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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 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby 2.0
Spanish Dolby 2.0
French Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 103 min.
Price: $19.98
Release Date: 11/21/2006

• Audio Commentary with Director Chris Columbus and Actor Macaulay Culkin
• “Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin” Featurette
• 1990 Press Featurette
• “How to Burglar-Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone Featurette
• “The Making of Home Alone” Featurette
• “Home Alone Around the World” Featurette
• “Where’s Buzz Now?” Featurette
• Blooper Reel
• “Angels with Filthy Souls”
• Trailers
• 15 Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes
• 3 Games


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: Family Fun Edition (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 1990’s pictures currently rank within the top 100 highest-grossing films of all-time.

At number 95, the year’s 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 “chick flick”, 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 fall’s Dances With Wolves. Prior to release, industry wags dubbed it “Kevin’s Gate”, for they were absolutely certain the three-hour western would derail star Kevin Costner’s 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 doesn’t mean that I didn’t comprehend the general appeal of the material. Hmm… 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 O’Hara), 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 didn’t 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 they’re on the jet to Paris. That’s when Kate realizes that her son is… 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 aren’t 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 movie’s 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! I’ve 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 couldn’t believe the overreaction displayed by the crowd. Sure, some of this stuff seemed amusing, but it didn’t even remotely merit the fantastic reaction it received. Also, I saw more of the film’s flaws the second time around, and I left the theater with a negative opinion of Home Alone.

That sentiment hasn’t changed over the last 15 years. Actually, I hadn’t seen the movie in quite some time, but it hasn’t 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 couldn’t 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 didn’t amuse me, I still think it came across as very winning for this sort of film.

As the “Wet Bandits”, 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 1990’s GoodFellas - who were slumming here, but they didn’t let that fact affect their performances.

Otherwise, I can’t think of much positive to say about Home Alone. Its main problem stemmed from the fact that much of the movie simply wasn’t 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 won’t reveal the exact end of Kevin’s fight with the Bandits, but I thought it felt like a disappointment.

The film’s plot was paper thin, and once you got past the conceit of the little kid left to fend for himself, there wasn’t much to the film. We also saw Kate’s attempts to get home to him, but these moments felt tacked on to the story. I adore O’Hara, 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 didn’t like Home Alone, I won’t 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 B+/ Audio B+/ Bonus B

Home Alone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Some minor issues popped up here and there but the flick usually looked pretty good.

Sharpness was the only sporadic concern, and one I found difficult to evaluation due to the movie’s visual design. The filmmakers clearly wanted a warm, homey feel to the project, so some of the softness I saw appeared to come from this; Alone went with a slightly fuzzy look to reflect this tone. However, I thought the transfer was a bit softer than expected, even given the apparent photographic choices. The movie was never terribly soft, and clarity improved as it progressed, but it could have been better defined.

No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, but I noticed occasional edge haloes. Source flaws were happily absent. Only a few minor source defects occurred, as I noticed a speck or two but that was it. This was a consistently clean and smooth presentation.

Home Alone presented some 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. Skin tones were a little ruddy at times, though. Black levels looked nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dense but not excessively thick. The softness almost knocked this one down to a “B”, but I thought the image was strong enough to earn a borderline “B+”.

I also liked the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Home Alone. The soundfield offered a pretty engaging affair, though it stayed true to the film’s comic roots. Those kinds of movies usually don’t 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. This track featured a little stereo surround material on occasion, as some atmospheric bits clearly came localized in the back. This wasn’t a dazzling soundfield, but it seemed quite good given its era and the flick’s genre.

Audio quality was perfectly 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 surprisingly robust and vivid, as the score became a fairly active partner in the package. Low-end also seemed to be nicely rich and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Home Alone has held up well over the 15 years.

How did the picture and audio of this “Family Fun Edition” compare to those of the prior DVD? Audio was pretty similar in terms of scope and quality, though the change from the original disc’s 2.0 track to this one’s 5.1 mix meant that smattering of stereo surround information. The new mix was a bit broader and livelier, so it got a “B+” compared to the original’s “B”.

More notable improvements came from the 2006 disc’s transfer. The old version offered non-anamorphic visuals that suffered from shimmering, jags, softness, heavy edge enhancement and source dirt. Some of the same lack of definition remained, but this edition cleaned up the rest and looked much more satisfying. The 2006 DVD presented a much stronger transfer.

While the original disc included almost no extras, the “Family Fun Edition” comes with a bunch of supplements. We begin with an audio commentary from director Chris Columbus and actor Macaulay Culkin. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They chat about how Columbus came onto the project, Culkin’s casting and performance, the script and working with John Hughes, constrictions related to budget and child labor laws, score and songs, cinematography, locations and production design, unused concepts, cast and tensions on the set, score and how John Williams got the gig, stunts, and general filming notes.

