There are fewer enduring images in modern comedy cinema than Macaulay Culkin smashing Joe Pesci & Daniel Stern in the face with swinging paint cans. A riotous celebration of slapstick violence and Yuletide cheer that finds its way automatically on people Christmas movie checklist without question, Home Alone is a film that has the legs to stand out as one of the great Christmas movies for many a reason.
When you look closer at a film like Home Alone, it’s enduring popularity and its rightful place in the pantheon of beloved Christmas movies, it’s clear to see from the pedigree of all involved as to why it was and still is so well received. Being written & produced by John Hughes straight away gave the film all the attention it needed to be recognised as a must see film. Directed by Chris Columbus and starring the like of Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard and John Candy, you already have an intimating amount of talent behind this picture. Telling the story of a young boy unwittingly left behind as his family leave for Christmas vacation leaving him as the custodian of their opulent mansion-like home, it was a kids dream come true, having a whole house to yourself without being told what to do. Factor in the addition of the home being scoped out for looting by the bumbling ‘Wet Bandits’ Harry & Marv, the viewer is thrown into a glorious cacophony of comic book violence and slapstick as Kevin rigs the house with booby-traps to foil the witless pair, it was a remarkably simple but tremendously effective idea.
I think part of what has helped Home Alone endure and stand the test of time is the fact that it isn’t your standard holiday entertainment, unless violence & prolonged human torture are your festive traditions, but hey, who am I to judge. In all seriousness though, it was a breath of fresh air to the Christmas movie landscape, it gave us the warm seasonal fuzzys and also buckets of hilarious, absurd comic book violence and slapstick, a heightened reality where a man can take a paint can swung at his face with some velocity and still live. It offered a charming and irreverent alternative to the standard of Christmas movies and did so with chuckling and at times, malevolent glee.
Spawning one equally brilliant and arguably stronger sequel and two straight to video ones which don’t really merit the name Home Alone they are so awful, Home Alone carried with it an endearing message of the importance of being with the ones we love at this time of year, hammering the point home by allowing Kevin to meet people, Old Man Marley in the first & The Bird Lady in the second, who would give anything for companionship at Christmas and reminding him that no matter how much his family irritates him, he loves and needs them unconditionally, despite its chaos it has a wholesome, deep rooted message of good will.
Home Alone is nearly 30 years old and is just as fresh as the first time I viewed it as a child. It’s a film like Gremlins, like Elf, like Muppets Christmas Carol that stands the rest of time admirably and is eminently watchable no matter how many times it has been viewed prior, a sign of not only a great Christmas film but also of a great film in general irrespective of the time of year it is based. Without fail it makes its way into my annual Christmas film checklist and will do for many years to come.