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Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister has become the man of the house, overnight! Accidentally left behind when his family rushes off on Christmas vacation, Kevin gets busy decorating the house for the holidays. But he’s not decking the halls with tinsel and holly. Two bumbling burglars are trying to break in, and Kevin’s rigging a bewildering battery of booby traps to welcome them!
For more about Home Alone and the Home Alone Blu-ray release, see Home Alone Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on December 11, 2008 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
Starring: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard, Roberts Blossom, Catherine O'Hara
» See full cast & crew
Home Alone Blu-ray Review
Make a home for this disc in your Blu-ray collection.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, December 11, 2008
I made my family disappear!
Home Alone is a Christmas movie in something of a more superficial sense of the term, the film set during that most wonderful time of the year but playing as a comedy with action and adventure elements rather than as a straight Holiday film. Nevertheless, this family favorite is often mentioned in the same breath as several of the definitive Holiday greats, including It's A Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street, and A Christmas Story. Home Alone certainly differs from those films with its more contemporary setting and arguably broader appeal, though Bob Clark's 1983 classic may have something to say about the latter. Some 18 years after the film's initial release, little of the appeal has been lost to time. Some elements of the film don't hold up particularly well, but its core remains strong and entertaining, and the film's relatively small yet crucial thematic undertones on the importance of family, the bonds of love, and the spirit of the season shine through still today, even in the shadow of the still-entertaining final act for which the film is most well-known.
The McCallister household is in full holiday mode, the home serving as a base of operations for the extended family's Christmas trip to France to visit additional relatives. Young Kevin (Macaulay Culkin, Uncle Buck) bears the brunt of the visit, seeming to get into everyone's way, serving as the outlet for the family's frustrations, and is an easy target for the older kids. When he is blamed for a dinner disaster, Kevin is sent to the attic for the night with an empty tummy. The following morning, he is forgotten, a head count accidentally replacing Kevin with an unrelated neighbor child of approximately the same age, and by the time Kevin awakens in the attic, the family is well on its way to France. With the run of the house and pleased that his wish to make his family disappear seems to have come true, Kevin spends his days watching rubbish on television, having more than his fill of junk food, and digging through his older brother's personal belongings. When a pair of bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci, Casino, and Daniel Stern, Otis) target the McCallister house, Kevin, as the man of the house, sets out to defend his property with an astonishing level of ingenuity and effectiveness.
While Home Alone does not feature a plot that is specifically driven by the Christmas season, there is no denying that the Holiday, and particularly its spirit and meaning, plays a crucial role in the tone of the picture and serves as the heart of the film from an emotional perspective. Certainly, the hustle and bustle of the season is the driving force behind the plot, and scattered amidst the gags and antics are a few touching scenes that reflect on the true meaning of the season, particularly the importance of family. Kevin learns through his time alone and his confrontation with the criminals that it's not necessarily the daily routine that makes family life good or bad, or tolerable or enjoyable, but it is rather the spirit, the bond, the far-too-often unspoken understanding that the strength, the togetherness, the friendship, the support, and the love are universally understood and ever-present every day, every night, or even after years of separation and sorrow. Indeed, the film's best -- and most important -- scene features Kevin discussing his situation with an elderly, misunderstood neighbor inside the local church as two generations reflect on what they once had, and lost, and hope to once again regain. The scene solidifies the theme of the film and serves as an emotional bridge that sets up viewers for the film's climactic third act as Kevin battles the crooks.
Most viewers sit down to take in Home Alone year after year not for the film's emotional content but rather for the many antics and laughs found throughout the movie, and most are as fresh as the day they were filmed. Obviously, the film's payoff and biggest laughs stem from the climactic sequence featuring young Kevin battling the robbers with any and all means at his disposal, and this final act serves as the core of the film and what makes it so memorable. Still, there are plenty of laughs that are just as worthy as anything offered by the final act during the middle portion of the film. Kevin's introduction to and use of one of the scenes from Angels With Filthy Souls, for example, provides two of the best moments in the film. Kevin effectively uses the scene to toy with a pizza delivery boy and subsequently utilizes it, in conjunction with some of his older brother's firecrackers, in hopes of scaring off his adversaries. Still other gags don't hold up quite as well; several of the film's more well-known scenes come and go with more of a groan than a laugh, particularly that featuring Kevin applying aftershave.
