“Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.”
When Kevin McCallister, the young, adorable and impish green-eyed eight-year-old boy says his prayers moments before outsmarting a pair of grown men with wicked motives, it sends us, the audience, into peals of laughter and inexplicable joy. From the very beginning of the movie, we are rooting for the youngster to come out on top. Chris Columbus’ Home Alone, whose screenplay is written by John Hughes, is a celebration of family, childhood and all other aspects of nostalgia that heralds in the season of presents and warmth, making it a bonafide Christmas classic.
The film famously begins with the McCallister’s inexplicably large house, containing the hustle and bustle of an extended family preparing themselves to go on a trip to Paris during the holiday season. However, as is always the way with large family gatherings, tensions run high and Kevin McCallister, being the youngest sibling, declares his hatred for the family after a cheese pizza-related incident. Kevin gets into a fight with his oldest brother, the tarantula-loving, blockheaded Buzz, who bullies Kevin mercilessly. However, after an outburst from Kevin, he is punished and forced to sleep on the third floor, a decision which prompts him to tell his mother, in a fit of emotional rage, “I hope I never see you jerks again”.
The following morning, after a series of mishaps amid a storm that cuts the electricity, the McCallister family are in jeopardy of missing their flight and, amid the stresses of a rush to the airport, the young Kevin is left all alone at home. The mother, Kate, realises the grave error only after they are on board the plane and, while she questions herself as a mother, the masterful sequence of events that led to this perilous moment are so magnificently put together that the absurd situation almost, somewhat inexplicably, starts to feel believable, such is the mastery of plot. Meanwhile, Kevin wakes up and cannot believe how his dreams have come true, after all, he “made his family disappear”. In his child-like glee, he goes on with his mischievous antics, living out every child’s dream in a house where the house and snacks are left devoid of parental supervision. Kevin watches action films that are a strict no-no for children while helping himself with spoonfuls of ice cream and marshmallows. While his mother panics over him being left alone, Kevin has the time of his life.
“Guys! I’m eating junk and watching rubbish. You better come out and stop me!”
However, the dream soon takes a sinister turn when criminals Harry and Marv, who identify as the ‘Wet Bandits’, decide to rob the McCallister home. Marv is the slightly dumber version of Harry; tall, lanky and terrified. Harry, meanwhile, is short, stubby and shrewd. When they try and break into the basement of the McCallister residence, Kevin rushes to turn on the light in order to make them believe that the family are still home. After his dashing move of bravery, Kevin then retreats to hide under the bed, until he suddenly has an epiphany: “This is ridiculous. Only a wimp would be hiding under a bed. And I can’t be a wimp. I’m the man of the house,” Kevin tells himself. Later, as he goes out to face the invaders, he comes in contact with his neighbour, Old Man Marley, who is rumoured to be a serial killer and chickens out. Kevin successfully tricks the bandits into believing that his parents are home but, during this saga, Kevin grows up, little by little, shopping for himself and even baffling a saleswoman by asking if the toothbrush is “approved by the American Dental Association”. However, the robbers soon come to know the truth, planning to rob the house on Christmas Eve at 9pm.
Amidst this fiasco, Kevin begins to miss his family, and his character arc begins to turn. He asks the local Santa Claus to convey the message to the real Santa in what is a wonderful moment of juxtaposition between the maturing Kevin and his naive childish intuition. This is one of the many heartwarming moments in the film in which we get an insight into his warm and emotional character beneath his naughty and smart persona. Kevin enters the church where, after initially facing his fear, he befriends Old Man Marley over their shared personal grief about being separated from their respective families. It is here that Kevin decides to protect his family home at any cost, motivated by his new sense of passion. Heading home, he sets up innumerable clever booby traps and waits at the table with a plateful of macaroni and milk to welcome Harry and Marv. The next few scenes are a flurry of riotous events in which the Wet Bandits sustain a flow of brutal injuries like their head being lit by a blowtorch, stepping on Christmas decorations, branded by hot iron and more; injuries, which would have otherwise been fatalistic had this not been a film. But again, this is the beauty of Chris Columbus’ creation. While such acts would normally enter slapstick levels of unrealistic action, in Home Alone, we wince at the injuries, believing their pain. After getting tricked over and over again by Kevin, the Wet Bandits finally catch the child but are incapacitated by his ally, Marley. The police arrive just in time and seize the criminals.
Kevin cleans up his house and makes it Christmas ready. After responding to a false alarm, thinking his mother is home, in a heart-wrenching scene he calls out “Mom” while standing out in the snow and dejectedly walking back into the house. It is excruciatingly painful to see the little boy feel the pangs of separation on Christmas Day, but it acts as a timely reminder that the festive season isn’t perfect for all. The mother’s desperation to get to her son, fearing the worst, reflects the love and warmth of motherhood that permeates through the screen. Kate and Kevin have a tearful reunion shortly and are joined by the rest of their family, who are taken aback when they hear how Kevin has taken care of the house and has even bought “milk, eggs and fabric softener”. Unbeknownst to them, Kevin is a hero. He saves the day. The last scene shows Old Man Marley reuniting with his family as well, per the Yuletide spirit.
“Would you please tell him that instead of presents this year I want my family back?”
Home Alone is a Christmas classic. Apart from the obvious reference to the events occurring during the festive holidays, the idea of family gains precedence in this film. The background score, along with the choir singing delicate, melodious carols usher in the spirit of Christmas and the general yearning to be with loved ones. A the same time, the movie begins with the older siblings pestering Kevin to the point of him not wanting a family to him finally realising its importance. Kevin saunters through the streets, looking at families brimming with chatter, joy and cheer, the sad look on his face is captured by the camera. Marley and Kevin form an unlikely friendship as they both repent their actions and the lost chance with their families. The union, in the end, warms our sappy hearts. The beautifully decorated neighbourhood and the snowed-in driveways add to the atmospheric beauty of the film. Even John Candy’s role as a supporting actor functions as the harbinger of holiday cheer as he and his group of polka musicians give Kate a ride to Chicago when the flights are not available.
While the pandemic has made 2021 a tough year, a lot of us cannot be at home for the holidays, and it is that struggle that makes the final scene a moving tear-jerker. ‘Tis the season to watch Christmas classics and be jolly, fa la la! The childhood memories associated with Home Alone will forever exist as I, like millions of others, remember desiring the same misadventures Kevin had been involved in. Who would not enjoy adding to the miseries of the thieving duo? The atmospheric holiday cheer of the film kicks in a warm nostalgic feeling and a yearning to go home and bask in the hustle and bustle of familiar voices. Home Alone is, without doubt, the definitive Christmas movie.
“You guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?”