Welcome to Is It Still? where we look at movies from years gone by and ask, is it still good? Is it still bad? Is it still funny? Is it still scary?
Is It Still Good? Home Alone
Home Alone was the biggest movie when it was released in 1990, retaining its popularity by becoming a Christmas season staple. It was a wonderful childhood fantasy: being left alone in the house with no siblings or parents, and no rules. No door locked, no BB gun out of reach, and no one to tell you what to do. I watched it eight million times when it came out. I thought it was funny, ingenious, a little scary, clever, quotable, and all my friends agreed.
Flash forward to Christmas 2013. My wife and I were choosing our annual Christmas movie and decided that we wanted some nostalgia. The year before we had watched my family’s favourite Christmas movie (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation), so we decided that year we would watch hers, which of course was Home Alone.
And it was awful.
It was an annoying, cheesy, predictable mess of a movie with grating performances, treacly emotions, and enraging scenes.
The first hint that this wasn’t going to be a merry sleigh ride down memory lane was the pizza scene. Near the beginning of the movie, the McAllister house is full with the uncles, aunties, cousins, parents, and siblings of Kevin (Macaulay Culkin). During this chaotic mess of a meal Kevin’s jerk of a brother Buzz (yes, that’s his name) eats his special pizza, which enrages Kevin enough to push him. Subsequently, a drink is spilled, everyone loses their minds, and Kevin is sent to bed. Notable in this scene is the line from Uncle Frank when he says to Kevin (a ten year old), “Look what you did, you little jerk.” In 1990, I thought this was a completely legitimate reaction to spilling a drink because I was six years old and an idiot.
Once the family is gone and Kevin has free reign of the house it becomes clear that Macaulay Culkin has one standard response he would fall back on, and that’s screaming. Just loudly screaming. Sometimes for good reason, sometimes for no reason (aftershave doesn’t burn your face if you haven’t had a shave, you screaming dummy). His whole shtick of acting like a grown up by being smug and saying smug things wears thin instantly.
Another downfall is the length of the movie. In my memory it went like this: Kevin gets left home alone – he eats giant ice cream and watches gangster movie – Baby Die Hard. And that is true except that middle bit lasts forever. I did not come here to watch Macaulay Culkin enjoy an empty house and be a tit. No, I came here to watch Joe Pesci get hit with paint cans. No, actually I didn’t. It hurt me to see Pesci in this movie. When I watched this movie in the cinema I had no concept of Goodfellas. In 2013, Goodfellas was tattooed on my soul. Goodfellas came out the same year as Home Alone. What a confusing time to be a Pesci fan.
No, this movie is not still good. I’ll admit some of the scenes of Catherine O’Hara trying to get back home are very good. She really invests in the role of desperate mother and some of her scenes are particularly emotive. However, they are in the wrong movie most of the time. Her tearful pleas for people to help her are undercut by the following scene of Culkin just being the worst. If you want Christmas themes and a single hero overcoming incredible odds to be reunited with a loved one, then watch Die Hard, because that movie has aged like a fine wine; Home Alone’s ass has turned to vinegar.