I cannot believe that "Home Alone" is almost twenty years ago. I can still remember the buzz about the film and think back to not being able to find time to go watch the film. The years have passed and I cannot even recall whether I had eventually seen the film in theaters or when it arrived on home video. More than likely it wasn't until I had purchased the title on LaserDisc that I finally had the opportunity to laugh at the 1990 Chris Columbus directed film, but the details are starting to get foggy and there is a chance that I did make my way to theaters to enjoy the picture. Where I saw it and when isn't important eighteen years later, but what is important is that the comedy has held up surprisingly well since Macaulay Culkin was an important child star and "Home Alone" went on to be the highest grossing film of 1990. It was always surprising that Twentieth Century Fox had not given the film much love in the home theater market after it grossed a surprising $285 million and now the film can be revisited with a well deserved "Family Fun Edition."
Another surprise was the relative luke warm reception given to the film on some of the Internet review aggregator sites. "Home Alone" scores up a relatively pedestrian 6.8 on the Internet Movie Database website and scores up a majority of ‘rotten' ratings on the popular website Rotten Tomatoes. I didn't find the urge to calculate the score of "Home Alone," but I'd have to say the Tomatometer isn't too fresh for the classic comedy. I have always loved this film and felt the general consensus was that "Home Alone" was a funny comedy and most people enjoyed watching it. While doing a little research for this review it was almost heartbreaking that most others do not feel the same way about this little comedy that did so well eighteen years ago. The thought did begin to cross my mind that perhaps I was in the minority and the reason that "Home Alone" escaped proper home video treatment all of these years was because nobody else cared for the film.
But I care and will still care for this picture where Macaulay Culkin plays eight year old Kevin McCallister. His father Peter (John Heard) and mother Kate (Catherine O'Hara) are taking the entire family to a Christmas vacation in Paris that includes his older brother Buzz (Devin Ratray), his Uncle Frank (Gerry Bamman) and a total of thirteen members of the McCallister family. The night before leaving a supposed police officer visits the house and asks if they have taken proper precautions to protect their house while leaving. Kevin gets in an argument with his mother after Buzz eats all of the cheese pizza and he is sent to the third floor attic to sleep with the bed wetting cousin Fuller (Kieran Culkin). Kevin wishes his family would just disappear in angst before falling asleep.
When he awakens the next morning, Kevin discovers that his family has disappeared. What he doesn't realize is that a few turn of events had them leave for Paris without realizing he was not among them. Kevin discovers the pain of shaving cream, enjoys pillaging Buzz's room and plays with a BB gun. He leaves the sanctity of the home where he is now man of the house to go shopping for supplies and overcomes a fear of the furnace that growls in the basement. He eats ice cream and watches films that his parents would typically not allow him to enjoy. While Kevin is enjoying being home alone, he is unaware that the policeman that had visited the house the previous night was a criminal known as Harry Lyme (Joe Pesci) and that Lyme and his partner Marv (Daniel Stern) are the ‘Wet Bandits' that have been robbing houses all around Chicago.
The film continues with parallel plotlines. The most important story line of "Home Alone" finds young Kevin pitted against Harry and Marv as he works to defend the house against their various attempts at robbery and lays out and puts into action a plan that turns the McCallister house into a booby-trap laden house of horrors for the two bumbling criminals. He uses everything possible for defense and the two robbers are maimed and wounded but continues their strike against the rich McCallister home. The secondary story line in the film involves Kate's desire to return home to her orphaned child and make sure that he is safe for the Christmas holiday. She manages to find a flight home from Paris to Scranton (I'm assuming Pennsylvania, but this would not make sense that an international flight would land there) and discovers that she is unable to find a second flight to Chicago. Fortunately for her, a polka band led by Gus Polinski (John Candy) offers to drive her home to Chicago.
The story involving Kate and the memorable and well-missed John Candy are unimportant in the grand scheme of things and where "Home Alone" delivers laughs and entertains is the battle of wits between the young Macaulay Culkin and comedy veterans Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. The slapstick comedy is in full force in this film and the stuntmen that threw themselves down stairs and went toe to toe with falling paint cans earned their bruises for a worthwhile cause as the physical humor contained in "Home Alone" is some of better examples of properly done slapstick in the past two decades and brings back fond memories of the painful experiences of the "Three Stooges." In "Home Alone," Culkin is the Moe to Stern and Pesci's Larry and Curley. This isn't a film with a great story and there requires far too much convenience for some of the ‘traps' to effectively work, but it doesn't matter how silly some of the scenes get, "Home Alone" delivers laughter.
Eighteen years later I still find myself laughing at the same gags and stunts that I've seen a dozen times. I know what is going to happen and I could recite most of the lines from "Home Alone." It doesn't matter. I still laugh. Pesci, Stern and Culkin are wonderful together in this film and while it is rumored that Pesci wasn't too keen on this film, "Home Alone" remains one of his more memorable films and he did so without too much profanity or any overly violent and painful scenes that many would recall from the actor in films such as "Casino" and "Goodfellas." This is just a funny film where it is nice to sit back and laugh at the pain inflicted in others, but it is done in a fun way that doesn't actually leave the audience feeling pained for the characters. The film attempts to introduce some elements of storytelling and humanity in the form of minor subplots involving a character called Old Man Marley (Robert Blossom), but these are so minor and unimportant that they could have been left out of the film.
