Naughty Christmas: Reviews of "Home Alone" (1+2) and "Christmas Vacation"
Ho ho ho for another round of Xmas movies, this time without blood and murder, but there are sure some people getting hurt.
(USA 1990, director: Chris Columbus)
Being left alone at home by his family, a small boy has to defend the house against burglars.
One of those movies which can easily fail with the protagonist and actor. There might surely be people around who hate it for exactly that reason and the sentimentality, good-family-values-tradition thing. But for me, that's what makes it work.
It speaks to the child in all of us, and without sounding too didactic or using elevated language, what Home Alone mainly achieves is to create so many moments one would have liked to experience as a kid when left alone. Just riding down the steps with a sled is genius (even though that might have been done in another movie, though I can't remember which). Of course the whole idea of do-whatever-you-feel-like without any adult watching is what makes it worth watching again and again.
The many traps the bad guys have to overcome, are also the most fun part, and some are downright evil and ingenious. Again the actors fit their roles perfectly, and a bit of overacting and silliness just belongs to the whole thing.
About the sentimentality: It can feel a bit heavy-handed at times, especially at the end, but if one watches the scene in the church when Kevin talks to an old man who's been alienated by his son, there is quite some great dialogue and it again shows that John Hughes (who wrote the script, but who didn't direct) knew what he was doing.
Again being left alone, this time in another city, Kevin has to take care of the burglars who broke out from prison again, and avoid a nosy hotel manager.
As is the case with so many sequels, how to please the fans of the first one, but not do the same thing all over again? The second part of the series (How many are there, 5? Haven't watched the others though) does many things right, but also suffers a bit from the sequel-sickness.
What it does extremely well is how it creates the sense of wonder and fun the boy experiences when being on his own and left to his own devices. Add a bigger city and therefore more playground and it's a different movie, at least to a certain degree.
There's some sort of self-irony when allusions to the first flick are made, and it's fun to watch the protagonists relive the same moments, but that's also the problem. Especially at the end, the whole bad-guys-take-revenge-on-the-boy-who-ratted-them-out concept isn't that original and it also feels cheap and incongruent with the rest of the movie.
A few scenes are also quite ridiculous, like the behavior of the hotel manager, and it becomes more a farce than anything else. Still the movie manages to remain fun and also offers some genuinely touching scenes, again with sentimental values about friendship, this time in the form of the pigeon lady who got her heart broken.
It's also pretty weird that the movie got a 6+ age certificate compared to the 12+, at least in Germany. There are a fair bit of violent (more devious traps for the thiefs) and scary scenes (in Central Park), but that's German censorship again, nuff said.
A family get together ends up in chaos as the tradition-loving father only the best for all of them during Christmas time.
National Lampoon hasn't been good to us in recent years with their movie output, so it's always nice to go back revisit this classic. Unlike so many spoofs they did, the Vacation series has always been a nice way to make fun of American values, so the Christmas version is the best so far.
What works extremely well here is how slapstick and witty dialogues go hand in hand. With many memorable scenes (actually throughout the whole movie there's not a dull moment), it's neverending fun to see Clark, the father of the Griswold family, try to live up to Christmas traditions, but fails with the execution of most of his ideas.
Cousin Eddie's entrance after 1 hour runtime is of course the highlight, and PC aside, it's just the clash of the two families (or all of the clan together with their different personalities) which makes it worthwile watching again and again.