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Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday Matinee - Home Alone

Sometimes being the youngest child in a family can be nothing but trouble.

I can make this claim. I am the youngest of three. I know what it's like to be the baby of the family, and how uncomfortable of a position it can be.

Oh sure, there's people that will tell you that being the baby of the family is the best possible position to be in. Everyone spoils you with gifts, they say. Give you lots of attention, they say. Treat you like a little prince or princess, they say.

They lie!

Truth is, I didn't particularly like being the youngest. I was constantly supervised to the point where my mother would freak out if I crossed the street by myself. And don't even get me started on my two older sisters. They would constantly come up with new ways to have fun with me from pouring a whole bottle of styling gel on my head to tickling me every chance they got.

I also felt as though my opinions weren't taken as seriously as the ones given by the 'adults' of the family, even though I had thought that my opinions were good. It was very frustrating to see everyone else's ideas and thoughts entertained while mine ended up becoming dust in the wind.

I tried everything to try and become heard, even resorting to making mischief to get attention. But all I got instead was sent to my room, or some other punishment, and in the long run, all I ended up doing was proving that I was too immature to be taken seriously. Took me a while to figure it out.

But you know, even at the age of 30, I still get the feeling that because I'm the youngest, everyone assumes that I think and act like a child when the truth is that I haven't been a child for years. I guess it's one of the many pitfalls to being the youngest of a matter how old you get, people still treat you as if you're a child.

This is kind of related to the main character of today's Monday Matinee of three holiday films that I'm going to be spotlighting this month.  Like me, our subject was also the youngest one in his family, and like me, he always felt as if nobody took him seriously. I think in his case, he may have been worse off than I was because he actually had siblings who point blank told him that he was completely helpless and that he was nothing but a disease.

That's harsh.

You know, I think before we continue, I think we should add a little mood about the music from the opening?

Yep, in case you haven't figured it out yet (and in case the title wasn't a dead giveaway), the subject for today's entry is the movie Home Alone.

Released in movie theaters everywhere on November 16, 1990, Home Alone is the story of what happens when a family who goes off on an overseas Christmas vacation accidentally leave their child at home. That's bad enough. But what happens when two robbers happen to be stalking the neighbourhood and they decide to break into the home of the family, leaving the child to defend his home against the thieves?

Well, that's just plain scary...for the thieves.

The movie was directed by John Hughes of Sixteen Candles and Pretty In Pink fame, and is widely considered to be the breakout performance of Macaulay Culkin, who was just ten when the film was released. The movie also starred Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci, John Heard, Catherine O'Hara, and Roberts Blossom. The movie performed favourably at the box office, taking in a final gross of almost three hundred million dollars during the last months of 1990 and first months of 1991. It was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as being the highest grossing live-action comedy ever. Despite this, the film itself got mixed reviews.  Some critics praised the movie, while others panned it.

Regardless, it was one of the most memorable movies of 1990, and I wanted to talk about it in this blog, being that it's Christmas, and because I think there's a couple of things we can learn about ourselves that this movie shows us.

Kevin McCallister (Culkin) is eight years old. He's the youngest member of the McCallister family. He is the son of Kate (O'Hara) and Peter (Heard), and he has four older brothers and sisters. In order of birth they are Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff.

TRIVIA: All four actors cast in the roles of Kevin's brothers and sisters were born in 1977 (even Buzz, if you can believe it). Either that was a wild coincidence, or Kate McCallister had quadruplets.

The McCallister family has big plans for the holiday season. For Christmas, they planned a vacation to Paris, France. Paris was the home of Peter's brother, Rob, and Rob had invited all of the McCallister family to his home for a Christmas reunion vacation.

As a result of this, the already full McCallister home was even more packed. In addition to Peter, Kate, and their children, Peter's other brother Frank was also invited to go. Frank, his wife Leslie, and their children were all at the McCallister home, as the two families were to board the same flight to Paris.

