Home Alone 1990 ★★½

Rewatched Jan 012021

Haven’t seen this one since the theater in 1990, when I was 10.

The movie has potential. The scenario of a 9-year-old, or however old Kevin is, being left alone in a rich home, is probably a fantasy of just about every kid, maybe every adult. What else are movies good for but simulating our fantasies? And Macauley Caulkin hams it up in a cute way.

One problem, though, is the movie is split into three parts. Those are the mother trying desperately to get home, Kevin living it up at home alone, and the two idiot cat-burglars scouring the neighborhood. These were each filmed separately, because they had to be. The result is really the intercutting of three stories with three quite different tones.

The movie then has to figure out which level of “Real” it’s on. I mean that, in trying to relate itself in its world to our world, it need to pick how realistic it is. It chooses many different levels, creating a jarring effect. Those are:

— The sappy sentimentalism of “it’s Christmas Time,” which include the church scenes.
— The mystical stuff about the wind knocking the tree into the electrical box, cutting the power and phone service, thereby seemingly granting Kevin’s magical wish that he be left home alone.
— The Looney Tunes slapstick on the cat burglars.
— The winking kids-movie stuff about Kevin having fun at home, including escaping from a cop after inadvertently stealing a toothbrush.
— The John Candy improv scenes.

The whole thing adds up to a scenario where Frank Capra’s clone decided to film a Three Stooges fantasy for kids while hooking adults on the “it’s Christmas time” sentimentalism, plus adult goofball humor involving Catherine O’Hara and John Candy.

Should a movie work together, or can it just be a bunch of parts? Good question! It doesn’t have to be a complete whole, yet this movie wants to be, as a nod to all kinds of classical movie fare (written by John Hughes, btw). So on the basis of what the movie itself wants to be, it fails.

It’s still entertaining, with flaws. When Kevin plays the movie for the pizza guy, everybody in my household cracked up. When he did it again for the cat burglar, silence, because they just made that joke 20 minutes ago. My seven-year-old was shrieking happily about Kevin taking out the burglars, while the rest of us were wincing at nails into feet. That about sums up the movie.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York 1992 ½

Rewatched Jan 022021

My complaint about the first “Home Alone” is basic: it had inconsistent levels of realism. Otherwise, parts of it are quite fun, in a John Hughes way.

This one, thankfully, is consistent. It’s a sequel that knows it’s a sequel. It repeats everything in its predecessor, and it knows that it’s doing so. Quintessential Hollywood money-grab.

For the first time in our household, two kids walked out of a movie. The oldest left because “it’s the same movie as the first one, just in New York.” Okay, we could chalk that up to his grumpiness. But then another kid left: “it seems like they just want to hurt these guys in the worst way possible.” 

They do. Whereas I cringed when the Daniel Stern character stepped on a nail in the first movie, that was about the worst of it. Here, that moment is outdone many times in Kevin’s battle with the burglars.

Why don’t I object to Looney Tunes, or even slapstick in a variety of forms, say the Marx Brothers? I think “Home Alone 2” is just reveling in cruelty for cruelty’s sake. Yes, we are supposed to hate the burglars because they say they want to kill Kevin. But that is not believable. Yes, they rob a kids’ toy store and steal the charity money. But the movie tells us that their plan is stupid. 

These are men whom we’re supposed to enjoy watching get hit in the head, stapled in the ass, and hit in the head again. In other words, the movie is praising sadism, and encouraging viewers to enjoy it.

And it does so while being a travel advertisement for New York City, including the Plaza Hotel, and while being very sappy about the homeless pigeon woman. Kevin, a 10-year-old, is full of wisdom supposedly, so much so that he gives adults good therapy advice with his analogies to his toys.

We’re offered sadism plus syrupy sentiment plus product placement, lots of it. This is the banner movie that Disney+ is recommending to us.

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