On Thanksgiving we introduced Button to Home Alone. He loved it. Being three, that meant it was the first thing he wanted to watch again the next day. And the next. And the… you see where I’m going.
Look, it holds up. Solid holiday viewing.
But that much exposure to the movie in a few days made me notice some things.
The genius setup for the cartoon violence
There are three key moments that prime the audience to accept that the brutal assaults on Harry and Marv won’t actually kill them.
- Kevin sleds down the stairs into the front yard; survives.
- Kevin gets up from under the collapsed shelves in Buzz’s room; shakes it off without a scratch.
- Kevin slides across the ice like a frictionless penguin when evading a police officer.
The movie aside from these scenes tends toward the realistic. It’s not completely of our world, but these three scenes show us some elasticity in the rules about momentum and impact.
If we didn’t see Kevin get up from under that pile of shelves, we wouldn’t believe that a burglar could get back up from an iron to a face, or slamming into a brick wall, etc. etc.
Kevin’s family is uniquely terrible
Watch the first act of Home Alone on its own. Now ask yourself if you think any of these people should be allowed around Kevin ever again.
The movie pushes their mean-spirited treatment of Kevin far enough to make it believable that he would wish they would disappear. His sense of joy when they’re gone feels reasonable.
So why would we want to see them come back?
Kevin’s mom takes the long way home for a reason
So it’s a funny little brick joke that the rest of Kevin’s family shows up just after Mom, who had to beg, barter, and hitchhike to get home to Kevin. But it also highlights why it was so important for her to do so.
Seeing Kevin’s mom make the effort to get home as fast as possible is what matters. She questions her relationship to Kevin and how she could have behaved in such a way that would end up thoughtlessly abandoning him at home.
She does the work to make her return feel important.
And in Kevin’s reaction to her return, he can see she’s done something big for him. Their connection matters.
But then everybody else comes home…
The rest of Kevin’s family still kind of sucks
They did no work. They just waited it out until the easiest option to get home was available. They didn’t do anything to keep in contact with Kevin’s mom (that we know of) or provide her with any support whatsoever.
They were hanging out with Uncle Frank, eating shrimp, and having their vacation.
And they take all of ten seconds to acknowledge that Kevin’s not dead and it’s neat that he bought milk before moving on back to their rooms.
Yes, the button line about Buzz realizing his room is still wrecked is funny, but it also undercuts the sense we should have that Kevin’s in a better place with his family than in the beginning of the movie.
Cue my disappointment that we never got Home Alone 3: Emancipation in Chicago.