After its release in 1990, “Home Alone” garnered mixed reviews from the critics. It got the last laugh, however, as it set a new Guinness record for the highest gross box-office receipts of any comedy. It grossed $17 million its first weekend in just over 1,200 theaters. Although it was a holiday film, the movie was so popular that most theaters ran it long after the holiday season ended.
The movie spawned a successful franchise of five films, including “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” “Home Alone 3,” “Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House,” and “Home Alone: the Holiday Heist.”
The movie depicts a typical family from the Chicago suburbs, the McCallisters, getting ready for a trip to Paris to celebrate the holidays with relatives. In an early morning rush to get to the airport on time, they inadvertently leave their eight-year-old son, Kevin, behind. Instead of being frightened at the thought of staying home alone, the precocious youngster revels in his new-found freedom.
On Christmas Eve, Kevin overhears two bumbling burglars, Harry Lyme and Marv Merchants, making plans to break into his house, and this sends him into high gear. He spends the night preparing for the thieves by setting booby traps everywhere, and hilarity ensues.
Meanwhile, the family reaches Paris and realizes Kevin isn’t with them. The mother, Kate, becomes frantic and finally manages to get a seat back to the U.S. on a flight to Scranton, Pennsylvania. She discovers there are no flights available to Chicago, but a polka player, Gus Polinski, saves the day. Kate winds up driving back to Chicago with Gus and his traveling polka band, and she winds up being reunited with her son who has managed to defeat the burglars.
McCauley Culkin stars as Kevin. By the time shooting started, he had already acted in several films, including “My Girl” and “Uncle Buck,” but this is the role that launched him into the national limelight. Culkin also starred in the second “Home Alone” movie. After filming wrapped, Culkin moved on to many other projects, including the hit movie “Richie Rich,” “Getting Even with Dad,” and “The Pagemaster.” He also appeared on episodes of “Will and Grace,” “Frasier,” and “Kings.”
Culkin was a nominated for a Hollywood Foreign Press Association award based on his performance in this movie. He also won a Young Artist Award, an American Comedy Award, and a CFCA award for Most Promising Actor. The movie was also nominated for a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
Writer John Hughes started developing the movie plot during the filming of “Uncle Buck” based on a scene played by Culkin. Hughes is also responsible for writing “The Breakfast Club,” a movie that revolves around a group of students serving detention, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” another script about a teen getting into trouble, and “Weird Science,” a movie about high school geeks.
The burglars are aptly played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. They bring plenty of laugh-out-loud comedy to the movie and play perfectly off of Culkin. John Heard and Catherine O’Hara play the role of the parents. Angela Goethals plays the sister, Linnie, while Devin Ratray plays the brother, Buzz. Gerry Bammon plays the role of Uncle Frank. Culkin is reunited with his “Uncle Buck” star, John Candy, who plays the role of Gus the polka player.
Director Chris Columbus invited several of his family members to play cameo roles in the film. His mother-in-law and daughter can be seen on the plane near the mother. His wife played the role of a flight attendant, and his father-in-law played a Chicago neighbor who talks to the police when they come to check the house, looking for Kevin.
“Home Alone” has also been very successful on DVD. For most of the 1990s, it was the film featured by NBC in the prime 8 p.m. time slot on Thanksgiving evening to kick off the holiday season.
The film is a heartwarming tale of a mother’s love for her child and her willingness to do whatever it takes to make sure he is safe. Kevin shows the compassion he obviously inherited from his mother by convincing his next-door neighbor, Old Man Marley, to reunite with the son he hasn’t spoken to for years. The inept burglars add just the right amount of slapstick comedy to make this a movie worth seeing at least once.