It's been years since I sat down to 'Home Alone,' having avoided any television broadcast, as well as the home video releases ever since the VHS copy from my childhood. It's not that I found the film bad in my "discerning" youth...but I lumped the film in the holiday genre, thinking it had little replay value due to the ever present "message" being preached throughout. When the opportunity to cover the film dropped in my lap, it was a second chance to re-evaluate and see if there is anything more to the instant classic.
The story is already ingrained in the minds of many, so simple it is impossible to forget. Young Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is a rowdy, pain in the rear kinda kid, creating trouble and general nuisances for each and every member of his family. His family (and extended family, and extended extended family) is getting ready for a trip to France when Kevin creates a scene, and is banished to the attic for the night, wishing his family would just disappear. The next morning, due to a mishap, his family leaves for France without him, leaving the eight year old with a large house all to himself. A large house he's going to have to defend when two robbers (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) set their sights on cleaning it out while the inhabitants are away. Through a myriad of elaborate traps and devices, Kevin will learn how to outthink a pair of bumbling criminals, and through the bizarre circumstances he finds himself in, he'll also learn the value of family.
I have no place in my heart for Christmas themed films. I can't stand Christmas music. And I'm certainly not a fan of watching characters discover true meanings of life or family or giving or friendship around the holidays. Call me the Grinch, but I also really couldn't care less for child actors, as they bring down far more films than they elevate in the slightest. Still, there's just something about 'Home Alone' that transcends genre and taste, and is accessible to anyone, no matter how large or open their heart is.
'Home Alone' is a priceless piece of Americana, full of flawed characters, ridiculous scenarios, implausible circumstances, silly twists and misadventures that parents and children alike could relate to. Culkin is perfection in his career (and possibly life) defining role, playing a child who goes from spoiled rotten brat to responsible protector of his castle, with hairs of mischievousness mixed in right next to adulthood, as he does laundry and grocery shops when he isn't busy invading his brother's room or laying down an assault on those who would do him wrong.
The comedy, mostly by way of Pesci and Stern, is aimed mainly at children, as they provide slapstick gags, constantly falling for Culkin's carefully laid traps. Their reactions to the pain inflicted upon them by the clever kid are strong examples of exaggerated family film acting, abandoning realism for laughs. Impacts leave immediate bruises and scars in the exact shape of the instruments inflicting them, much like a live action cartoon, which is kinda what the film is. This is the Roadrunner against two coyotes, or Bugs fending off both Elmer Fudd and Daffy Duck at once, really.
The lessons taught through the film, about family, morals (including the ridiculous shoplifting scene), and love are all solid, and while they may seem a bit preachy (Kevin kissing the photo of his family), they are still good lessons for youths, mixed in with zany antics that they can imagine themselves in. As an adult, seeing the film brings a sense of nostalgia. Who knows, when viewing this as a parent with a child, the experience may be enhanced even more. 'Home Alone' appeals to all audiences, and while it isn't one of the greats of cinema, it certainly is one of the greats of Christmas.
'Home Alone' (actually Fox) is up to its usual pranks on Blu-ray, even 19 years later, with an AVC MPEG-4 encode (1080P, in the 1.85:1 ratio) that isn't quite coal in the stocking, but it certainly isn't sparkly like Christmas morning.
Color is solid, though not that bright, with no banding or bleeding issues. Skin tones occasionally fluctuate, giving off a rosy feel, but for the most part they're acceptable. Facial features, though, lack any real definition or sharpness, with stubble blurring lightly, and no real character being visible on any visage. But faces aren't the only part of this presentation coming across a bit soft, as detail in general is subpar, and a few softer shots (mostly in wider establishing shots) are very jarring. There is a bit of digital noise visible in the whites of snow, though it isn't too bad. The print is amazingly clean, with no signs of dirt or debris present. While the film definitely looks aged, it certainly looks pretty darn good.
The audio side of the coin gives two options for the natural English track: a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix, or a lossy Dolby Digital Stereo track (dubs are also available for those not into subtitles).
The lossless 5.1 track is somewhat engaging, but certainly flawed. Dialogue isn't always cleanly prioritized, sometimes getting absorbed into louder musical segments (which definitely show priority in this mix), while a few lines feel like they were ADR'ed in a terrible sound booth with a microphone inside the actor's mouth. Surround speakers were engaged surprisingly often, with a few localized sounds (that felt very forced), some hustle and bustle at the airports and other scenes where ambiance would be necessary, and a few bits of motion, to boot. Bass use was reserved for the first portion of the film, but whenever a plane was on screen, there was a slight kick, which went into overdrive in the church sequence and a few spots afterwards. The highlight of this track is the score by John Williams, as it deserves the attention it receives in this mix. Sadly, with poor high ends, unnatural surround use, and some bad bits of dialogue, this track grounds itself in reality.
The supplement package from the DVD release of the "Family Fun Edition" is mirrored in the Blu-ray release, though the games are no longer present.
I'm sure nearly anyone reading this review has already seen the film, and already have their minds made up. Detractors who haven't seen it in ages should give it another chance, as it really has the ability to change one's thoughts. All this, from a throwaway John Hughes script. The Blu-ray release of 'Home Alone' isn't too spectacular, with pedestrian audio and video, and a port of the DVD extras, making this release not exactly a must own, but for those without the film, what better time than now to add it to the collection?