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Chris Columbus
Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, Catherine O'Hara, John Candy
Writing Credits:
John Hughes

A Family Comedy Without The Family.

8-year-old Kevin McAllister is accidentally left behind when his family takes off for a vacation in France over the holiday season. Once he realizes they've left him home by himself, Kevin learns to fend for himself, and eventually has to protect his house against bumbling burglars Harry and Marv, who are planning to rob every house in Kevin's suburban Chicago neighborhood. Kevin's mother Kate is frantic when she realizes that she and the family have unintentionally left Kevin behind in Chicago, and she tries to make it back to Chicago as fast as she can, getting help from a polka band leader named Gus Polinski.

Box Office:
$15 million.
Opening Weekend
$17.081 million on 1202 screens.
Domestic Gross
$285.761 million.

Rated PG

Widescreen 1.85:1
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $29.98
Release Date: 10/5/1999

• Trailers


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


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Home Alone (1990)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (November 7, 2006)

In 1990, the sleepers were the kings - and queens - of the box office. That was a year in which highly-touted flicks like Dick Tracy failed to live up to expectations while some lesser-lights cleaned up financially. Four of 1990ís pictures currently rank within the top 100 highest-grossing films of all-time.

At number 95, the yearís first breakout hit came out in the spring. Pretty Woman made Julia Roberts a star and revived the career of Richard Gere as it took in $178 million and inspired prostitutes all over the world. The next surprise success came during the summer with another ďchick flickĒ, Ghost. A complete surprise to most, this weepy comedy nailed an impressive $217 million, which allows it to land at 55th on the all-time chart.

Of the four films under discussion, the riskiest was definitely the fallís Dances With Wolves. Prior to release, industry wags dubbed it ďKevinís GateĒ, for they were absolutely certain the three-hour western would derail star Kevin Costnerís career. Instead, the movie nabbed a bunch of Academy Awards - including Best Picture and Best Director for Costner - and it earned a heap of wampum as well; ultimately the movie grossed $184 million, which qualifies it for 83rd on the all-time list.

For all of the monetary success achieved by these three films, none of them compared with the final flick in our little list of four. Arriving around the same time as Dances With Wolves, Home Alone appealed to a very different demographic, but it maintained enough interest for a broad audience to swipe an amazing $285 million. That easily made it the biggest hit of 1990, and it currently leaves it at 27th on the all-time chart.

(Box office footnote: all four have plummeted in the charts since I originally reviewed Home Alone in 2001. Pretty Woman dropped 44 spots, while Ghost went down 29. Wolves fell 41 places and Home Alone sank 15. That means Alone is lower on the chart now than Ghost was five years ago!)

Frankly, I could never understand the huge success of Alone, though that doesnít mean that I didnít comprehend the general appeal of the material. HmmÖ those concepts seem to contradict themselves. What I mean is that while I can see why a certain audience might enjoy Home Alone, I fail to perceive how this silly junk could become the 12th top-grossing film ever. Perhaps Serendipity - the muse from Dogma - was right; someone must have sold their soul to get the grosses up on this piece of hooey.

In Home Alone, we meet the very upper-middle-class McCallister family. Headed by father Peter (John Heard) and mother Kate (Catherine OíHara), this brood - which also includes extended family such as cousins, aunts and uncles for the holidays - plans to head to France for Christmas. Stuck in the middle of the pandemonium, young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) feels that he always gets the shaft. No one listens to him or respects him, and after he gets in trouble for a fight with his brother, he tells Mom that he wishes he didnít live with them.

Fairy tales can come true. A storm knocks out their power, which makes the clan run late for their flight. In the ruckus to get to the airport, Kevin fails to make the van. No one notices this until theyíre on the jet to Paris. Thatís when Kate realizes that her son isÖ home alone!

Fortunately for all involved, Kevin is a resourceful eight-year-old, and much of the movie shows the fun he has with all his freedom. A couple of dark linings exist, though. For one, Kevin feels terrified of his spooky neighbor, Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom). Even more threatening, however, are Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci), two house crooks who canvas the neighborhood. With so many families out of town for the holidays, the prosperous street is ripe for the picking, and they seem especially excited about the sumptuous McCallister household.

However, they arenít prepared for our quick-witted protagonist. The film flirts with their interactions through much of its running time, as Kevin uses a variety of quick fixes to keep Harry and Marv away from his domain. (I guess he never thought to simply contact the police.) All of this builds to the movieís famous climax in which Kevin mines the home to torture and abuse the criminals into submission.

While audiences enjoyed most of Home Alone, the end sequence remains its true calling card. I saw Home Alone twice during the winter of 1990-91. During the first screening, I took it in with a small matinee crowd. I thought the movie was decently enjoyable at that time, and I went to watch it again when it rolled around to a local bargain theater. For that showing, the room was packed, and these people were absolutely out of control! Iíve never been with a more hysterically amused audience. I saw people literally slap their knees on many occasions, and at times they went so nuts that a few viewers could not keep themselves from actually banging their heads against the walls.

Many times, a raucous audience will make a movie seem more enjoyable, as the communal spirit lifts the material. The opposite happened when I saw Home Alone. I couldnít believe the overreaction displayed by the crowd. Sure, some of this stuff seemed amusing, but it didnít even remotely merit the fantastic reaction it received. Also, I saw more of the filmís flaws the second time around, and I left the theater with a negative opinion of Home Alone.

