Retrospective: 30 Years of Home Alone By Jesse Striewski

I can remember it like it was yesterday; I was a typical 9-year-old kid growing up in New Jersey (and if memory serves me correct, there was even snow on the ground at the time) when my big sister took me one cold winter night to see this new film everyone was raving about, Home Alone. As soon as the opening credits rolled, I could tell (even then at my young age) I was watching something uniquely special. And being around the same age as Kevin McCallister (played by Macaulay Culkin), it felt as though my own childhood fantasies were coming to life and jumping onto the big screen right before me. It was no doubt an event unlike any other, and by the next Monday morning at school, every kid was talking about and quoting Kevin’s lines.

Writer/Producer John Hughes, the mastermind behind such ’80s classics as Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Pretty in Pink, and Uncle Buck, came up with the idea for Home Alone almost by accident, when, while packing for a family vacation, imagined what it might be like if he were to suddenly leave his ten year old son behind. In doing so, he manged to capture exactly what every red-blooded American kid has dreamed of since the dawn of time.

Rather than direct the film himself, Hughes gave the duties to Chris Columbus, who already had a couple of film credits under his belt, and was even originally slated to direct another Hughes-holiday production the previous year, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (before tensions with that film’s lead, Chevy Chase, lead to him dropping out of the project). But Columbus proved to be the right fit for Hughes’ new project, bringing his own sleek, youthful spin to the finished product.

The adult cast quickly included a number of veteran stars; the roles of bumbling crooks Harry and Marv were respectively given to Joe Pesci, who was hot off the tails of the hit blockbusters, Goodfellas and Lethal Weapon 2, and a young Daniel Stern, who was already gaining momentum with roles such as Little Monsters. Meanwhile the duties of Kevin’s parents were given to Catherine O’Hara (Beetlejuice) and John Heard (C.H.U.D.). John Hughes alumni, the late John Candy (Uncle Buck) also appeared in a bit part. But when it came to casting the film’s young star, Kevin, Hughes eventually turned to another Uncle Buck star, the young Macaulay Culkin, after a long audition process.

The story itself of course centered around Kevin being left completely alone at his house just before Christmas, as a series of hectic events leads his family to forget about him while rushing to catch a plane to Paris on time. Kevin is instantly left to his own devices; at first it’s an all-out party, but soon enough Kevin realizes he has to actually take care of himself and learn such mundane choirs (often with humorous results) as grocery shopping and doing laundry, while also dealing with unknown fears that include a creepy basement, and a strange old neighbor.

But it’s when Kevin discovers his house has been targeted by the Wet Bandits, Harry and Marv, that he’s truly forced to step up and defend his home. Using household items that includes everything from paint cans to mirco machines, Kevin constructs an elaborate series of booby traps throughout the house, fighting off Harry and Marv in almost cartoon-like, slapstick fashion. In a recent interview, actor Michael C. Maronna, who portrayed Kevin’s older brother, Jeff (best remembered for uttering the infamous line, “Kevin, you’re such a disease!”) told Rewind It Magazine; “It was a confluence of good factors (script, direction, actors, style) that added up to a good (if violent) family Christmas film.”

The film was an instant success, earning over $476 million worldwide, and becoming the highest-grossing live action comedy film of all time (a title it would hold for over two decades). It also spawned four sequels (with only the first two of them being released theatrically) and countless parodies (Macaulay Culkin somewhat reprised his role as Kevin in a 2018 ad for Google Assistant, and appeared on a Home Alone-themed episode of the webseries The Angry Video Game Nerd around the same time). Today, it is regarded as a classic, and is still played nearly around the clock on various cable stations til this day. As a husband and father now myself, I usually catch the film with my family at least once every Christmas season.

Regarding the film’s legacy, recent Rewind It Magazine interviewee Diana Rein, who appeared in the film as Kevin’s older cousin Sondra, reflected to us; “There’s so many people who watch it multiple times every year, it’s like their holiday tradition! I’m SO grateful it’s still around like it is!” You can check out our full interview with Rein from our Dec. 19 article; and be sure to look out for the rest of our full interview with Maronna, posting later this week!

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