Gini’s Christmas Classics | Home Alone

The Two Gay Geeks and our Staff are taking a much needed break from Thanksgiving through the end of the year, but we still wanted to have content for you to read during that time. As such we got busy and watched all of our favorite holiday videos. Some are classics and others are off-beat and loosely associated with the holidays. We hope you enjoy our offerings and that you holiday season is safe, sane, and satisfying.
 

Home Alone

By Gini Koch



Home Alone was one of the biggest hits of its year and, honestly, of all time (if adjusted for inflation). It has, however, a horrible rap for being successful crap. However, it’s set at Christmas time, so it’s definitely a Christmas movie. But does it deserve to be a Christmas Classic? Let’s find out…

Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin in the role that made him a household name) is eight years old, the youngest of five kids, and is therefore the one who’s getting picked on by the older kids. In typical big family fashion, the adults are usually only seeing Kevin’s reactions to his siblings and other family members. And they’re all in his house.

Why? The entire family is going to France for Christmas because one of Kevin’s uncles has scored a great job and this is the big family reunion trip. The house is filled to the rafters with people, most of whom are kids of various ages. One of the adults there, though, is a “police officer” (Joe Pesci) who it’s clear is casing the joint.

Kevin finally loses it when his eldest brother taunts him too much, and he causes things to spill and break. This gets him sent to the attic by his mother, Kate (Catherine O’Hara), during which time Kevin says that he hates his family and wishes that when he wakes up they’d all be gone.

During the night the telephone and power lines get knocked down, so the family wakes up with barely any time to get dressed, let alone get to the airport. This creates havoc. The eldest girl, who is not one of Kevin’s sisters but is, instead, a cousin, is given the job of doing a head count – but what no one realizes is that the kid who’s Kevin’s size and has his back to anyone who’s counting isn’t Kevin but is, instead, a neighbor kid who’s wandered by. That kid wanders off, but the confusion is done. The power lineman also confirms that while the power’s back, the phones aren’t going to be back for at least a day, maybe more.

The family is going to the airport in two vans, so no one notices that Kevin’s not there – each set in one van thinks he’s in the other van, if they’re thinking of him at all. Everyone’s stressed and once at the airport they all run hysterically to get to the plane in time. They just make it, the adults in first class, the kids in coach.

Meanwhile, Kevin wakes up to find that he’s alone in the house – meaning, to an eight-year-old, that his wish has come true. At first, he’s kind of excited, doing all the things he’s not supposed to, but some of that’s being done to get everyone to come back, his mother in particular.

Kevin’s just old enough to know how the world works, so he gets into his eldest brother’s stuff and finds money, so he can buy groceries and such. He’s also watching a gangster movie he shouldn’t be, which has resonance later.

Also by being home, he’s foiling the plans of Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) the Wet Bandits – Marv enjoys flooding the houses of those they rob, which is definitely adding insult to injury because the flooding destroys whatever they didn’t steal. Nice guy robbers these guys are not.

On the plane, Kate is having that feeling of having forgotten something important. It finally dawns on her what she’s forgotten, and she’s beside herself.
An important part of the movie is that while Kate’s situation is funny, she’s hysterical to get back to her child. She feels like the worst mother in the world, but the situation has been set up so that we know that she isn’t – she’s just fallen prey to the situation and the distraction waking up late and having to race around has caused. As someone who’s woken up an hour past when the alarm was supposed to go off, I have no problem believing the setup – when you’re freaked out, you pay less attention.

The family lands, but there are no available seats on flights back to Chicago from Paris right now, or anywhere from Paris, and all the phone lines are down, so they can’t reach Kevin, let alone the police. Kate refuses to leave the airport in case she can get a standby flight. The rest of the family goes to their hotel, because there are flights out the day after next, which is Christmas Day, which they’ve booked. Kate, meanwhile, manages to bribe a woman to give her the woman’s ticket and she heads to the States, but not to Chicago.

Kevin is doing okay, but he’s noticed Harry and Marv and is on guard. He’s also afraid of his next-door neighbor, Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom), who his eldest brother has said is a serial killer. He’s not, of course, and Kevin’s discovery of this is both sweet and natural. Both Old Man Marley and Kevin are home alone this Christmas, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t there for each other.

Kevin’s father, Peter (John Heard) finally gets through to the police, but Kevin’s accidentally shoplifted a toothbrush, so he thinks the cop is there to arrest him, so he hides, meaning Peter’s told that no one’s there and he should stop bothering the police.

Kate has flown from Paris to Dallas, then to Scranton, where there are no flights going out at all. Her plight is overheard by Gus Polinski (John Candy) the Polka King of the Midwest, and since he and his polka band are also stranded, they’ve rented a moving van and Kate is invited to travel with them. The interplay between Kate and Gus is hilarious.

Kevin’s alone for three nights. The first night he hears Marv and Harry and turns on the lights, which scares them off. The second night he’s figured out that these guys are trying to get in, and he’s created a silhouette party, which scares them off. During the third day, he overhears their plans for coming back to this house at 9:00pm that night, which is also Christmas Eve, so he prepares elaborate traps to stop them. Kevin, with some assistance, saves the day and Harry and Marv get arrested – and due to their having a “trademark” the cops now can get them for every robbery they’ve ever done.

Kevin wakes up Christmas morning to find that he’s still home alone. But just as he realizes this, Gus drops Kate off and she and Kevin have a sweet reunion…which is interrupted by the rest of the family walking through the door. They took that Christmas flight and made it home five minutes after Kate.
I didn’t see this movie first run. It didn’t sound like my cuppa. Frankly, I avoided it for years. However, I worked with someone who had a very different perspective on this movie, and because of his perspective, I gave it a chance.

My former co-worker’s perspective was that this movie has some very strong messages – three in fact. The first: an old person living alone is likely just a lonely person, not some scary, awful creep. Perhaps you should be kind to them, they are people who need love and thoughtfulness, too, and they may surprise you in a variety of ways. The second: When you’re in trouble, run to the church. And the third: No matter what you two may say to each other, your mother loves you and will do anything to get to you when you’re in trouble.

These messages aren’t made in a cloying way, but they are definitely what drives the movie. They turn this movie into something more than the slapstick farce the last quarter of the movie turns into. Yes, that last quarter is the funniest part, particularly if you like slapstick. But it’s not the only reason to watch this movie.

Despite this movie being almost 30 years old, it feels timeless. The situation is set up so that Kevin being forgotten makes sense, and nothing Kevin does is beyond the grasp and ability of a bright eight-year-old. All in all, Home Alone has a lot of good things to say about families and the holiday season and deserves to be considered a Christmas classic.


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