Home Alone ★★

All right, so this is a lousy movie, with a hammy child actor, a cloying John Williams score, and a “comedy” screenplay by John Hughes that’s low on actual jokes. But what fascinates me about Home Alone is its purity. Deep down, it’s a D.W. Griffith-style melodrama with three intercut lines of action: the child at home, his mother to the rescue, and the thieves repeatedly attempting to infiltrate the homestead. The only real twist applied to this ancient formula is that here, the would-be victim becomes his own hero, fending off the villainous buffoons by rehashing old Three Stooges gags. Within this melodramatic template, the film also engages in a wish fulfillment fantasy, which slowly transforms into a morality tale about the value of family.

As this structure may indicate, Home Alone is an incredibly conservative movie. It champions a mother’s love for her son as the greatest of virtues, and it aligns this devotion with the McAllister family as a whole. Their affluent lifestyle, their mansion in a Chicago suburb, the yuletide kitsch that adorns it: these are good. The thieves who dub their riches “the silver tuna,” meanwhile, are not merely bad, but abject, as exemplified by Joe Pesci’s gold tooth. Their bodily integrity becomes Kevin’s sadistic playground. Because they’re the aggressors, his violence is in self-defense, and thus Home Alone lets him live out another kid fantasy: to hurt others while still being morally in the clear. I wonder if Kevin grew up to be a cop.