This situation is Kevin's worst nightmare. All of Kevin's siblings and cousins are mean to him, poke fun at him, and make him feel as though he was worthless. His older brother Buzz is especially nasty to him, telling him some scary stories about the next door neighbour, Old Man Marley (Blossom), about how he was a serial killer who grinded up his victims into rock salt used to melt the ice off of the sidewalks. This story was obviously an urban legend created by Buzz, but it would cause Kevin much grief, especially as the film progressed.

To make matters worse, Kevin couldn't stand his uncle Frank. For the record, Kevin couldn't stand much of his extended family at all. He especially seemed to take a dislike to his cousin Fuller (who was played by Culkin's younger brother, Kieran), who had a tendency to wet his bed...especially if he was given a soda to drink just before bed. But Frank very much had the same maturity and mentality as any of the children that were staying at the McCallister home, and he took delight in picking on Kevin just as much as the kids did.

During dinner, Kevin is dismayed to learn that Buzz purposely ate all of the plain cheese pizza that was ordered, and ends up shoving Buzz away, spilling milk all over the airplane tickets and spilling soda down the front of Frank's pants. An enraged Kate, after Kevin sasses her with attitude, drags him up to the third floor attic as a punishment for his actions, and where he wished that his whole family would just disappear.

That night, a strong wind blew over the city of Chicago. Christmas decorations blew away, and tree branches swayed in the wind. In the case of the majestic tree outside of the McCallister home, one of the branches broke off and fell on top of a set of power lines, blowing the transformer, and plunging the neighbourhood into darkness.

And resetting all of the electric alarm clocks inside the McCallister family home, causing everyone in the home to oversleep. Which then leads to a frantic mad rush of getting everyone up, dressed, and into the airport shuttle buses so they can make their flight. Fortunately, the McCallisters make their flight with seconds to spare.

Unfortunately, they left someone behind. Kevin.

Turns out that in between the shuffling of bodies and accidentally counting a neighbour's kid as an extra head, Kevin was lost in the kerfuffle. Waking up and wandering through the house, he's wondering where everyone went. It suddenly dawned on him that he made that wish...the one where he wished his family would disappear.

At first, Kevin was horrified. Then he got that devilish grin in his eyes.

Why he could do whatever he wanted without anyone telling him what to do. If he wanted to jump on his parents bed eating popcorn, he could. If he wanted to steal things out of Buzz's room, he could. If he wanted to eat ice cream for dinner while watching violent movies, he could. Really, things were great for Kevin.

Not so much for Kate McCallister though, who realized on the plane that she wasn't going to win the 1990 Mother Of The Year Award. Immediately after landing in Paris, the worried McCallister clan rushes towards the nearest phone to try and get someone to check on Kevin to see if he's okay. But when that fails, Kate realizes that she must find a way to get back home to Chicago.

At the same time that Kevin is trying to adjust to life without a family, a couple of robbers happen to be scoping out the neighbourhood, looking at stealing all the valuables they can carry. They're the Wet Bandits, a team of two comprised of Marv (Stern) and Harry (Pesci). Harry was the brains of the operation (well, figuratively speaking), who posed as a police officer to get access to each of the homes they broke into. Once he got in, the clueless owners would tell him all of the security precautions that they used to protect their home, as well as their vacation plans. Of course, once Harry found out, he filled Marv in, and the two of them would bypass all the security measures to break in and out without even triggering an alarm. Oh, and the name Wet Bandits? That was the brainchild of Marv, who left the sinks running in the kitchens as a calling card.

Yeah, Marv was kind of a space case.

Anyway, Kevin attempted to make the best of his situation. He went to the store to buy food, he decorated his own miniature Christmas tree, and he even went to buy a toothbrush...of which he accidentally shoplifted running away from Old Man Marley, which spawned a police chase across a frozen pond...

...yeah, it didn't go to well.

To make matters worse, Kevin bumps into Harry and Marv on his travels, and Kevin immediately recognized Harry as the police officer that visited his home earlier through the gold tooth in his mouth.

