25 Years, You Filthy Animal
By Jake Myers
“Do you guys give up or are you thirsty for more?” Kevin McCallister taunts the Wet Bandits with these words in the movie “Home Alone.” Marv and Harry do not give up.
Apparently, audiences haven’t given up either, as “Home Alone” is turning 25 this year.
According to etonline.com, “ ‘Home Alone’ became the highest grossing top live-action comedy ever, a record it held for over 20 years. It spent 12 weeks at No. 1 after it opened in November 1990.”
Laura Beadling, assistant professor of film studies at Youngstown State University, said one of the reasons for its opening success was that the crew members were all masters at the top of their respective games.
Writer John Hughes [“Ferris Bueller,” “Uncle Buck” and “Sixteen Candles”] and director Chris Columbus [“Gremlins,” “Mrs. Doubtfire,” “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” and “Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets”] teamed up for this film which touted an all-star cast and introduced Macauley Culkin as the lead character, Kevin.
The music score was done by John Williams [“Harry Potter,” “Indiana Jones,” “Star Wars” and “Jurassic Park.”]
“Now that it’s 25 years old, people who saw it in the theater originally may now be watching it with their own kids, which is part of what makes it a classic,” Beadling said. “The film has something for everyone — in addition to the physical comedy and sight gags for kids, the elaborate booby traps are fun for adults, as are the character actors who play the intruders and who give nuance to their very broad caricatures.”
Keith Huff Jr., senior telecommunications major at YSU, said he remembers running around repeating lines to his mother after seeing the movie.
“I can relate to Kevin because as a kid. I would be that sort of troublemaker that Kevin was,” Huff said. “It was never as deliberate, but I would definitely make it easy on my mother to put blame on my sister even though something would be my fault.”
Kevin, who is eight years old in the movie, is accidentally left home alone when his rather large family wakes up late the day they are to fly to Paris for Christmas.
Burglars target the house where Kevin is home alone, and Kevin is determined to protect his home via ingenious, albeit painful [for the Wet Bandits,] booby traps.
“A lot of those visual gags reminded me of what you would see in Tom and Jerry or the Road Runner and Wile E. Coyote and just like those cartoons there’s a lot of violence,” Beadling said. “I mean, the Coyote’s always trying to do terrible things to the Road Runner: falling off the side the cliffs, running into anvils, but nothing ever comes of it. It’s violence without a lot a consequence and that’s the same thing you see in ‘Home Alone.’”
The booby traps are elaborate and malicious, but Marv and Harry just keep coming back for more.
“And some of the things he does to these burglars are very painful; it could be very easy in lesser hands to lose the audience and make him [Kevin] like a little psychopath,” Beadling said. “But you do root for him and that’s I think the genius of the script; that’s John Hughes and Chris Columbus working together to make us see this very little kid doing these terrible things.”
One of the ways they do that is through a subplot involving Kevin’s neighbor, Old Man Marley.
According to Beadling, Hughes read the script and felt that Kevin was a bit too hard and that they needed to show a softer side, so they came up with this side story.
Toward the beginning of the movie, Kevin’s older brother, Buzz tells Kevin that in 1958, Marley killed his family and half the block with a snow shovel, and then covered up the bodies with salt.
Eventually, Kevin faces his fears, Old Man Marley, and even helps Old Man Marley realize that he needs to patch things up with his family because family is what is important in life.
“I think that’s one of the more successful aspects of the film is this really tiny subplot and that it wasn’t part of the original story,” Beadling said. “They went back and added it; it’s really nicely done, and I think in terms of plot unity it’s almost the structuring idea.”
In fact, Old Man Marley ends up saving Kevin by clubbing Marv and Harry in the head with his snow shovel.
Zach Thompson, a sophomore industrial engineering major at YSU, said that his favorite part of “Home Alone” is when Kevin has the movie playing when the pizza guy shows up.
“I just think it is funny because he’s being a kid, having fun and making a bad situation good,” Thompson said.
The movie [“Angels With Filthy Soles”], that Kevin is watching is not a real film, according to IMDB, it is a parody of the movie, “Angels With Dirty Faces,” starring James Cagney.
Kevin uses the movie to keep from speaking to the pizza guy. He slips the money through the door slot and hits the play button at the part where the actor says, “keep the change, ya filthy animal.”
“He’s got a very funny point of view and is very sort of resourceful,” Beadling said. “He gets the better of them in almost every turn, that’s who we all want to be: successful, funny, able to do the right thing very quickly and come up with these sorts of things and triumph over the bad guys.”
While triumphing over the bad guys and helping Old Man Marley reconnect with his family, Kevin eventually realizes that he is in the same boat as Old Man Marley; he has to forgive his family as well.
“That’s one reason how it’s a great family movie,” Huff said. “Learning that in the end family is what is most important.
And 25 years later, it still resonates.
“Home alone has a long lasting appeal because not only is the first movie highly successful, but the second film is also a successful comedy,” Huff said. “Both films depict the attitudes that kids would have if they ever were lost or left alone. At first they seem to love it and have a blast, but after a while they begin to miss their family and wish they were back.”