I’m aware of the list. I’m aware of the dedicated cult following. I’m aware of the Brat Pack. I’m aware of better performances from comedy legend John Candy. I’m aware of all of these things, but I stand by this statement.
Home Alone is my favorite John Hughes movie….ever.
The movie is perfect! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that this is the perfect Christmas movie, I’m saying that Home Alone is a perfect movie. The casting is perfect, it hit Macaulay Culkin at the perfect point of him being the greatest child actor ever, and it has all of the Hughes greatness in the script. John Hughes was very well known for creating characters that resonate with everyone, but here is where the casting and the characters were tied together the best. I would watch any movie, today…right this second…that had Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern in it. Put them together and I’m on board immediately because they are both individually amazing, but when they are together it’s movie magic.
Now that we have the casting, script, and all around brilliance of a John Hughes/Chris Columbus collab out of the way, here is why it’s the best.
What exactly did Kevin’s dad do for a living that he has the kind of fuck you money that enables him to say “Sure, we can get the family together for Christmas, how about we take 53 people to Paris for a few days?”. He lives in this house, has a giant family, and not once did he say anything about vacation from (insert job title here). Not even Uncle Frank made a snide comment about job envy or sarcastically say anything about what he would do if he had his job. Most people that are rich in movies state how they are rich, but Mr. M is just stone cold silent about it. His wife is throwing around cash and jewelry trying to score tickets home and not once asking about finances. My theory is that he is a contract killer and the trip to Paris is a cover up for him being there for the holiday. Why else was he so anxious to leave the airport so the police can call them back? He needed to get to “work” killing his target. This makes more sense than his family being the head of a major crime organization because there is no way Uncle Frank is in organized crime with him. He would have been killed faster than Fredo.
2. John candy is a straight up comedy boss
John Candy showed up to set, had one day to film, had no script, and turned out this performance off of the top of his head. The entire character was made up just to include Candy and he hit a grand slam with it. Several years have passed since his death, but John Candy is on the comedic actors Mount Rushmore and if you don’t agree with me, then I will fight you. He is the only person who could pull off the amount of improvised empathy and charm needed to make this movie work. Kevin’s mom is hysterical the entire movie, his dad is a stone faced contract killer, and his family doesn’t seem to care about Kevin, so it’s up to Candy to provide the only quietly sympathetic moment. Outside of my next point, you can make a case that the emotional heart of the movie is the small amount of time that John Candy is on screen. It’s the only part that eases his mom’s tension and the time on screen between Candy and Catherine O’Hara truly makes it feel like a Christmas movie. It has heart and gravitas and the movie doesn’t work the same without him. He was throwing so much heat in 1990 that he made it happen just by showing up on set. Nobody else could have pulled that off.
3. old man marley
Outside of John Candy, has there ever been a more emotional performance from an actor in so few scenes? Old Man Marley, from the second we actually hear him speak, provides the entire Christmas spirit for the entire movie. Soft spoken, kind, fatherly, flawed as a human, and the secret uncle you have always wanted. Sure I love all of the scenes in the house where Kevin is stopping Harry and Marv, but my favorite scene has always been in the church between Kevin and Mr. Marley. It’s sweet and it’s the part of the movie that feels the most like a Christmas movie. The weight of this scene outweighs the comedy of the rest of the movie and the emotional center for Kevin hinges on this scene. There are pieces of this in the sequel with the pigeon lady, but at the end of the day she is still a homeless person and it’s creepy that they have that relationship. Old Man Marley makes this movie and it’s not the timeless classic that it is without him.
4. an alternate universe where buzz is the child left home
I’ve heard all of the alternate universe Home Alone takes, except for this one. Did you ever stop to think that Kevin was so good at setting traps and getting away from the bad guys because he’s spent his entire life avoiding an ass kicking from Buzz? If Buzz was the person home alone instead of Kevin, this goes from a protecting the house situation to Buzz hunting human criminals for sport. He might have caught and water tortured them for hours on end and left them begging for their lives. While we are on the subject..sure Buzz’s girlfriend might not photograph well, but she looks like a fun lady and I’m sure is a very nice person. The fact that she gets shit on in the movie is unnecessary and I hope her and Buzz are happy. Buzz strikes me as the type of person that would bring her something disturbing just to show her that he cared. Much like a cat would bring a dead mouse to his owner. Mark my words, if Buzz were there, then the Wet Bandits would have wished for the simpler days of getting hit in the face with an iron.
Stephen Balding is the founder of Cinema Soapbox. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org