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Case Number 10531

Buy Home Alone: Family Fun Edition at Amazon

Home Alone: Family Fun Edition

Fox // 1990 // 105 Minutes // Rated PG
Reviewed by Judge David Packard (Retired) // January 1st, 2007

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All Rise...

Around the office, Judge David Packard is known as the "Wet Bandit." Sheesh, swipe one bottle of Aquafina, and you're branded for life.

Editor's Note

Our review of Home Alone (Blu-Ray), published January 5th, 2009, is also available.

The Charge

"I don't want another family. I don't want any family. Families suck!"—Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin)

Opening Statement

Despite the goofy subtitle (I can't help but think of the "optional rally fun pack" that Clark Griswold expected with the purchase of his Antarctic Blue Super Sports Wagon in National Lampoon's Vacation), Home Alone—Family Fun Edition packs some surprisingly-solid extras along with the 1990 box office smash that had kids everywhere slapping their cheeks and screaming in mock pain.

Facts of the Case

Thanks to the older brother straight from the seventh circle of Hell, eight-year-old Kevin is punished and sent to bed. Before he storms off, he makes his views on the family unit (see The Charge for a refresher of his eloquent, blunt opinions) perfectly clear to Mom (Catherine O'Hara). Due to a series of unfortunate events penned by writer John Hughes, Kevin awakens to a quiet, empty house and assumes that his wish of a family-free life has been granted. With nary an authority figure in sight, Kevin is soon indulging in square meals of towering ice cream sundaes and watching trashy television.

But Kevin soon learns that living the bachelor life is not all rainbows and unicorns. For starters, there's Marley (Roberts Blossom), the Creepy Old Guy Next Door who may or may not be a homicidal maniac. There's the Scary Thing In The Basement with fiery jaws of steel that nearly leaves Kevin soiling his tighty whities. Perhaps worst of all, a pair of bungling burglars, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), are casing the McAllister joint for a big Christmas Eve heist, threatening Kevin with the very real possibility that his mug may soon end up splashed across the back of a milk carton. As if all of this isn't enough, Kevin must confront doing the laundry, grocery shopping, and the growing feeling that he's starting to miss the family he once despised.

The Evidence

Home Alone was quite the smash when it hit theaters over 15 years ago, and it's pretty easy to see why: At one point or another, every kid has probably wished for the ultimate freedom from parents and their iron-fisted enforcement of household rules. Home Alone lets kids merrily flirt with that fantasy through Kevin as he indulges in raucous bed jumping, stairway sledding, and ordering pizza tailor-made for him. My six-year-old son, Sean, often howled at Kevin's shenanigans, and it took me back to when I saw this movie during its initial theatrical run. That theater was chock-full of kids who ate this up unlike anything I'd seen before, braying in unison at everything Kevin did. If I didn't find myself laughing at the on-screen antics, I was chuckling at watching the kids go berserk with glee over this flick.

The hijinks take a bit of a backseat when the reality of Kevin's situation begins to present itself. Of course, the largest threat is the Keystone Krooks portrayed by Pesci and Stern. They have a goofy chemistry that works well, and although they may appear menacing a few times during the film, the scare factor is quickly extinguished by resourceful Kevin.

All of this builds to the third act, which includes a surprisingly touching scene in a church between Kevin and Marley. But the real meat-and-potatoes of the film is the grand finale in which Kevin thwarts Harry and Marv's home invasion with a series of ingenious booby traps. In real life, some of Kevin's contraptions would result in serious injury or worse, but in director Chris Columbus' PG-rated world, the results are comical and hilarious, turning Harry and Marv's "Wet Bandits" into a live action Wily E. Coyote that repeatedly comes up short to the smarter, Roadrunner-like Kevin.

Let me mention that Macaulay Culkin does a very passable job as the precocious Kevin. I think the movie's massive popularity brought some backlash against Culkin that was truly unfair and undeserved. He may not have been Dakota Fanning in the acting department, but give him a break—he was nine. And his skills were certainly light-years from Jake Lloyd.

