I think we forgot something...
Most of us can relate to that nagging feeling of having forgotten something, especially on those crazy days when everything seems to be going wrong. Kate McCallister (Catherine O’Hara) is experiencing that sort of anxiety on a flight to Paris, as she and her family are on their way to a Christmas vacation with relatives. Perhaps the silly worry is just a result of having to scramble to catch their plane that morning because all fifteen members of the traveling party slept in thanks to a power failure that took out the electricity and the phone lines. Or maybe it’s because of the stressful evening of packing the night before, where parents, children, aunts, uncles and cousins lost their tempers amidst looking for suitcases and toiletries. Her son Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) was being particularly pesky. And that’s when Kate remembers what she’s forgotten – Kevin.
Meanwhile back in the suburbs of Chicago, Kevin awakes to discover he is home alone. Unlike his mother, he isn’t terribly surprised. During last night’s commotion he and his mom exchanged some angry words, which culminated in the eight-year-old kid declaring he wished he didn’t have a family and hoped he’d never see them again. Consequently, Kevin just assumes their disappearance has something to do with the magic of the season.
Although Kate is horrified at the thought of her child having no protective supervision, Kevin is delighted with his new freedom. While the frantic mother starts phoning for help the moment her plane touches down, the boy leisurely eats junk food, watches rubbish TV and raids his older brother’s (Devin Ratray) bedroom looking for cash (where he also finds a copy of a Playboy magazine).
Unknown to either party, a couple of thieves (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have been casing their neighborhood, planning to take advantage of the many homes left vacant during the holidays. Kevin eventually becomes aware of their evil designs, but instead of calling the police, he decides to protect the house himself.
Most of the screenplay is made up of the silly antics of the bumbling burglars facing off against various booby-traps set by the rapscallion. Many of these resemble the sort of thing you’d expect to see in a Looney Tunes Cartoon – except in this case they are depicted in live action. I confess I have never found animated violence to be very funny, but it is even less comical to see real people being hit with cans of paint, hot irons and crowbars, or being set on fire, or falling down icy stairs and stepping on broken glass and nails. (Oh, and there is also an escaped pet tarantula.) Just like in the aforementioned animations, no one really gets hurt (which is certainly not a realistic portrayal) yet I suspect many little ones will still be frightened by the idea of dangerous intruders trying to break into the sanctuary of home.
Still, in an effort to infuse this rather mean-spirited plot with some redeeming graces, there are a couple of gentler side stories included. One depicts some kind strangers who offer to help Mom get back to her boy. The other involves a much-maligned neighbor of the McCallister’s. The old man (Roberts Blossom) is rumored to have murdered his family, yet when Kevin meets him in a church on Christmas Eve, he discovers the sad soul’s real secret. Then the two exchange advice that bolsters the courage each of them to face their personal fears.
Whether or not these small moments make up for the plentiful name-calling, sibling squabbling, neglectful parenting, violent actions and reckless stunts, ultimately will be a matter of individual digression. Yet one thing is for sure. You will want to discuss with your children what they should do if they were ever to find themselves in this circumstance—because the last thing you’ll want is for him or her to follow the example of this little scallywag.