Home Alone was never one of my favourite Christmas films growing up even though over the years I had never passed it by whenever it was on television. In truth over the years I had only found myself liking the film much less and eventually my own growing disdain had become enough for me just to outright dislike it. I’ve mentioned my many issues especially with the films of John Hughes as a director and quite frankly I can’t say that his work as a writer fared much better with me. Even during the time I remember enjoying Home Alone I always struggled seeing why it was labelled as a favourite and over the years hoping my view would change it becomes much stronger instead.
Everyone knows the central idea of Home Alone: the young Kevin McCallister ends up getting left behind at home while his family leaves for the holidays and although he first sees everything as paradise now that he’s left by himself he soon finds that he has to defend his own house from a pair of burglars coming into his neighbourhood. There are people who keep questioning what it is that makes Die Hard a Christmas film even with its setting during the festive holidays and quite frankly I’m willing to ask, if people keep questioning Die Hard‘s status as a Christmas film, how come no one is ever questioning Home Alone while they’re at it?
The reason I bring this up is because if Christmas is a time of celebrating togetherness what I find instead in Home Alone goes against that very idea especially while the young Kevin McCallister is left home alone. Even though he develops sympathy towards the ending of the film his own character arc never rang to myself in a favourable manner because at the start when he feuds with his family he only comes off as a selfish brat inside of a family full of even more awful people who have no care for what their own actions are set to do upon others. And if this family is full of such awful people, seeing how we’re left with the supposedly least awful of them all is what makes Home Alone the enthralling watch it is, right?
Sadly, we are not left with the “least awful” of the bunch in Kevin McCallister, whom as noted is just a spoiled brat. It’s clear that Chris Columbus and John Hughes want us as viewers to sympathize with the young Kevin for he’s seen as the “least important” member in his huge family based upon how they treat him but quite frankly his own character arc shows us the opposite of a sympathetic character. While he’s left behind at home all he even does is take pride for himself and he grows to become all the more selfish in turn based on what more he does while he’s left alone at home and it drives away from the goal, and it finds itself going even further down the moment in which the film’s notable third act hits when Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s Harry and Marv come by to rob the McCallister home during a supposed vacancy.
Harry and Marv are quite possibly the funniest things to even come out of the film because Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern do give the film their all but the fact that their suffering is the highlight of Home Alone‘s comedy is a crucial factor as to why it never sat well with me over the years. Sure the image may be funny to us while we’re younger but as I’ve grown older what more I could ever make out of their suffering was in fact the lowest point of Kevin McCallister’s character arc: he’s the worst of the bunch not because he’s more of a spoiled brat compared to the rest of his awful family but frankly it comes from how after he sets up all of these booby traps for Harry and Marv to suffer through, he’s also grown to become a psychopath and a sadist at heart. The fact that this is what Kevin McCallister had grown into is a big problem in regards to finding a sense of reconciliation amongst the family members because the fact that he’s become even worse in the process only renders it impossible to believe because the worst it even resorts to is mere convenience.
I don’t mean any disrespect to people who view Home Alone as a holiday favourite but I’ve always been dumbfounded at its status as such even back when I enjoyed it more. This supposedly charming family comedy about being left behind over the holidays only appeared as such but at its heart, it’s actually going against the very idea of what it wishes to embrace. As per my usual problems with the films of John Hughes, his protagonists rarely have rang as likable especially when we are supposed to root for them (this also happens to be the case for Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, one of the few films under his belt that I enjoy) and Kevin McCallister is one of the worst of this bunch. Sure, there are funny moments coming then and there but most of Home Alone just plays at convenience, but hey, we’re supposed to root for Kevin when he could have easily killed people robbing his home, because he’s the least awful in his monstrous family, right?
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via Fox.
Directed by Chris Columbus
Screenplay by John Hughes
Produced by John Hughes
Starring Macaulay Culkin, Catherine O’Hara, John Heard, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
Release Year: 1990
Running Time: 102 minutes