I greatly enjoyed sitting down and watching "Home Alone" for another time. It was just a day or two before the screener of the film had arrived on Blu-ray that I made a comment to my dad that I hadn't seen the first two "Home Alone" films in a couple of years and that I would have to sit back and watch them. I was happy to see the film arrive on Blu-ray and I had no trouble sitting down and watching this first and finest entry of the "Home Alone" series for yet another time. I have no doubts that I will watch "Home Alone" again at some point. It may not be for a couple more years and I just may decide to sit back and celebrate twenty years in two more years. Regardless, I know I will watch "Home Alone" again and I will laugh at the same jokes I've seen numerous times before. While I may be in the minority, I just love to watch this movie and at the end of the day, isn't that what is important?
The Blu-ray release of "Home Alone" delivers the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio with an AVC encoded transfer that is at times sharp, but generally unimpressive in high definition. This eighteen year old film does have its moments and there are times when the level of detail is quite good, but they are few and far between. I can recall one scene when Joe Pesci lands on his back after an ill-fated trip up some icy stairs. I can remember another scene involving a few Christmas decorations. These two scenes showed very good coloring and detail, but throughout most of this Blu-ray disc, the level of detail is comparable to an upconverted DVD release. Coloring is good with strong saturation, albeit a slight tint of red that was present through much of the film. The film is approaching the two decade mark in age and it wasn't the most impressive looking film when it was released. Black levels are good and I don't recall any glaring problems from the source materials. "Home Alone" isn't a bad looking film on Blu-ray, but it looks dated.
Fox is one of a couple studios that have embraced the DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio sound format and "Home Alone" is delivered with a clean sounding English mix that doesn't push the format. There are a few nice sounding moments in the film, but the rear surrounds are typically reserved for bleed from the yuletide score and the .1 LFE channel is never pushed hard. There are a few instances when more than the front three speakers provide some depth of sound, but these are uncommon and for the most part, "Home Alone" is a front-heavy mix. I can recall enjoying the second film on LaserDisc because of how good it sounded, but the first film has never been an aural tour-de-force and nothing has changed as "Home Alone" makes its way to Blu-ray. Dialogue is very clean and the score by John Williams sounds very good and it didn't take long before I remembered my fondness for the music of the film. This is another comedy that is held back because of limited source materials, but otherwise you won't find many flaws with "Home Alone" on Blu-ray.
The new "Family Fun Edition" of "Home Alone" includes a large number of special features that easily bests the former featureless versions of the film that have been made available over the years. For many years this successful film has not seen any love thrown its way and the DVD and LaserDisc releases were quite a disappointment. For this new "Family Fun Edition," Columbus, Culkin and others return for some newly created supplements to discuss their experiences looking back on the making of the film. Over an hour of bonus material is included to watch after viewing the film. The newly recorded audio Commentary by Director Chris Columbus and Macaulay Culkin may be listened to while watching "Home Alone." This commentary provides numerous anecdotes and remembrances from the shooting of the film between the film's director and star. The two chat nicely and laugh heartedly throughout the entire commentary although Culkin's continuous chuckling at everything became a bit of an annoyance.
The vintage 1990 Press Featurette (3:52) is your standard quick electronic press feature to introduce the film and dig up some interest in the film with very light making of material and a very young Culkin pushing his acting chops. The Making of Home Alone (19:25) has most of the cast and crew spending a few moments talking about how "Home Alone" was one of their favorite experiences and this longer making-of feature is a recent production, but still feels like something from the EPK. It was fun sitting through and watching and shared some of the nostalgia of the commentary, but didn't go into too much great depth. Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin (4:46) finds the young adult Mac remembering the shooting of the film and presenting some ‘video diary' footage that was shot by him so many years ago when Culkin was just nine.
Many other items are included to look back on the smash hit film. How to Burglar Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone (7:04) looks back at the slapstick moments from the film and they explain how the memorable physical comedy from the film was done. Home Alone Around the World (3:53) shows numerous film clips with voiceover from versions shown around the world. Thai, German, Spanish, French and other languages are represented. Where's Buzz Now? (3:03) has those involved with the film guessing where the character of Buzz would be seventeen years after the story of "Home Alone" took place. Angels with Filthy Souls (2:06) looks at the fictional film shown within the film. This feature shows the footage Kevin used in its entirety in full widescreen glory. Deleted Scenes / Alternate Takes (15:04) is a nice collection of fifteen deleted scenes and alternate takes. Some of these are quite funny, but nothing here is better than what was kept. Blooper Reel (2:04) shows many goof lines and other funny moments from the making of the film and Fox on Bl-ray wraps up the bonus features.
I love "Home Alone" and its first sequel. Macaulay Culkin was a very entertaining young man at times and this and "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" were his greatest achievements. Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci were absolutely hilarious as the bumbling robbers who were bested by an eight year old. It would seem that the majority of those out there with Internet access do not share my fondness for this film that recalls the days of the "Three Stooges," but maybe others will give it a second chance now that it has finally been released as a quality special edition and while the Blu-ray release may boast only marginally improved sight and sound, "Home Alone" has never seen a better day on home video. This film isn't held in the same regard as "A Christmas Story" and I know it never will be, but it might make a nice stocking stuffer for somebody on Christmas morning so that they have something to watch the next time they are home alone.