Thursday, December 18, 2014

"Keep the Change, You Filthy Animal!" Home Alone Turns 24

Guest article by Brandon Engel. 

The fact that the movie Home Alone is soon turning almost a quarter of a century old will certainly date some people. Arguably, though, the subsequent career of director Chris Columbus contributed to a variety of successful, entertaining movies as well. Either way you look at it, Home Alone remains one of the most memorable holiday films of all time.


Home Alone inserts viewers into the chaotic but loving McCallister family. The youngest of the lot, Kevin, played by MaCaulay Culkin, feels picked on and misunderstood by his boisterous family members. Like many families during the holiday season, the family scrambles to get everyone and everything in place for a trip to celebrate the season. But, in the frenzy of their preparations, little Kevin gets overlooked and ends up alone in a rather large house for an 8-year-old boy.

At first, this seems like a gift in disguise, as young Kevin has the chance to engage in all the misbehavior his parents scold him about. He gets to try on some adult activities, like using aftershave, as well as jumping on the bed with impunity. When a couple of burglars show up, though, Kevin has to delve deep into his bag of childhood mischief to protect his house and himself in this comedy of juvenile genius and adult criminal ineptitude. Separated by the Atlantic Ocean in a pre-Internet era, Kevin and his family have very few ways to contact each other at all, so he is left to his own devices.

John Hughes, who was already famous for his movies from the previous decade, wrote the script for this hit, giving director Chris Columbus rich material for a blockbuster comedy production. From an estimated budget of about 15 million dollars, the film brought in over 17 million during its first weekend and eventually accounted for well over 200 million in revenue in the US alone. Besides being a financial success, the movie also won over most reviewers to some degree, despite some critics who lamented the more unrealistic aspects of the plot line – even before the advent of automated home monitoring systems like ADT, forgetting a child at home and failing to contact any authorities isn’t exactly the easiest storyline to believe. The outlandish premise didn’t stop most moviegoers from going to see what damage this young protagonist could inflict on a couple of middle-aged miscreants.

It’s hard to believe that MaCaulay Culkin, the actor portraying the movie’s protagonist, has become a grown man with his own projects and interests, aside from wreaking havoc on inept burglars. The movie launched him into almost immediate stardom as a household name all over the world, but the sequels were met only with mixed reviews. In the real world, Culkin’s troubles with his parents (who were entangled in a custody war over MaCaulay and his fortune) made national and international news as he tried to gain more control over his financial future. Eventually, Culkin was able to parlay his skill, fame and resources into other projects, including stints in theater and music.

These days, the movie still rates above average on many review sites. The lack of appeal relative to its popularity when it was released can be partially explained by changes in the culture, which involves far more home security awareness, and sensibilities over the years. That being said, kids still seem to love this holiday classic that delivers a dose of adult-directed schadenfreude, as will adults who just want a trip down the path of their childhood reveries.

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