That sentiment hasnít changed over the last 15 years. Actually, I hadnít seen the movie in quite some time, but it hasnít improved with age. On the positive side, while I hate to admit it, Culkin really was quite good as Kevin. In later films he proved that he couldnít really act, but for this part he seemed perfect. Culkin displayed just the right confidence and cockiness to make the role work, and though his performance didnít amuse me, I still think it came across as very winning for this sort of film.

As the ďWet BanditsĒ, both Pesci and Stern literally threw themselves into their roles. All involved understood the insanely cartoony nature of the material, so no one appeared to take it too seriously. Stern and Pesci are both fine actors - Pesci won an Oscar in 1991 for 1990ís GoodFellas - who were slumming here, but they didnít let that fact affect their performances.

Otherwise, I canít think of much positive to say about Home Alone. Its main problem stemmed from the fact that much of the movie simply wasnít very funny. So many of the comedic elements seemed trite or contrived that the piece lost much effect. Not only did the slapstick climax come off as excessively brutal - there were some moments that became very painful to watch - but the whole thing finished in an unsatisfying manner. I wonít reveal the exact end of Kevinís fight with the Bandits, but I thought it felt like a disappointment.

The filmís plot was paper thin, and once you got past the conceit of the little kid left to fend for himself, there wasnít much to the film. We also saw Kateís attempts to get home to him, but these moments felt tacked on to the story. I adore OíHara, but she was wasted as the shrill Kate.

Actually, the entire extended family was a drag. I realize that they had to be somewhat nasty to Kevin to roll the plot in motion, but they seemed to be so unfair and malicious that it made them terribly unlikable. Frankly, it felt like Kevin was better off on his own. His relatives were judgmental, unpleasant creeps, and they made it impossible to care if they ever were reunited.

While I didnít like Home Alone, I wonít call it a terrible movie. However, it was a somewhat uninspired offering that earned its popularity via a few harsh slapstick scenes. For those in the mood for such fare, the flick might satisfy, but it lacked any depth or cleverness that would make it more entertaining in the long run.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio B/ Bonus D-

Home Alone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has not been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. For such a prominent and popular film, Home Alone did not receive very good treatment from Fox, as this DVD offered a generally bland and mediocre picture.

From the very start of the film, I knew this wouldnít be a terribly pleasant experience. The opening credits displayed an odd flickering that I rarely see, and the presentation didnít improve much once they finished. Sharpness appeared to be decent at best, as softness came through on more than a few occasions. The lack of anamorphic enhancement definitely hurt the movie in this regard, as the reduced resolution meant that the image would never seem as detailed as it could.

Some additional concerns harmed the presentation. The lowered resolution resulted in a few cases of jagged edges, and someone got happy with the artificial sweetening as well. Home Alone displayed quite a few examples of excessive edge enhancement. The image showed some rather significant halos and suffered from a rough ďdigitalĒ appearance. The print also featured quite a few flaws. Speckles and grit showed up throughout the film, and additional defects like hairs and marks also raised their ugly heads.

Otherwise, Home Alone presented some reasonably warm and natural colors. I thought the hues looked tight and pleasant throughout the film, and they showed no problems related to bleeding, noise, or other issues. Black levels also looked nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dense but not excessively thick. Despite these positives, however, Home Alone displayed enough significant concerns to merit a low grade. It wasnít unwatchable, but one would think a film that took in so much money for Fox would merit better treatment.

Happily, the Dolby Surround 2.0 soundtrack of Home Alone was a much more satisfying experience. The soundfield offered a fairly engaging affair, though it stayed true to the filmís comic roots. Those kinds of movies usually donít provide active soundtracks, and while Alone had some wild moments toward its end, the spectrum usually remained appropriately subdued. However, music showed good stereo separation in the front channels, and the score also spread very nicely to the surrounds.

The forward domain displayed good atmosphere, with clean localization of sounds and smooth integration. In addition to the usual ambience they added, the rear speakers also kicked in some louder support at times. For example, airport scenes included realistic elements that made those segments come to life.

Audio quality was pretty solid. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct throughout the film, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were clear and appropriately accurate. The climactic scenes displayed the right levels of comic exaggeration and impact, and the whole affair lacked any distortion. Music sounded reasonably robust and vivid, as the score became a fairly active partner in the package. Low-end also seemed to be acceptably rich and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Home Alone has held up well over the last 15 years.

Despite the movieís high profile, Home Alone offers almost no supplements. All we find are trailers for the film and its two sequels, 1992ís Home Alone 2: Lost In New York and 1997ís Home Alone 3. And thatís all she wrote!

This means Home Alone stands as a lackluster DVD at best. I canít deny that the movie has a few charms - mainly via some solid performances - but the flick as a whole seems inane and excessively mean-spirited at times. The DVD offers surprisingly fine sound but suffers from problematic picture and a paucity of extras. With a list price of $29.98, Home Alone doesnít merit the cost, even for big fans of the film. If you canít live without the movie, youíre probably not reading this review. For others who feel less strongly about Home Alone, I think this weak release should be avoided.

To rate this film visit the Family Fun Edition review of HOME ALONE

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