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The UnPopular Opinion: Home Alone

THE UNPOPULAR OPINION is an ongoing column featuring different takes on films that either the writer HATED, but that the majority of film fans LOVED, or that the writer LOVED, but that most others LOATHED. We're hoping this column will promote constructive and geek fueled discussion. Enjoy!

****SOME SPOILERS ENSUE****

While it seems like it happens earlier and earlier every year, the day after Halloween is when retail stores truly begin the push towards Christmas. Thanksgiving doesn't really offer much in the way of songs, decorations, or family movies compared to Christmas, so it is only natural for everything to be green and red lights and decorations. Movies are the same way. Just this past weekend, Illumination's THE GRINCH hit theaters and networks are all beginning the wall to wall holiday programming. That means the age old debate of what the best Christmas movies are will begin raging again. I love this time of year and I have my personal favorite Christmas movies, but there are some that are just beyond overrated. So, for the rest of 2018, my UnPopular Opinions are going to be focused on humbugging the Christmas movies that get way too much love. First up is HOME ALONE, a film that I loved when it premiered in 1990 but does not hold up well at all thirty years later.

In 1990, HOME ALONE was the greatest movie I had ever seen. I was the same age as Macauley Culkin and I too had angrily wished my parents disappeared on occassion. Every child daydreamed about being on their own and not having to abide by the rules of pesky adults. It was the ultimate cinematic wish fulfillment to see a young kid kick the living shit out of a couple of bumbling villains. Then there was the heart-tugging reconciliation at the end of both Kevin and his mother as well as the creepy old man who turned out to have a heart of gold. HOME ALONE was perfect and I saw it a half dozen times on the big screen. When the VHS finally was available, I begged for a copy so I could rewatch the bloodless carnage in the comfort of my own home. In the years since, I watched it at least once a year close to Christmas. Then, when my bloodlust was being satiated by more mature films, it fell out of my rotation. That is until about five years ago.

comedy, Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, john heard, Catherine O'Hara, John Candy, John Hughes, Chrhttp://www.joblo.com/manage/articles/edit/83800/?inline=0#is Columbus, Home Alone, 1990, The UnPopular Opinion

Having cleansed my palate for a half-decade, I found that HOME ALONE is just not a good movie. Considering it came from the pen of John Hughes, HOME ALONE deserves to be nowhere near his filmography unless it is alongside the pile of crap that is CURLY SUE. It also felt like watching the HARRY POTTER films in reverse order which reveals just how lacking a director Chris Columbus actually is. HOME ALONE is really two different films crammed together into an overly saccharine package that does not equal the sum of it's parts. The first part is the wish fulfillment section showcasing Kevin stuck at home and how he deals with the situation. This is offset by his parents scrambling to get home. While some have found the reconciliation to be overly cheesy, I truly think that if that had been the bulk of the film it would have worked as a nice family friendly variation on PLANES TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILES. Instead, it gets stuffed with a slapstick comedy that collapses under it's own goofiness.

Yes, seeing Macauley Culkin beat the life out of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern is hilarious. Seeing them step on glass and burn themselves and get severe head trauma never struck me as violent when I was a child because it is treated like a Three Stooges cartoon. All of the pratfalls and exaggerated injuries is played for laughs. Credit is due to Pesci and Stern who completely embraced the insanity of what they were doing and even took it up a notch for the sequel. But, the entire final act feels like it is a different movie. The narrative that connects the family story to the robbery sequences is flimsy at best. When it was first released, the audacity of seeing the violence on screen as perpetrated by a child was hilariously jarring. Now, it just looks and feels cheap. 

Macauley Culkin, who became a precocious star from his natural performance in HOME ALONE fails to feel genuine in any scenes not involving bodily harm. When I was young, I felt a kinship with Kevin McAllister but now I just feel groan after groan as he spouts his dialogue with the enthusiasm of a cereal commercial. The best performance in the entire movie comes from John Candy in his brief scenes as a polka musician giving Catherine O'Hara a ride back to Chicago. In that scene only did I feel John Hughes really come out. The rest of the movie is sugary fluff. Chris Columbus puts a shiny veneer that makes HOME ALONE look like a better movie than it actually is but still manages to make a very safe studio product that could have been so much more. The lone saving element of HOME ALONE is John Williams' score, which is as good as his best work.

Since it was released, HOME ALONE has become a holiday staple for no reason other than it takes place at Christmas. HOME ALONE tugs at the heartstrings every scene where it isn't kicking someone in the balls. That dichotomy results in a movie that is very uneven. In pacing, in narrative, in casting, and in every other way, HOME ALONE doesn't work. Now, if I head over to YouTube and check out sixty second clips of violence or memorable quotes, I will likely smile. HOME ALONE definitely still has the ability to make me laugh. But, when you watch the movie from beginning to end, it becomes an exercise in tedium. There is so much dead space between the opening credits and the insane final act you will wonder how you ever sat through it in the first place.

comedy, Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, john heard, Catherine O'Hara, John Candy, John Hughes, Chrhttp://www.joblo.com/manage/articles/edit/83800/?inline=0#is Columbus, Home Alone, 1990, The UnPopular Opinion

Like many Christmas movies, we tend to be more forgiving when it comes to mediocrity because of the heartwarming holiday sentimentality on display. Well, HOME ALONE has not aged well and that heartwarming feeling has faded and left behind only the cheesy and generic display of false emotion that makes every Hallmark and Lifetime movie feel like an exercise in full body cringing. Each successive sequel to HOME ALONE has driven home the point that this movie was released at the right time and would never work today. The fact that the original 1990 movie barely works today is more than enough proof that John Hughes was not without fault, Chris Columbus was competent and barely so, and especially that Macauley Culkin's lack of longevity as a Hollywood star was not due to the personal struggles in his life but more due to the fact that he hit paydirt when he got this role and  never quite lived it down. HOME ALONE will always be a film I remember fondly as part of my childhood but it is a movie I wish I never watched again after I grew up.

Oh, and if you have any suggestions for The UnPopular Opinion I’m always happy to hear them. You can send along an email to [email protected], spell it out below, slap it up on my wall in Movie Fan Central, or send me a private message via Movie Fan Central. Provide me with as many movie suggestions as you like, with any reasoning you'd care to share, and if I agree then you may one day see it featured in this very column!
Source: JoBlo.com

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