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On Nov. 16, 1990, 20th Century Fox unveiled Home Alone in theaters, where it would go on to gross $285 million and launch a franchise for the studio. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review is below:
Writer-producer John Hughes’ first offering since he scurried back to his beloved Illinois, Home Alone is a polished comic celebration of Middle America with Hughes once again tapping the prosperous plains of his North Shore neighborhood for comic inspiration.
Home Alone, like Hughes’ last movie hit, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, is set during Christmastime in the Winnetka area. And the usually well-ordered WASP residents work themselves up at the holidays. In this case, the focal family is all in a dither, readying for a Christmas trip to Paris. Last-minute packing and trip anxieties throw them out of joint.
It’s particularly overwhelming for 8-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) who, amid all the departure craziness, gets left behind. When he wakes up the next morning, he finds his big white house, overstuffed with family and relatives the night before, now eerily empty.
In this crazy but credible scenario, writer Hughes blends two of children’s tender spots: separation anxiety and its flip side, kids’ need to stretch their wings. During his stint as “man of the house,” young Kevin experiences both fear and elation. While there is no one to tuck him in or make him breakfast, there is also no one around to boss him around or to bully him.
Cross-cutting between the concerned parents’ Planes, Trains & Automobiles-type attempts to reach Kevin, and the young boy’s escapades, director Chris Columbus keeps the festivities lively and at a crackling, cheery tempo as the bright boy defends his hearth and home against the onslaughts of two cat burglars. This running battle between the boy and the two adults is the film’s comic highlight — one that kids will eat up — and Columbus pitches it to slapstick perfection.
In his performance as the home alone kid, Culkin carries the brunt of the production on his little shoulders spectacularly. — Duane Byrge, originally published in “Reviews In Review” column on Nov. 13, 1990.
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