Rounding out the film is another fine score by John Williams (who was not the film's original composer, as you learn in the audio commentary) that often reminded me of his Harry Potter compositions to come years later. The rest of the audio is fine, although beyond a few scenes of an airliner passing overhead, you won't get much of a workout from your 5.1 system. Visually, the transfer is good, although it seems to have an overall "dark" look to it. I didn't spot much dirt, scratches, or other debris. It's not the crispest video in the world, but it's acceptable for a film not far from its inevitable 20th anniversary edition.

Now, chances are you may already own Home Alone from its prior DVD release. The decision of whether to purchase this one ultimately rests on the bulk of extras that make this the "Family Fun Edition."

• "Feature Audio Commentary by Director Chris Columbus and Star Macaulay Culkin"
I looked forward to this extra more than any other; I just had to hear Columbus and a grown Culkin wax poetic about their experiences on this film, and I wasn't let down. These guys sound like they're truly enjoying themselves as they revisit the film. They discuss things like how the movie came about, the impact of child labor laws on filming, the film's relatively low budget of $18 million and the resulting impact on how certain scenes were handled, and the various family and friends who filled in for some of the roles. Filmed at a time when CGI effects were non-existent, Columbus spills the beans on how many of the film's effects were achieved. You'll also hear about the truly bizarre, such as the scene in which some people swear a still-living Elvis Presley appears. There's a lot of laughter between the two, and their obvious interest in the experience makes this commentary track a lot of fun.
Grade: A

• "The Making of Home Alone"
Cast and crew alike gush about their experiences in making the film. A grown Macaulay Culkin is included, and he points out the small scar on his finger that he has to this day courtesy of Joe Pesci (Culkin discusses this incident in the audio commentary track as well). It doesn't go quite as behind-the-scenes as I'd hoped, but the comments from those involved in the film held my interest for the roughly 20-minute run time.
Grade: B

• "How to Burglar Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone"
Crewmembers, including the stunt coordinator and stunt doubles, discuss the impact that the unique "over-the-top" nature of the stunts in the script had on their work. Short and sweet, but again, it doesn't delve into the details of the stunts as much as I wanted.
Grade: B

• "Home Alone Around the World"
Thanks to the magic of foreign voice actors, Culkin becomes fluent in languages such as Mandarin Chinese and Thai! Watch a series of clips from the film dubbed in many languages for the film's foreign theatrical release. Hearing "Joe Pesci" freak out in Thai after a B.B. gun shot to the groin is worth the price of admission alone.
Grade: B+

• "Where's the Buzz Now?"
Various folks involved in the making of the film ponder where life may have taken Buzz (Devin Ratray), Kevin's domineering older brother. This quirky extra ends with Ratray himself, who makes an odd reference to being an "Elvis impersonator impersonator." I found this one unfunny, unnecessary, and out of place.
Grade: D

• "Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin"
During the filming of the movie, Culkin was given a camcorder and free reign to run around and film whatever he wished. He interviews his co-stars, videotapes the sets, and gives a pointer or two to director Chris Columbus. This segment was more fun than I thought it would be. Here, we don't see a child movie star; instead, we see a regular nine-year-old boy trying to capture the world around him as he sees it. I only wish it were longer than the approximate five-minute run time.
Grade: B+

• "Angels with Filthy Souls"
The noirish movie-within-the-movie is shown here in its entirety. My kid had a great time trying to pause this at the same places Kevin did in the film. This is the kind of extra I like, even if it's a short one.
Grade: A

• "1990 Press Featurette"
This roughly five-minute clip is mostly an introduction to the film's plot. Don't expect much in terms of substance; this one's for the completists only.
Grade: C-

• "15 Exclusive Deleted Scenes or Alternate Takes"
I always find it interesting to see what was trimmed from a film, especially if there's commentary explaining why the scene was cut. There's no such dialogue here, so it's up to the viewer to guess why these scenes ended up on the cutting room floor.
Grade: B

