Home Alone: Family Fun Edition [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment
Review written by and copyright: Jeremiah Chin (4th March 2009).
The Film

Ownership in the film industry can easily become an overcomplicated issue as different studios, writers, directors, producers and others battle for control of what they have helped create. What doesn’t show up in legal transcripts, court records or entertainment news are those specific points of time where someone completely owns a genre. Some will never relinquish their hold as their mark becomes completely distinctive, like what George A. Romero has done with his “Dead” (1968-2007) pentilogy (soon to be hexilogy), where the director or writer becomes THE name in the field. If you look at teen comedies from the 1980’s to today its hard to find something outside the sex comedy that John Hughes didn’t own or define about those films. But where do these dominators go after they’ve conquered an area? Sure you can stay within genre, but as the 80’s were coming to a close, Hughes closed out his Teen comedy dominance by moving into the family comedy, starting the 90’s with the movie that sparked the career of Macaulay Culkin: “Home Alone” (1990).

The plot almost follows a similar plot to Hughes' teen comedies starting with the basic premise of fairly affluent suburban people under 18, out from under their parent’s supervision. In this case it’s Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) whose family has decided to take their Christmas vacation in France this year and in their preparations keep on overlooking or conflicting with Kevin’s desires, be it packing advice or plain cheese pizza. After a power outage, the family wakes up late and rushes to the airport, not remembering until they are halfway over the Atlantic that they have left Kevin home alone. After spending a few hours rejoicing in his newfound freedom, eating ice cream and watching a 1930’s gangster movie (what 10-year-old doesn’t), the family vacation becomes a liability as the wet bandits Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci) are running through the neighborhood ransacking houses while everyone’s on vacation.

It’s hard to deny “Home Alone” as a classic in the 19 years since it’s release. At the core are the quintessential mouse-trap scenarios that light the burgler’s heads on fire, have them stepping on glass, burning them with doorknobs, and who can forget the classic can of paint on a rope to the face. But in many ways “Home Alone” hits on some classic Christmas movie territory, not really in the yippee ki yay “Die Hard” (1988) way, but touching on all of the comedy and family scenarios that seem to define the genre, but with some added traps. Culkin reminds us why he was such a good child actor as he takes as much joy in the bandit’s pain as the audience does, orchestrating some clever stunts and acting like an adult when needing to get supplies. And a good deal of that comes out of Hughes writing, which has a unique knack for writing younger characters (even babies in “Baby’s Day Out” (1994) which is still funny, I promise).

At the same time it’s a tribute to what Chris Colombus does well as a director as the film follows the movie perfectly and lets you watch the traps so you get full effect without cutting too much around the action (though still cutting enough to allow the stuntmen to do their thing so Joe Pesci doesn’t get a concussion from slipping on Micro Machines). But more than the directing, it’s John Williams' score that really brings the film together, bringing in the more classic Christmas themes along with the song “Somewhere in My Memory” that runs through the entire film and gets at the heart of the film itself.

Overall, “Home Alone” gets to everything you could want from a Hughes Christmas movie not starring Molly Ringwald or Anthony Michael Hall, but plus lots of physical comedy gags. There’s some drama in the family being separated, which Culkin and Catherine O’Hara do a good job of selling, along with some amazing scoring, some solid traps and a huge nostalgia factor that helps to make the movie worth it.

Video

The film is presented in 1080p 24/fps HD at an aspect ratio of 1.85:1 with AVC MPEG-4 encoding at 33 MBPS and the transfer looks great and seems to stand out more in quality than other films as it’s a film I’ve watched on TV, VHS and DVD and can see the quality uprgrading every time. The Blu-ray edition allows you to see some details that would be missed otherwise and add flavor to the film more so than any plot details; the colors look really good and hold up in quality and overall the film may not be the best looking Blu-ray period, but in terms of older movies being upgraded it does a fantastic job.

Audio

There's English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, English Dolby Digital 2.0 surround track, along with French, Spanish and Portuguese DTS 5.1 tracks. The DTS-HD track brings out Williams’ scoring incredibly well, both in terms of levels and balance and the overall movement of the score. All of the hits in the traps come through well and there are no pops or oddly muted sections that could bring down the transfer. Of course though, Williams’ scoring is the anchor of the film and the audio track as well and the audio track beautifully shows why.
There are optional English, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Mandarin and Korean subtitles.

Extras

The single disc comes with an audio commentary, 7 featurettes, 15 deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a bonus trailer.

First up is the audio commentary with director Chris Colombus and star Macaulay Culkin, apparently recorded in 2007, which gives a good retrospective on making the film from telling on set stories to overall casting and production behind the film. It’s a nice, candid interview with some good laughs between the two, though some awkward pauses at the same time, but their candor in pointing out how they did some of the special effects or how with the upgraded transfer you can see the faces on the stunt doubles, makes the commentary worthwhile (especially a story about Pesci who, in Columbus’ words, would insert ‘the f word’ into every few beats to help memorize his lines).

