My favourite Christmas film: Home Alone

James relives the joy of a calamitous christmas classic...

In all the Decembers of my memory, I can think of no movie that is as magically Christmassy as the 1990 classic family caper Home Alone. It’s got everything you want from a festive film: slapstick comedy, metres-deep snow and a slushy feel-good reaffirmation of seasonal family values. And a bungling thieving bozo getting a nail through his foot. Hooray!

The emperor of 1980s Brat Pack flicks, John Hughes, wrote the sharp dialogue, but I think we have director Chris Columbus (undisputedly a holiday movie hero through his Gremlins writing work) for the darker aspects that accentuate this good old-fashioned yuletide family film. It’s got the heart and charm of a PG film perfect for everyone as they gather round the box in the Advent build-up, but the blackly comic bits give it an extra edge as anarchy reigns in the all-American upper class suburbs of snow-coated Chicago. Excellent.

Starring as the abandoned lead protagonist Kevin McAllister, Home Alone is child-star Macaulay Culkin’s finest hour as he brings us a likeable youngster who never once gets irritating. Balancing brilliant lines (“Buzz, your girlfriend! Woof!”) with a streak of touching vulnerability, every kid can identify with the isolation Kevin feels as his oversized family first treats him like dirt then dashes off to Paris without checking to make sure that they packed him. Poor lad, but before he realises the truth that Christmas is a bit of a turkey without your nearest and dearest and when you’re in danger from dastardly criminals, we all get the chance to live a chaotic festive fantasy through the mighty mite. It’s all in the kick-arse climax, where the imaginative juvenile turns his suburban mansion into a magnificent house of horrors.

What child doesn’t dream of turning their house into a booby-trapped assault course? Our Kevin does so in style and as far as festive fun goes, it doesn’t get much better than the sight of Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s lovable mugs getting mashed beneath irons, flamed by blowtorches and belted by swinging paint cans on the staircase. Playing helpless hoodlums Harry and Marv respectively, Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci are as a much a part of the film’s brilliance as Culkin. As an adult who’s experienced Goodfellas and Casino, to see the great Pesci razza-frazza-razzing his way through a family-friendly film is fantastic. As a child, to see two grown men get outwitted and absolutely whooped by a pasty-faced school kid is both invigorating and empowering.

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Alongside the requisite cheesiness, heartwarming values and cheery seasonal sparkle, it’s the impish mischief manifest in the courageous Kevin that knocks all other Christmas flicks aside and launches Home Alone to the top of the tree as the yuletime star. The movie and its big-city sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (things started to get a bit skewy at Home Alone 3 without the Culkin/Pesci/Stern tripartite), occupy a special place deep down inside my soul, partly because of ritual repeat annual viewings but mainly because they are quite simply the perfect festive blend of entertainment, action and aww-shucksiness. “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal.“: No December is complete without Home Alone

My favourite xmas film: Batman ReturnsMy favourite xmas film: Trading PlacesMy favourite xmas film: Die HardMy favourite xmas film: It’s A Wonderful LifeMy favourite xmas film: ElfMy favourite Christmas TV Programme: Knowing Me, Knowing Yule

22 December 2008