• "Hilarious Gag Reel"
Hilarious? No. Funny? Sometimes. Smile-inducing? Yeah, okay. But I guess the cast nailed most of their takes because this one's over before you return from the bathroom.
Grade: B-

• "Set-top Games: Battle Plan, Trivia Quiz, and Head Count"
"Battle Plan" is actually a fun little diversion that will test kids on their memory of the big ending. Animated footprints representing Harry and Marv traipse through a kid-drawn version of Kevin's home. At each point they stop, you select the icon representing the trap that Kevin sprung upon the bandit in the film. Pick successfully, and you're rewarded with the immediate playing of that particular scene from the film. Finally, we get a game that ties in very well with the film itself.
"Battle Plan" Grade: A
"Trivia Quiz" is your standard, multiple-choice set of trivia questions about the film. My beef is that you get less than two dozen questions before it's all over, something that seems all too common with "trivia game" extras on DVDs. Look, give us a good 50 or 100 questions about a film, and I'll call that a "trivia game." Anything less—please, don't bother.
"Trivia Quiz" Grade: C

"Head Count" presents you with a scene from the film before asking you a question of which you'll probably find yourself wildly guessing the answer. "How many people were wearing glasses in the scene?" "What color was the faucet?" My pressing question was, "How do I make this stop?"
"Head Count" Grade: C-

• "Trailers"
"He was just a kid…but tonight…he's a home-security system!" Three trailers are included here, the third of which butchers "Jingle Bells" and asks you to sing along with the house logo bouncing over on-screen lyrics. Watching these makes me realize just how much the "feel" of the movie trailer has changed in the past 15 years.
"Trailers" Grade: B

The Rebuttal Witnesses

Home Alone is certainly fun for the kiddies, but it's rated PG for a good reason. The youngest of children may be frightened on more than one occasion by Pesci and Stern's attempts to get to Kevin. There's also a few bits of language that, personally, I felt could have been completely omitted for this type of film. Granted, it doesn't get any worse than "ass"—and Pesci is far from Goodfellas or Casino mode—but I still found it unnecessary.

Not every extra ("Where's the Buzz Now?," some of the games) cuts the mustard. If you already own this film and extras aren't your thing, you'll most likely want to skip purchasing this edition.

Closing Statement

Home Alone—Family Fun Edition serves up a rollicking film that both kids and adults will enjoy, and it just may make its way into your line-up of must-watch DVDs during the Christmas holiday season. The bevy of extras is nice, even if there's the odd wrinkle or two that doesn't work. And if your kid can't get enough of Kevin's world, check out the solid first sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which eerily copies the structure of the first film yet ups the fun factor as Kevin once again dishes out the pain to the Wet Bandits in an under-construction apartment building. Pretend films three and four do not exist.

The Verdict

The court hereby finds Home Alone—Family Fun Edition not guilty by reason of its own insane fun. The court awards Kevin McAllister his very own cheese pizza, not to be touched, eaten, spit upon, or otherwise defiled by any other person. We do, however, hold those responsible in contempt for the horrendous and completely unnecessary second (I don't care if Roger Ebert does consider the third film to be "better than the first two") and third sequels.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 73
Audio: 80
Extras: 85
Acting: 87
Story: 90
Judgment: 90

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 1.85:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 1990
MPAA Rating: Rated PG
Genres:
• All Ages
• Blockbusters
• Christmas
• Comedy
• Crime

Distinguishing Marks

• Feature Audio Commentary by Director Chris Columbus and Star Macaulay Culkin
• The Making of Home Alone
• How to Burglar Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone
• Home Alone Around the World
• Where's the Buzz Now?
• Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin
• Angels with Filthy Souls
• 1990 Press Featurette
• 15 Exclusive Deleted Scenes or Alternate Takes
• Hilarious Gag Reel
• Set-top Games: Battle Plan, Trivia Quiz, and Head Count
• Trailers

Accomplices

• IMDb








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