Going into this track, I worried it would be little more than “wasn’t that fun?” and “wasn’t that great” nostalgia. Happily, it turned out to be a very lively and informative discussion. Columbus and Culkin interact well as they display charm and frankness. In addition to notes about the ways the adult actors occasionally seemed to resent Culkin’s starring status, we find amusing details about goofs in the final flick. We get a good sense of the production along with many fine stories about the shoot. This is a consistently engaging and enjoyable commentary.

A slew of featurettes come next. Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin goes for four minutes, 47 seconds. As implied by the title, we see video footage Culkin shot on the O’Hare Airport set. We get a few comments from Culkin now and then as we watch him and the others during the shoot. It’s a cute artifact but not an especially revealing or interesting one.

A 1990 Press Featurette fills a mere three minutes, 53 seconds with notes from Culkin, Columbus, and actors Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. We get some basics about the story, characters and production. No real information appears, but some of the footage from the set proves moderately intriguing. This remains a highly promotional piece, though, so don’t expect much from it.

More behind the scenes material comes from the seven-minute and three-second How to Burglar-Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone. This features stunt coordinator Freddie Hice, director of photography Julio Macat, executive producers Tarquin Gotch and Scott Rosenfelt and stunt double Troy Brown. Like you might expect, this piece examines how the crew executed the movie’s over the top pratfalls and stunts. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of detail. We find none of the shots from the set that would help illustrate the elements, and the stories prove only moderately illuminating. This is a subject ripe for exploration, but “Stunts” doesn’t give us a very good examination of the issues.

One of the disc’s longer pieces, The Making of Home Alone goes for 19 minutes and 23 seconds. It includes notes from Columbus, Macat, Gotch, Stern, Culkin, Brown, Hice, Rosenfelt, composer John Williams, executive producer Mark Levinson, and casting director Janet Hirshenson. “Making” looks at the movie’s script and its visual look, the atmosphere on the set, casting and performances, score, and the film’s continued appeal.

This turns into a moderately interesting program. A few useful notes appear, but the piece lacks the depth of the commentary. Expect a decent overview of the production that fails to deliver a ton of substance.

Home Alone Around the World lasts three minutes, 53 seconds. It takes various snippets of the movie and shows them dubbed in various languages. It’s a cute extra, especially since we can compare the foreign voices to those of the original actors.

For the final featurette, we get the three-minute and three-second Where’s Buzz Now?. This gives us the opinions of Rosenfelt, Hice, Hirshenson, Levinson, Gotch, Macat, Brown, and actor Devin Ratray in character as Buzz. All of them tell us what they think happened to Kevin’s obnoxious brother. It’s mildly interesting at best, though one look at Ratray establishes that Buzz spent most of the last 16 years eating – he’s developed into a serious tub!

A Blooper Reel runs two minutes and five seconds. Most of this presents the usual flubs and giggles, though a couple of interesting bits appear. It’s fun to see Stern annoy Pesci with his claps to synch the film.

Angels with Filthy Souls goes for two minutes, six seconds. This features notes from Rosenfelt, Levinson, and Macat as they discuss the little “movie within the movie”. We then get to see the brief bit of footage all on its own. That makes it a cool addition.

Under the Trailers banner, we get three promos for Home Alone. Of great interest to fans, we get 15 Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes. These fill a total of 16 minutes, 31 seconds. These extend the segments in the house before the family leaves, and Marv tells us why he hates Christmas. We also get to meet the relatives in Paris and see much more of the family as they sit around there.

The funniest bits are the shortest ones. I like Uncle Frank’s childish practical joke on Kevin, and the kid’s declaration of “I don’t remember the food groups” produces a quirky chuckle. Another Marv and Harry piece almost turns into a reprise of Pesci’s classic “Do I amuse you?” riff from GoodFellas. Some of the clips bore, but there’s enough good stuff here to entertain the fans.

The disc finishes with three Games. “Battle Plan” requires you to remember which attack elements Kevin used in various house locations. This offers a moderate challenge. “Trivia Quiz” mix easy and somewhat difficult questions for a reasonably fun piece. Note that if you play again, you’ll get different questions. “Head Count” requires you to pay attention to all parts of some short movie clips and then answer numerical questions about them. Maybe I’m just too old for this, but the bits fly by so quickly that it becomes really tough to see the nuances.

Home Alone didn’t do much for me in 1990 and that hasn’t changed over the years. I can’t deny that it has a few charms - mainly via some solid performances - but the piece as a whole seems inane and excessively mean-spirited at times. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with some extras highlighted by a lot of deleted scenes and a simply terrific audio commentary.

My lack of affection for Home Alone prevents a strong thumbs-up for it, but I can definitely endorse this DVD for fans. It offers a great improvement over the prior release. It’s the one for new purchasers to get and it would be a fine double-dip for those who own the original DVD.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.4117 Stars Number of Votes: 51
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main