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‘Home Alone’

By Hal Hinson
Washington Post Staff Writer
November 16, 1990

 


Director:
Chris Columbus
Cast:
Macaulay Culkin;
Joe Pesci;
Daniel Stern;
John Heard;
Catherine O'Hara;
Roberts Blossom;
John Candy
PG
Parental guidance suggested


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Everybody treats Kevin like dirt. His brothers and sisters pick on him and tell him that he's a disease. His parents (Catherine O'Hara and John Heard), who are planning to take the family to Paris for the Christmas holidays, either ignore him or go along with the general negative attitude. And it's unfair, all this bad treatment. If a guy spills milk all over the passports, why does everybody have to make a federal case of it? Why don't they just leave me alone, he thinks, heading off for bed. Why don't they just disappear?

When Kevin wakes up the following morning the house is quiet as a mouse. "Moooom? ... Daaaaad? ... HOT DOG!!!"

Chris Columbus's junky, rambunctiously funny "Home Alone" is every kid's anarchical wish come true. What's happened is that Kevin's parents have gotten confused in their rush to the airport, leaving the little monster behind, all alone in their great big house to fend for himself. The resourceful Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) wastes no time taking advantage of this dream come true. Within seconds he turns Mom and Dad's bed into a trampoline, loads up the VCR with naughty stuff and plops down with the sundae to end all sundaes.

Not that Kevin's some kind of midget Dennis Hopper; he's a good kid, really. Just underappreciated and misunderstood. He's also afraid of his own shadow and, beyond tying his own shoelaces, seemingly incapable of taking care of himself. This is his test, and he rises to the occasion with flying colors, especially when he has to protect home and hearth (not to mention his own tiny, precious butt) from a pair of burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). The point of "Home Alone," which sprang from the trashy mind of John Hughes, who wrote and produced the film, is that Kevin, through his experiences, learns a little bit about self-reliance and appreciation for his family.

Goodie, a moral.

But that's not what the kids are going to go for. They're going to love the sight of Kevin sledding down the front stairs, of Kevin cruising down the aisle of the local supermarket, of Kevin slapping on after-shave, and booby-trapping his house in anticipation of the burglars. In fact, they're going to love Kevin -- and what's not to love? Culkin's adorable, and he may punch more buttons with women than Mel Gibson.

Basically, the film has two influences: Frank Capra and the Warner Bros. animator Chuck Jones. The first part of the movie belongs to Capra, and Columbus lets it dawdle along without much distinction or comic zip. But when the burglars arrive, the Jones spirit kicks in and the movie becomes a sort of live-action cartoon, with Kevin playing Road Runner to the crooks' Wile E. Coyote. The movie has a big payoff; it's the setup that's the drag. But Kevin's antics will touch the budding subversive in every kid. My advice? Hide the car keys.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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