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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Home Alone is a hit 1990 John Hughes-directed comedy in which Macaulay Culkin plays a young boy left to fend for himself when his parents, overwhelmed by having to keep track of 11 other kids, mistakenly leave him behind when they fly to Paris. What might be shocking to parents who haven't seen this movie since it first came out is the level of disrespect between kids and adults and the amount of sibling name-calling early in the movie. Adults speak of "nude beaches," and young Kevin is called a "disease" and "puke" by his older siblings and even a "little jerk" by his uncle. On his end, Kevin has absolutely no problem talking back to his mother. The parents themselves don't exactly emerge as positive role models, but then again, if they had been more mindful, the entire premise of the movie would be shot. 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 also is shown watching a violent gangster movie that his parents have forbidden him from seeing. He finds an issue of Playboy in a secret stash in his older brother's room but doesn't express much interest in it. Profanity includes "ass," "bitch," "damn," "hell," and "s--t."
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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 ensues, resulting in Kevin successfully foiling the bad guys' plans.
Is it any good?
This is a good-natured, albeit unrealistic, family film that both kids and adults will enjoy if they're OK with the violence, profanity, and disrespectful behavior within the family. Its endearing story and a charming performance by Culkin make Home Alone a standout among the usual holiday movie fare. Without resorting to the 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 it's chock full of semirealistic violence. It's not for the weak-stomached and definitely requires some major suspension of disbelief.
Home Alone's runaway success was due largely to its players, most notably Culkin. Previously cast in supporting roles in movies such as Rocket Gibraltar and Uncle Buck, Culkin is 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 (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.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about whether or not they think the slapstick violence in Home Alone is funny. Is it ever appropriate to laugh when someone gets hurt?
With younger kids, parents may 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 and wins. Instead of attempting to foil them on his own, how could he have sought help?
- In theaters: November 10, 1990
- On DVD or streaming: October 5, 1999
- Cast: Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci, Macaulay Culkin
- Director: Chris Columbus
- Studio: Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Holidays, Misfits and Underdogs
- Character strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 103 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- Last updated: October 28, 2020
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