Wednesday, December 7, 2016

25 Days of Christmas: HOME ALONE

Welcome to Day 7 of our 25 DAYS OF CHRISTMAS series, where we will be taking a look at holiday classics each day in the lead up to Christmas. Today we're looking at the movie that introduced us to a kid named Macaulay Culkin: HOME ALONE.

Howdy fellow film freaks, Robert here. I've heard it said that if you liked a movie when you were little, you're likely to still enjoy it when you're older. That's certainly true for me; I discovered many of my favorite movies today before I hit my teens. When Home Alone was released in 1990, I was twelve (shut up; you'll be old one day, too). No movie released since has made me laugh so hard, and it was the first movie I went to see in the theatre more than once.

I say all that so you'll understand how disappointed I was to see that the film has not aged well twenty six years later. The misadventures of eight-year-old Kevin (Culkin), left alone in his parents' palatial home in suburban Chicago only to find the house targeted by a pair of thieves, didn't bring the funny for me like they once did. Director Chris Columbus, who most recently brought us the video game homage flop Pixels, doesn't appear to have much experience working with child actors. That's my theory, anyway, to explain why Kevin's scenes feel disconnected, as though Home Alone were a collection of short films with a clear linking element, instead of a cohesive narrative. Whether or not Macaulay Culkin was even that great of a child actor, as child actors go, is a matter for some debate. My first impulse is to say no, after seeing how much time in the film is spent with Culkin mugging for the camera or screaming (and I had forgotten they did that gag with the aftershave not once, but twice). I can't deny that the kid has plenty of manic energy and isn't afraid to use it, but it seemed to me Columbus spends too much time showing it to us at the start.

My big problem with this movie is how hard it tries. At the beginning, the movie really, really wants you see how chaotic the house is as the family prepares to go to France for Christmas. It goes out of its way to show us Kevin being a pest. And later, when it comes time to do the Christmas Miracle bit that all Christmas movies must have, Home Alone delivers a three-punch combo of Magic Moments, the third of which demands too much naive faith to be believable.

If you've never seen Home Alone, and/or you're a fan of slapstick physical humor in the Three Stooges tradition, you'll probably like this movie. It works in the first viewing in the same way the original Jurassic Park did. If you're seeking some cheap emotional catharsis, you'll probably like Home Alone, with its final act attempting to capture all the saccharine sweetness of the greeting card aisle.

But if it takes more than just the sight of a man falling down to make you laugh, or the concept of "family" doesn't fill you with such warm fuzzies that you automatically burst into song, Home Alone will likely leave you flat. Without those prerequisites, we're left with one hundred and three minutes of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

Home Alone is rated PG.

Robert's Score: 4 / 10

Be sure to stay tuned throughout the rest of the month! We're posting a new Christmas review every day, both old and new! Check back to see what movie we'll have you singing carols next!

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