetents.“ Kevin thinks he can’t pack his own suitcase or do basic things the rest of his relatives can do, but we watch him school two men throughout the movie and hold his own at the large McCallister residence for a few days. Home Alone is a champion for underestimated youngest siblings and slighted people in general, and it’s also amusing to those who still get a kick out of slapstick comedy. And Uncle Frank, who is seriously the worst uncle/person ever, represents that one small adult who unfairly harassed you growing up. Everyone put up with someone like this, it’s just too bad Kevin doesn’t mess with Frank in addition to Marv and Harry.
I can only imagine how tough Home Alone season must be on Culkin, whose glory days didn’t carry into adulthood, but this is the Macaulay Culkin I choose to remember, and at least he had a huge role in a franchise with timeless appeal.
Wait until we’re well into December to play Home Alone if that feels right, but if you’re eager to welcome Kevin McCallister back into your life after one heck of a year, join me in celebrating Home Alone “season” right now. Or just listen to the score. After all, it was created by the same guy who did the music for Harry Potter, Hook and E..T.
Do you love or hate Home Alone? Tell me everything about your experiences with the franchise in the comments section!
Image via Saving Advice