So now, Kevin was in a pickle. He knew that Harry and Marv were bad news and were up to something. But he couldn't go to the police because he thought that they would arrest him for shoplifting the toothbrush. He soon figured out that maybe wishing his family away wasn't the brightest move.

And with Harry and Marv scoping out his home at all hours, Kevin knew that he had to do everything he could to protect himself as well as his family's belongings...especially since he overheard the two talking about breaking into the house that night. Now he REALLY wants his family back, but he doesn't know how to get them back.

He tries asking a neighbourhood Santa Claus for help in bringing them back, but when that fails, he decides to go to a nearby church. It is here that he happens to cross paths with Old Man Marley once again...but this time, Old Man Marley smiles at him, sits down beside him, and Kevin soon realizes that he's not as bad as Buzz made him out to be. 

In fact, Kevin soon discovers that Old Man Marley got into a fight with his only son, and they hadn't spoken in years. Going to the church was the only way he could get to see his granddaughter, as she was a member of the church choir. Kevin tried to tell Old Man Marley not to be afraid to reach out to his son, and that maybe if he tried to talk to him, things might get better.

Wow...sounds to me like Kevin could have taken his own advice there. Had he not taken Buzz's description of Marley so seriously, it's possible that Marley could have helped him out a lot sooner...maybe he could have stayed with him until the McCallisters made their way home. But hey, if he had, the movie wouldn't have been as much fun, and we would have been deprived of scenes such as the ones below, when Kevin set up booby traps all over his home to ward off Harry and Marv.

In one of the most memorable scenes of the whole movie, Kevin rushes home after visiting with Old Man Marley, and quickly sets up the traps before Harry and Marv arrive. I only wish I could find the clip of him setting up the traps, but there really wasn't any that were all that, I hope that posting the iconic music that went along with that scene will bring back memories.

Though, I did manage to find a little montage of some of these traps in action, and you can see some of them below...problem is they're mixed in with scenes from the Home Alone sequel released in 1992. I'll point out the traps that appeared in the first one though...

The clip where Marv has Buzz's tarantula on his face
The clip where a barefoot Marv steps on the very fragile ornaments
The clip where Harry gets set on fire with the blowtorch in the kitchen
The clip where Harry and Marv get shot with the BB gun
The clip where Marv falls down the basement stairs after stepping on a nail
The clip where Marv falls down the ice covered stairs
The clip where Harry slips on the front steps
The clip where Harry grabs on the red hot doorknob
The clip where Harry gets covered in glue and feathers
The clip where Marv hits Harry with a crowbar to kill Buzz's tarantula's a wonder those two didn't end up DEAD!

Now, I'm going to stop here because I don't like to post endings to movies. But since you know a sequel was made, you have to have some idea. All I'll tell you is that there's more traps, a cameo role by John Candy, and Old Man Marley makes a smashing appearance 15 minutes before the end of the film. Literally, quite smashing.

The whole idea of Home Alone was to provide a whole bunch of laughs and slapstick comedy to the audience, and it certainly achieved just that. But I think there's a deeper meaning to the whole movie as well.

Actually, there's two lessons that we can take away from Home Alone.

One...don't take what others say about someone else to be the truth until you get to know them. Any of the scenes between Kevin and Old Man Marley will prove that lesson to be true.

But I also think that a lesson that we can take from this is that no matter what, every member of a family is important, and that we shouldn't dismiss anyone's ideas because of age. I mean, Kevin was only eight, and yet his booby traps were almost Rube Goldberg like. I mean, the kid was a genius. Every single trap worked the way it was supposed to. I couldn't imagine Megan, or Linnie, or Jeff even coming up with that plan. Certainly not Buzz.

And I also think that Kevin learned a very valuable lesson as well...and that lesson is that no matter what you may feel about your family, it's always better to have them around.

But then again, given that there was a sequel, maybe he DIDN'T learn it after all...

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