The “1990’s Press" featurette runs for 3 minutes and 52 seconds, and mostly acts as it describes by providing a brief look behind the scenes of the film as all of the major actors are described in brief talking head interviews along with some quick cuts of a conversation with the director.

Next is “The Making of ‘Home Alone’” which runs for 19 minutes and 25 seconds. This making-of featurette, much like the commentary, was made more recently and talks with Columbus, Culkin, Stern, and a great deal of the crew that were incredibly surprising to hear from, including Pesci’s stunt double, the stunt coordinator, giving a much larger look at the film even though this making-of was apparently put together so many years later. There’s some good behind-the-scenes footage that shows Columbus directing Culkin and the rest of the cast.

“Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin” runs for 4 minutes and 46 second. For this featurette the producers gave Culkin a camcorder on set during the filming of “Home Alone” to record all of his behind-the-scenes looks and the antics between all the child actors, interspliced with some present reactions to when he was given the camera on the airport running scene. An interesting brief look behind-the-scenes from the eyes of the ‘Mac Cam.’

“How to Burglar Proof Your Home: The stunts of ‘Home Alone’” runs for 7 minutes and 4 seconds. This featurette looks at the stunt coordinating of the final scenes of the film, talking through all the different moments from the stunt perspective and the filming perspective. It’s a great look at all the stunts that went down in the film, including some frame by frame looks at the film itself to point out where the stuntmen’s faces were.

“‘Home Alone’ Around the World” runs for 3 minutes and 53 seconds. This featurette basically runs through all the different languages that Home alone has been dubbed into, showing the key scenes that are really hilarious to watch and hear all the different dub actors who sound so different from what you’re expecting from the film.

“Where’s Buzz Now?” (listed on the packaging on “Where’s the Buzz Now?”) runs for 3 minutes and 3 seconds, where the major players of the film spend the short featurette talking about what happened to Buzz the character. Guesses range from minister to soldier to dog catcher, including an interview the actor who portrayed Buzz making up his own story for the character.

“Angels with Filthy Souls” featurette runs for 2 minutes and 6 seconds, dealing briefly with the conception of the short piece, including an uninterrupted version of the film within a film which is beautifully put together, presented in widescreen with all the right film pops and artifacts that you would expect.

Next are the deleted scenes, 15 in all, which can be played all together (which runs for 15 minutes and 4 seconds) or individually. The scenes include:

- “The Silent Treatment” runs for 47 seconds, where Harry, dressed as a cop tries to talk to some of the little kids who just stare back at him.
- “Buzz Off!” runs for 33 seconds, Buzz talks about turning Marley in for the reward money and threatens to nail Kevin to Marley’s front door.
- “Frank’s Yank” runs for 21 seconds, where Uncle Frank pants Kevin.
- “Undercover Crook” runs for 1 minute and 34 seconds, an extended scene where Harry questions the delivery boy about how nice his home is.
- “Criminal Decency” runs for 1 minute and 4 seconds, Harry goes on a rant to Marv about the moral decay of society.
- “Hungry Alone” runs for 25 seconds. Kevin wakes up hungry and can’t figure out what to eat with no one around.
- “Figurines Final Judgment” runs for 53 seconds , this is an extended/alternate version of the BB gun vs. action figures scene where he sentences them to execution for being owned by his brother.
- “Close Encounters of the Marley Kind” runs for 32 seconds, Kevin spots Marley after sledding down the stairs of his home.
- “Hello…Goodbye” runs for 50 seconds, The McCallister family cousins await the arrival of their relatives who just run right past them.
- “Do You Speak French?” runs for 2 minutes and 28 seconds. Back at the apartment in Paris, they try to watch TV and talk over the phone in French, while Buzz tries to read the French newspaper.
- “A Very Harry Christmas” runs for 1 minute and 49 seconds. Harry and Marv go looking for Kevin after they loose track of him when they were spotted scoping out the neighborhood.
- “Marv’s Christmas Coffee” runs for 1 minutes and 20 seconds. An alternate take of the above scene where Marv makes a different suggestion to Harry about what to do to relax, but makes the coffee too strong.
- “Sleepless in Paris” runs for 1 minute and 28 seconds. Kevin freaks out about brushing his teeth with stolen goods then goes to watch Johnny Carson to fall asleep with, while back in paris everyone stays up worrying except for Buzz.
- “A Savvy Shopper” runs for 1 minute and 7 seconds. Kevin makes a trip to the grocery store and starts checking the store for fabric softner.
- “Christmas is About…” runs for 1 minute and 32 seconds, where Peter McCallister and one of his kids stay up talking about what Christmas is about.

Finally, the blooper reel runs for 2 minutes and 4 seconds, which runs like a typical blooper reel fodder of flubbed lines and mistakes, though surprisingly Pesci manages to not swear (at least in the scenes they show).

The only bonus trailer on the disc is for “The Simpsons' Movie” which runs for 1 minute and 53 seconds.

Overall

The Film: A- Video: A Audio: A Extras: B+ Overall: A-

 


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