The hit film, Home Alone, is a cult comedy about a boy who is accidentally left alone in the family home over Christmas due to a mix-up. Comic mayhem ensues when two burglars try to break into his house and end up pitting their wits against the bright and fearless eight-year-old.
Released in 1990 by American film studio 20th Century Fox, the film went on to gross $476.7 million at the global box office. It turned Macaulay Culkin into a star at the age of ten, after he played the role of quirky Kevin McCallister with great comic timing.
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Characters and plot
The plot began as Kevin’s parents, Peter and Kate, arranged a family Christmas vacation in Paris. However, the night before they were due to fly out, gale-force winds caused damage throughout the neighbourhood. In the ensuing panic the following morning, Kevin was accidentally left behind in the house.
He didn’t alert anyone to his plight, as the previous day, he had been in trouble after fighting with his older brother. He had sneaked off to the attic and wished his family would disappear. Thinking his prayers had been answered on waking up in an empty house, he prepared to enjoy his new-found freedom.
Meanwhile, his parents were stranded in Pennsylvania in the Christmas rush, after realising they had forgotten their youngest son! They began a desperate bid to travel back to their Chicago home, battling the Christmas travel disruption – while Kevin had a battle of his own when two burglars tried to access the family home.
The dumb duo (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) soon realised they had bitten off more than they could chew, when Kevin booby-trapped the house – using everything from Christmas baubles to toy cars to stop the criminals in their tracks!
Unfortunately, the house was almost wrecked in the process after Kevin left a pile of Christmas tree decorations on the floor. One of the burglars stood in them in bare feet, cutting himself, falling over and sending shattered glass flying everywhere! The imaginative youngster then left hundreds of his toy cars at the foot of the stairs, so both intruders slipped on them, spreading the smashed baubles further across the room.
Trying to chase Kevin upstairs, they were hit in the face by large tins of paint that he had attached to ropes and swung off the landing. The boy even set one burglar’s hat on fire with a blowtorch!
Kevin had already caused mayhem. First of all, he spotted his dad’s air rifle and shot a few toys, and then he climbed up a shelving unit to reach his games, but smashed it to pieces when it wouldn’t support his weight.
The movie’s visual and often slapstick comedy ensured it remained a Guinness World Record holder for 27 years. During its opening weekend, in November 1990, it grossed $17 million at the box office across 1,202 cinemas, hitting the number one spot in the film charts.
It remained at number one for 12 weeks and was in the top ten until June 1991, with the Guinness World Record for the highest-grossing live-action comedy, until it was finally superseded by the blockbuster Never Say Die in 2017.
The house where much of the movie was filmed is located at 671 Lincoln Avenue, Winnetka, in Illinois. The five-bedroom family home was owned by John and Cynthia Abendshien at the time of filming. It became a tourist attraction as a result of the success of Home Alone and they sold it for $1.5 million in 2012.
It was reported that starring in a family-friendly film like Home Alone was new territory for Pesci, who was more used to playing gangsters in films such as Goodfellas. He wasn’t the first choice as burglar Harry Lyme, but he got the role after Robert De Niro turned it down.
He adopted a little method acting on the set, deliberately not mingling with Culkin, so the boy would not know what to expect – so he may feel genuinely intimidated by him. However, Pesci ended up bearing a physical scar after filming. In an interview, Culkin said that in one scene where Kevin bit Harry Lyme, he accidentally bit Pesci for real, breaking the skin!
The comic violence in the film looked realistic, but afterwards, it was revealed the glass ornaments that shattered and appeared to embed themselves in the burglars’ skin were actually made of candy.
Of course, the film had a happy ending when Kevin survived his ordeal and the bad guys had been hauled off to jail, bruised and battered, by the time his frantic parents got home! The film is now a staple of Christmas that appears in the festive TV schedule year after year.
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