While John Hughes will forever be known as the man responsible for the Brat Pack, and directing such films as "The Breakfast Club", and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off", a movie like "Home Alone" showcases his talent as a screenwriter. Chris Columbus ("Harry Potter I and II", "Adventures in Babysitting") directs from the Hughes script, and what results is a very funny, if exaggerated display of an eight year old boy left alone on Christmas to defend himself from a pair of bumbling burglars.
When I say "Home Alone", I'm certain the majority of you think of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern taking the beating of their lives from an eight-year old. This action occurs during the last 25 minutes of the film, and yes it is funny. It's also the weakest part of the film. People getting hurt is always an easy laugh, as we all love to see people getting hit in the balls from time to time. This sequence is relatively short, about twenty minutes, and like I said, it is funny… but it pales in comparison to the first hour of the movie.
"Home Alone", like most films, can be broken down into three acts. The beginning, in which young Kevin's family punishes him for getting out of line and sends him upstairs so as not to disturb any of the other family members. The second act begins when he awakes to find his family gone, under the impression that his wish for never having to see any of them ever again is what caused their disappearance. He then begins to adapt to life on his own. The film draws to an end with Kevin defending himself from Christmas burglars Harry and Marv, the Wet Bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). The second act is by far the best, as there are a number of very funny scenes involving Kevin, who has essentially assumed the role of 'man of the house'. He does everything required of an adult - he does his own laundry, makes his own meals, and even does his own grocery shopping. There are a number of great scenes derived from this formula, which keep us laughing throughout, yet the film takes a rather sad turn for the worse as the third act begins.
The violence against the burglars certainly isn't as funny as the beginning of the film, yet the film never seems to change tone, as the violence, while quite painful, is always light-hearted. Yet something is lost as a rather intelligent comedy degenerates into standard slapstick fare.
Once again I return to John Hughes. The reason "Home Alone" is what it is, is because the story is unique and the central character is extremely likeable. This can be partly attributed to both Culkin and director Columbus, yet the mannerisms that make Kevin a literal young adult at age eight, is all Hughes. He was a master of the teen comedy in the 80's, and has proven with a number of scripts that he can be creatively funny. Sadly, most of his work post-"Home Alone" has been writing direct to video sequels including "Home Alone 3 and 4", and the "Beethoven" movies. I chose not to see the J-Lo pic "Maid in Manhattan", despite Wayne Wang's attachment as director, and Hughes involvement (writing as Edmond Dantes).
For those of you who've seen "Home Alone" (I'm sure most of you have, at one point or another), I encourage you to see it again, but forget about the burglars. Those of you who haven't seen it, watch it for a young Culkin, who performs marvellously for a child his age, showing just why he is the most successful child actor of all time. "Home Alone" is an intelligent comedy, something you don't see any more. A lot of care went into the development of the lead character, and it definitely takes a talented actor at that age to pull it off, yet the film works marvellously. Watch it around the holidays as it's also a feel good Christmas movie.