Shiny Shelf


By Jonn Elledge on 22 December 2006

I haven’t seen ‘Home Alone’ in well over a decade. I have no particular desire to correct this oversight, not least because I’m almost certain it’s complete and total tosh.

But I am, give or take a few months, the same age as its star Macaulay Culkin. This means that, sixteen years ago this Christmas, I was exactly the target market for the film.

And it was great. What self-respecting ten year old wouldn’t love a movie in which an under-appreciated kid gets left behind on a family holiday, eats his own body weight in junk food, comes up with a cunning plan to defeat a pair of loveable burglars by hitting them in the face with bricks, and – hey – even learns a little something about the true meaning of Christmas?

It’s the ultimate childhood fantasy. Not only do you get to do what you want for a week; you get to go through your siblings’ stuff, defeat the bad guys, and prove that all those times you blubbed to yourself “I’ll run away from home, then they’ll be sorry!”, you were right. I’d lay good money that, if you show this movie to a kid today, they’ll still love it, without a single talking animal or CGI monster to be seen.

Two years later there was a sequel, of course, in which Culkin was loosed upon the streets of New York. But it never quite gelled in the same way. Maybe I was just too old by then; maybe it was that it repeated the formula almost exactly (seeing someone get hit repeatedly in the face with a brick is funny once, but the second time round it just seems passé).

But I suspect it’s something more fundamental. New York is scary. It’s reasonably intimidating being alone there as an adult. But if you’re pre-pubescent, in a derelict house, and fighting off a couple of convicts who are out to kill you, it becomes absolutely bloody terrifying. (What’s more, I don’t care how kind-hearted she’s supposed to be – anyone who lives above a theatre and covers themselves in pigeons is a fricking nutjob.) It’s not a fantasy, it’s a nightmare.

Personally I think that, if it’s scary Columbus was after, he should have gone the whole hog, and had Joe Pesci play the lead burglar the same way he played Tommy DeVito in ‘Goodfellas’. The film would be a little shorter, perhaps; but the ending would be infinitely more satisfying.

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By Jonn Elledge

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