If Home Alone contains any glaring weaknesses, they come in those scenes featuring Kevin's extended family. The opening act in particular borders on unwatchable, and some repeat viewers may see the many flaws in the sequences, particularly in the dialogue and acting. Both feel unnatural, choppy and forced, and these segments of the film never seems to mesh, coming off as poorly scripted and questionably acted rather than playing with a more natural flow. There is never a sense of reality to these scenes; rather, the film seems to try too hard to recreate a chaotic household on the eve of what is surely a daunting family task. Granted, the movie is meant to play as fantasy rather than reality, but there is a discernible disconnect between the two here. This segment just doesn't jive with the rest of the picture, though it is necessary in setting up the film's primary conflict and emotional undertones. Home Alone definitely picks up considerably in the second half, not only because of the antics in the midsection and the comedic action at film's end, but also because of the more touching moments alluded to earlier.
Home Alone Blu-ray, Video Quality
Home Alone comes home on Blu-ray in a rather nice looking 1080p, 1.85:1-framed transfer. Colors are bold but the image takes on a hazy appearance in many shots. Detail is generally high; all the intricacies of the house look better than ever. A few close-up shots of more mundane objects like a tile floor and a back door reveal all varieties of scuffs and dirt, making the home looked "lived in" and the image rather realistic in such scenes. The wallpaper, the odds and ends in the basement, and the junk scattered throughout the attic all look sharp and generally true to life. However, detail on close-ups of actors is virtually nonexistent, as most look caked in heavy makeup and terribly smooth. Various outdoor scenes, particularly those taking place during the day, fare much better, looking less like there is a film over the image and more natural in appearance. There is little in the way of noise over the image. Blacks seem to veer towards a dark purple in some shots, and flesh tones appear accurate, despite the rather smooth nature of faces as noted above. All in all, Home Alone has never looked better, and while this transfer doesn't reside in the same class as the best of the Blu best, it represents a rather nice visual upgrade that longtime fans will appreciate.
Home Alone Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Home Alone hangs out on Blu-ray with a high quality, and surprisingly active, DTS-HD MA 5.1 lossless soundtrack. Many might expect this soundtrack to be front heavy with little in the way of subwoofer or back channel support, but quite the opposite is the case. There is a nice power and vitality to the soundtrack, particularly during the more robust parts of the score, for example the scene featuring the family scrambling to get ready on the morning of the trip in chapter six. Bass makes its presence known more than once. Several sounds sweep into the surrounds to excellent effect. Most sound natural, a few sound a bit forced into the track. The mix can be almost obnoxiously loud in a few spots that might have viewers fiddling with the remote during some of the film's key moments. The Angels with Filthy Souls scenes sound far better than the old VHS tape looks in the movie, and it is a bit disconcerting looking at the old, ragged image while the audio fills up the soundstage with power and precision, particularly in accompaniment of the gunshots. Nevertheless, Home Alone features a very surprisingly robust soundtrack that will leave fans satisfied with the experience and the Blu-ray purchase.
Home Alone Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Home Alone keeps viewers busy at home with a plethora of bonus features. A commentary track featuring director Chris Columbus and actor Macaulay Culkin is first. This easygoing track features the two reminiscing on the experience, featuring discussions on the shoot, the look and feel of the film, the thoughts and reactions of the various cast members to Culkin's stardom, and plenty more. There is nary a dull moment in the track; the two participants are extremely affable and enjoy the experience of sharing their thoughts on the film. 1990 Press Featurette (480p, 3:52) is a brief piece that features plenty of clips from the film and showcases cast and crew sharing their thoughts on what the film is about. The Making of 'Home Alone' (480p, 19:25) is an extended piece that again features cast and a broad range of crew members sharing their experiences working on the film. Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin (480p, 4:46) features the actor reminiscing on his experience of shooting behind-the-scenes material.
Moving along, viewers will find How to Burglar-Proof Your Home: The Stunts of 'Home Alone' (480p, 7:04). This piece begins with a montage of most of the hard-hitting stunts of the film and continues with a look at the making of the scenes. 'Home Alone' Around the World (480p, 3:53) takes a brief look at several scenes dubbed in various languages. Where's Buzz Now? (480p, 3:03) features cast and crew trying to figure out where the character Buzz might be today. Angels With Filthy Souls (480p, 2:06) takes a brief look at this "movie within a movie" and features the footage full-screen, though it appears to be a different take of that used in the film. Next up are a series of deleted scenes and alternate takes (480p, 15:04), followed by a blooper reel (480p, 2:04). Concluding this supplemental package is a 1080p trailer for The Simpsons Movie.
Home Alone Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Home Alone is an enjoyable family comedy that generally remains strong, though various segments of the film, particularly any scene featuring Kevin's family, don't hold up quite as well. Still, the movie enjoys continued prominence as a Holiday tradition with a well-integrated message on the importance of family. 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release of Home Alone leaves nothing to be desired, except, perhaps, its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, on the high definition format. Featuring a solid video transfer, a far better than anticipated lossless soundtrack, and no shortage of bonus materials, fans will want to gobble this disc up, and it will make for a great stocking stuffer and film to watch after all the Christmas presents have been opened. Recommended.
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