In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_focus_ver2

Focus

Like Ficarra and Requa’s 2011 comedy Crazy Stupid Love, Focus begins promisingly and bops along enjoyably for a while, only to run out of steam…

Thumb_maps_to_the_stars_ver8

Maps to the Stars

David Cronenberg's film of Bruce Wagner's Hollywood satire-nightmare turns ludicrous situations into operatic tragedy.

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Chaz's Blog Archives
Other Articles
Blog Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Home Alone

  |  

"Home Alone" is a splendid movie title because it evokes all sorts of scary nostalgia. Being left home alone, when you were a kid, meant hearing strange noises and being afraid to look in the basement - but it also meant doing all the things that grownups would tell you to stop doing, if they were there. Things like staying up to watch Johnny Carson, eating all the ice cream, and sleeping in your parents' bed.

"Home Alone" is about an 8-year-old hero who does all of those things, but unfortunately he also single-handedly stymies two house burglars by booby-trapping the house. And they're the kinds of traps that any 8-year-old could devise, if he had a budget of tens of thousands of dollars and the assistance of a crew of movie special effects people.

The movie's screenplay is by John Hughes, who sometimes shows a genius for remembering what it was like to be young. His best movies, such as "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" and "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," find a way to be funny while still staying somewhere within the boundaries of remote plausibility. This time, he strays so far from his premise that the movie suffers.

If "Home Alone" had limited itself to the things that might possibly happen to a forgotten 8-year-old, I think I would have liked it more. What I didn't enjoy was the subplot involving the burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), who are immediately spotted by little Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), and made the targets of his cleverness.

The movie opens in the Chicago suburbs with a houseful of people on the eve of a big family Christmas vacation in Paris. There are relatives and kids everywhere, and when the family oversleeps and has to race to the airport, Kevin is somehow overlooked in the shuffle. When he wakes up later that morning, the house is empty. So he makes the best of it.

A real kid would probably be more frightened than this movie character, and would probably cry. He might also try calling someone, or asking a neighbor for help. But in the contrived world of this movie, the only neighbor is an old coot who is rumored to be the Snow Shovel Murderer, and the phone doesn't work. When Kevin's parents discover they've forgotten him, they find it impossible to get anyone to follow through on their panicked calls - if anyone did so, the movie would be over.

The plot is so implausible that it makes it hard for us to really care about the plight of the kid. What works in the other direction, however, and almost carries the day, is the gifted performance by young Macaulay Culkin, as Kevin. Culkin is the little boy who co-starred with John Candy in "Uncle Buck," and here he has to carry almost the whole movie. He has lots of challenging acting scenes, and he's up to them. I'm sure he got lots of help from director Chris Columbus, but he's got the stuff to begin with. He's such a confident and gifted little actor that I'd like to see him in a story I could care more about.

"Home Alone" isn't that story. When the burglars invade Kevin's home, they find themselves running a gamut of booby traps so elaborate they could have been concocted by Rube Goldberg - or by the berserk father in "Last House on the Left." Because all plausibility is gone, we sit back, detached, to watch stunt men and special effects guys take over a movie that promised to be the kind of story audiences could identify with.

Popular Blog Posts

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

“Evil Against Evil”: The Fascinating Incoherence of American Sniper

On how Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper" examines evil.

Now, "Voyager": in praise of the Trekkiest "Trek" of all

As we mourn Abrams’ macho Star Trek obliteration, it’s a good time to revisit that most Star Trek-ian of accomplishme...

Observations of an Awards Season Skeptic, Part 4: Green Card Blues

Glenn Kenny comments on awards season, Sean Penn, Neil Patrick Harris, and the actual Oscars.

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus