(Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Opinion:

Why ‘Home Alone’ is the ultimate Christmas film

“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 film, 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 begins with a large house containing the hustle and bustle of an extended family preparing themselves to go on a trip during the holiday season. Kevin McCallister hates his family. Being the youngest sibling, he gets picked on and made fun of for not being self-sufficient. The night before they are supposed to leave for a festival holiday in Paris, Kevin gets into a fight with his oldest brother, the tarantula-loving, blockheaded Buzz who bullies Kevin mercilessly. However, the latter is punished and made to sleep on the third floor, which prompts him to tell his mother that he hates his family and wishes he never had them. While his mother coaxes him, telling him how he should not wish for such a thing, the young, hot-headed child says, “I hope I never see you jerks again”. 

The following morning a series of mishaps leads to the family setting off for Paris, leaving the young Kevin all alone at home. The mother, Kate, realises the grave error only after they are on board the plane and questions herself as a mother while the others attempt to console her. Meanwhile, Kevin wakes up and cannot believe how his dreams have come true. In his child-like glee, he goes on with his mischievous antics. He lives every child’s dream 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 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 a terrified. Harry, meanwhile, is short, stubby and shrewd. When they try and break into the basement of the McCallister residence, the clever boy turns on the light in order to make them believe that the McCallisters are still home. He hides under the bed and 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.

(Credit: 20th Century Fox)

Amidst this fiasco, Kevin starts missing his family. He asks the local Santa Claus to convey the message to the real Santa. 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 there that Kevin decides to protect his family home at any cost, motivated by his new sense of passion. 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. After getting tricked over and over again by Kevin, they finally catch hold of him 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. The mother’s desperation to get to her son, fearing the worst, reflects the love and warmth of motherhood which 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 Christmas 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 film 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 function 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 current pandemic has made 2020 a tough year, a lot of us cannot be at home for the holidays, and it is that struggle which 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 one of my favourite Yuletide essentials besides cookies, well-decorated trees, glorious family dinners as well as the general air of joy and cheer. 

“You guys give up? Or are you thirsty for more?”

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