What parents need to know
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know there's a tremendous amount of slapstick violence in this movie, some of which results in very painful-looking injuries. The main character inflicts serious pain on two would-be burglars -- he trips them down a flight of stairs, burns them, hits them with heavy objects, places sharp objects on the ground for them to step on, and so on. Kevin is also shown watching a violent '30s gangster flick that his parents forbid him from seeing.
What's the story?
HOME ALONE is the story of 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), a mischievous middle child who feels largely ignored by his large extended family. While preparing for a Christmas vacation in Paris, Kevin gets in trouble, is banished to the attic overnight, and wishes his family would just disappear. Kevin gets his wish the next morning when his family mistakenly leaves him behind. At first, Kevin is elated -- but pretty soon he realizes that being home alone isn't all it's cracked up to be. He misses his mom (who employs any and every means of getting home to her son) and even his bully brother. With all the block's other families on vacation, too, Kevin has no one to turn to, including the cops, who assume he's up to his usual tricks. Meanwhile, a pair of bumbling burglars played by Joe Pesci (Goodfellas, Lethal Weapon 2-4) and Daniel Stern takes advantage of the situation by pillaging the neighborhood. It's up to Kevin to defend his home, using every prank in his well-stocked arsenal. A bevy of violent, slapstick, wince-inducing episodes ensue, resulting in Kevin successfully foiling the bad guys' plans.
Is it any good?
This movie's runaway success is due largely to its players, most notably Culkin. Previously cast in supporting roles in movies like Rocket Gibraltar and Uncle Buck, Culkin is the Home Alone's main attraction. Saddled with the difficult task of appearing in nearly every scene, he maintains a level of consistency that's a testament to both his talent and that of director Chris Columbus's (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Mrs. Doubtfire). Catherine O'Hara (Best in Show, SCTV) does a fine (albeit a tad shrill) job as Kevin's overwrought, guilt-ridden mom, and Pesci and Stern have great chemistry and handle the physical comedy with aplomb. Another performance of note is John Candy's cameo as Polka Band Shuttle Chief Gus Polanski. Although his role is brief, he nearly steals the show.
Home Alone is a good-natured, albeit unrealistic, family film that both kids and adults will enjoy. Its endearing story and a charming performance by Culkin make it a standout among the usual holiday movie fare. Without resorting to all-too-adult double entendres that dominate current family films, this one focuses more on slapstick humor and innocence to convey its story. That said, that reliance on slapstick humor does means that it's chock full of semi-realistic violence. It's not for the weak-stomached and definitely requires some major suspension of disbelief.
Explore, discuss, enjoy
Families can talk about whether or not they think slapstick violence is funny. Is it ever appropriate to laugh when someone gets hurt?
With younger kids, parents may also want to discuss the steps they should take in the event they ever do get left alone, especially if they sense they're in danger.
In the film, Kevin decides to take on the burglars himself and wins. Instead of attempting to foil them on his own, how could he have sought help?