Plot: Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is tired of being pushed around his family, as he is never allowed to do anything, his siblings take advantage of him, and he always takes the heat for whatever trouble arises. On the eve of a Christmas vacation to France, Kevin has a fight with pretty much his entire family and is banished to the attic, to think about what he has done. He is so outraged by how he was treated that he wishes his family would disappear. Thanks to a series of mishaps and coincidences, his family manages to head to France without him and he wakes up assuming his wish has come true. Of course, he loves the freedom at first, but it soon becomes clear he misses his family and with a pair of burglars on the prowl, he could be in serious danger. As his mother tries to rush back home to get him, Kevin has to face responsibilities he never knew existed, not to mention the presence of the Wet Bandits.
Entertainment Value: This was a cinematic titan, once the highest grossing comedy of all time and an insanely popular family film. Macaulay Culkin became an icon, several sequels were unleashed, and even decades later, the movie remains a pretty well liked, holiday picture. I still think the movie holds up as a fun, over the top experience, even if it has some lesser points. But it is hard to focus on the rushed emotional beats, given that the movie clearly aims for light, brisk laughs. And for most people, you don’t need to hit the family connection notes hard, as even simple touches can resonate for a lot of viewers. I appreciate the pace here perhaps more than anything else, as the movie shifts between acts with ease and never feels slow whatsoever. The family dynamic at the start turns into Kevin’s adjustments taking care of himself, which then rolls into his encounter with the crooks. I think the flow is terrific and even with the side thread of the old man and his family issues, the pace remains crisp. I understand why some dislike the movie and see it as shallow, popcorn entertainment, as it is kind of is, but I think it is still a fun watch.
This movie launched Culkin into a meteoric rise and regardless of what followed, his performance here is a lot of fun. He is able to make the material work and be very funny, without relying on the usual kid actor tricks. That doesn’t mean he never mugs for the camera, as the famous aftershave scene would attest, but his dialogue delivery is strong and his comedic presence is quite good. His role here is a small one, but I really think John Candy adds so much to the movie’s final act. He has his usual level charm and humor, in a very warm, albeit brief turn. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern dial up their performances to slapstick levels as the bungling Wet Bandits, but it works and their scenes are a lot of fun. You can tell Pesci struggles with the family friendly scope of the material, but he is able to make it work. I also really liked Roberts Blossom as the old man, as his thread was interesting, though not everyone agrees with that. Catherine O’Hara is also fine as the desperate mother, while the movie boasts a sizable, mostly passable ensemble of supporting players as well. A warm, silly holiday movie with some solid laughs, Home Alone is well recommended.