We’re all stuck in the house, right? There’s never been a better time to dig into those retro movies that you’ve always wanted to watch, but never had the time for. Personally, I’m a bit of a retrophile and tend to watch more older flicks than newer ones. On Fangirlish, you can now look forward to a retro review from me each Wednesday in this column. I’ll be highlighting one throwback movie a week, offering a spoiler-free review of the film, any throwback thoughts from my childhood, and where you can watch the movie yourself. Sit back, relax, and enjoy #WayBackWednesday.
Home Alone is one Christmas movie that gets repeat play at my house every single year, and has since I was a kid. I was the perfect age for Home Alone when it premiered and long dreamt of setting all kinds of booby traps in the house to ward off burglars. Is this Christmas classic on your annual holiday watchlist? Check out the trailer for Home Alone and let’s get started with #WayBackWednesday.
Home Alone released in theaters on November 16, 1990. I remember begging to go see Home Alone in the theater, but alas, I could not convince my parents to take me. I did however catch the film on broadcast in later years, which was my introduction to the film, aside from all the banter about it at school.
Home Alone is written and produced by John Hughes (The Breakfast Club and Planes, Trains & Automobiles) and directed by Chris Columbus (The Goonies, Gremlins, Harry Potter 1 & 2). Home Alone stars John Hughes regulars, Macaulay Culkin and John Candy, Catherine O’Hara (modern audiences may know her best as Moira Rose on Schitt’s Creek), Joe Pesci, and Daniel Stern.
Home Alone has something for everyone. To me, a hallmark of a great family film is one that can be appreciated at any age. As a kid, I confessedly had a little crush on Macaulay Culkin, but most of all, I loved the slapstick humor, the traps, and the mischief that Kevin got into. Those things are still funny to me now.
As an adult, I am floored by the brilliant dialogue in the film and am deeply moved by Kate’s valiant attempts to get back home to Kevin and the story of Old Man Marley’s reconciliation with his son. Any movie that can be appreciated by both kids and adults is a near rarity, unless you’re a Pixar film, and Home Alone achieves this effortlessly.
Here are a few more fun facts about the film that I think make what is likely an already familiar film more fun and interesting.
- John Candy appeared in the film as Gus Pulanski, Polka King of the Midwest as a favor to his friend, John Hughes. Candy improvised all of his lines.
- One of the best lines in the whole film, in my opinion, “Why the hell you dressed like a chicken?” was improvised by Daniel Stern. John Hughes films tend to have many improvised lines, which I find especially interesting.
- Daniel Stern’s famous scream when Macaulay Culkin places the tarantula on his face was performed live on set by Stern after confirming with the animal handlers that tarantulas don’t have ears. Stern confirmed this on his facebook page in 2015, as well as the fact that the tarantula placed on his face had not had the venom removed.
- The film Kevin watches and uses repeatedly to fool anyone coming to his house, Angels with Filthy Souls is not a real movie and was shot specifically for the film.
- To give the film a greater Christmas feel, the colors red and green are used prominently throughout the film.
- John Candy shares all of his scenes with Catherine O’Hara. The two worked together previously on SCTV and O’Hara gave a tearful eulogy at Candy’s funeral a few years later.
- According to IMDB, the film crew remarked at how mature and professional the 10-year-old Macaulay Culkin was on set, saying he was already an “old man.”
- Buzz’s girlfriend in the photo was actually the son of the film’s art director, Dan Webster, dressed like a girl because Chris Columbus thought it would be too cruel to make fun of a girl like that. Woof!
- One of the subtle storytelling visuals in the film is the wound on Old Man Marley’s hand–symbolizing his progression. When he meets Kevin in the store, his hand is wrapped and bloody. In their meeting at the church, Marley’s hand has a band-aid. When Marley is reunited with his family at the end of the film, he waves and his hand is healed.
- John Williams composed the score for this film, which is stylistically a blend of his more exciting brass-heavy scores (Star Wars, Indiana Jones) and the soft chimes of “Hedwig’s Theme” from Harry Potter.
Have you watched Home Alone yet this year? It’s a classic that has aged well and frankly, can’t really be remade in a modern setting because of the ubiquity of cell phones. I look forward to watching Home Alone (multiple times) every year.