Rewatching a Childhood Favorite With My Kids: The ‘Home Alone’ Movies

Macaulay Culkin in ‘Home Alone.’ Image via 20th Century Fox.

Ever since Disney+ showed up, parents have been clamoring to share their childhood favorites with their kids, from television series (live-action and animated) to movies. From what I’ve observed, this has sometimes had mixed results. Some kids embrace the “old school” stuff happily. Others give their parents a confused look and don’t get why the parental unit in question thought this was so cool. Nostalgia hits heartbreak fast.

But this year, when I told my kids that the Fortune Cookie Soap Advent Calendar was going to be Home Alone themed they quickly asked: “What’s Home Alone?” At that moment I realized, we hadn’t brought out this essential ’90s holiday classic for them yet, and they were just about the right ages for the movie. Disney+ does stream both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, so we wouldn’t even need to go buy a copy. I hadn’t seen the movies since I was a kid, even though I loved them as hard as any other ’90s kid could have. My favorite tabletop gaming trick of buying caltrops to stick under windows or places you have to defend from other humanoids was inspired by Kevin McCallister and the glass Christmas ornaments. Sometimes rewatching a childhood family film or show finds the former child who is now the adult siding more with the grown-ups. Was that going to happen here? Was I going to catch any innuendo jokes as an adult that went straight over my head as a kid? Does the movie age well? Would my kids embrace this one or not? We started with the first movie to see how it would go over.

Home Alone Reactions

The music: As the strands of classic John Williams started to play, our third grader looked at me and told me that it sounded familiar. My geeky heart swelled with pride when I explained that John Williams had done the movies for Home Alone, Star Wars, and Harry Potter. Harry Potter, in particular, seems to carry pieces of music from the other movies Williams has scored.

The McCallister house: It’s been noted on the internet before, but seriously, what do his parents do to afford that house and a fifteen person to Paris trip?

The phone call in the beginning: Kate looks exasperated as Kevin comes in fussing about something she has no idea about while trying to organize her own large family for an overseas trip. Her exhausted “Kevin, I’m on the phone” was something I felt and related to hard.

Uncle Frank won’t let Kevin see the old school mob movie: This had an interesting parallel as our younger son is really starting to feel that frustration when his brother can do things because of the age he isn’t ready for yet. Our older kid is about Kevin’s age and that really is an age where you’re not a “little kid” but you’re still too young for a lot of things. I have seen that struggle in my own house and I felt for Kevin with a new context. I also caught the “if Uncle Frank thinks it’s bad” implication that Uncle Frank is usually the guy that lets you get away with stuff you shouldn’t be doing.

The McCallister home security: Peter McCallister highlights to Harry as a fake cop that they have automatic timers on the lights. A house that expensive and no mention of a security alarm? Now I start to wonder when home security alarms actually came out. In our current times where many middle-class families own at least a Ring doorbell, it boggles my mind that for a well off family the height of home security is automatic timers for your lights. My how times have changed.

The fight: I felt for Kevin as a kid, I felt for him more as an adult. Buzz was being a jerk, and I would not let another adult call my kids names (I’m calling you out, Uncle Frank). The fight Kevin has with Kate is grounded hard in reality. How many times have your kids said something in anger they didn’t mean but it still hurts? How many times have the holidays and excess of in-laws put your stress to the point where you don’t handle an upset kid with the fairness and consideration you probably should have? At least Kate didn’t make Kevin sleep with Fuller. (By the way, as a kid I had no idea Fuller was played by Macaulay Culkin’s real-life brother Kieran.)

The scramble to get someone to Kevin: It’s hard now to imagine the same struggles the McCallisters have trying to get in touch with Kevin when they realize he’s missing. The number of neighbors I could contact via cellphone or Facebook Messenger is high. Not to mention as a kid from a wealthy family, Kevin probably would have owned a smartphone of his own or at least one of those watches with GPS that can call a few select numbers. While technology has its issues, its advances have been highly beneficial in emergencies. Also worth noting, was Child Protective Services not fully functioning? I can’t imagine a kid getting left alone while his family is in another country with the police being contacted not triggering an investigation.

Tricking the pizza boy: My kids found this as hysterical, as I did when I was their age. As an adult, I marvel that the cops weren’t called to come to check things out.

Old Man Marley: There are these moments where sometimes kids simplify things adults have really complicated up. Kevin’s conversation with Old Man Marley about fallings out with family is the kind of thing that goes straight to the feels.

Kevin versus the Wet Bandits: There is something about a kid coming up with booby traps to attack a bad guy that hits hard on the kids’ appeal list. I found myself doing the parental “don’t ever do ANY of this at home” disclaimer that emphasized how that stuff would often end in hospitalization or death while my boys rolled with laughter. I especially highlighted shooting people with BB guns. We brought up a conversation on the tricks stunt departments use to make dangerous things safe for the actors too. If you want a look at how much damage those booby traps would really cause, Jake Roper gives a breakdown here.

The reunions: Kevin missing his family and being relieved when they return still gets me in the feels. So does Old Man Marley reconciling with his son. Kevin’s family still needs a hard look at how they treated him, but Kate’s relief at Kevin being okay, her stubborn insistence on how she would move mountains to get home to him did resonate with me, especially as a mom.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York Reactions

The Talkboy: My children are never allowed to own such an item because it would drive me up the wall. Either Uncle Rob who gives great presents got this for Kevin or it was bought out of guilt over leaving him home alone last Christmas.

Buzz ruins Kevin’s solo: Of course Uncle Frank finds this hysterical. Buzz publicly humiliating Kevin is awful. His fake apology that his mother buys is even worse. I have seen kids like Buzz when I was still teaching in conferences and the parents that buy their acts. How do you not realize what a bully your kid is? Seriously? Also, one of the adults really needs to call out Uncle Frank on how he addresses Kevin. On the other hand, is there anything more satisfying than Kevin calling his uncle out for being a cheapskate?

Kate and Kevin again: So grounded in reality, but this time I am certainly siding more with Kevin. Buzz says the right words and gets away with everything? Buzz probably has a future as a shark of a lawyer. Kate, didn’t you learn from the major mom guilt you got last year?

Kevin getting separated over batteries: Your kid getting separated from a group because they fixate on something distracting that can honestly wait totally checks out as plausible. I know the McCallisters were running late—again—but maybe it’s time to put a buddy system in place already.

Trying to locate Kevin: In the present time, odds are good that if Kevin didn’t have a GPS watch where he can also contact his parents, something in his dad’s bag probably would. Never mind his parents could use the GPS watch to find him. I also feel like a missing kid like Kevin would start an internet social media search. There are certainly more tools in place to help a situation like this now. Again, though, how is this family staying off the Child Protective Services radar?

The hotel in Florida: Uncle Frank said it was nicer on their honeymoon. Who thought it was a good idea to let the family’s notorious cheapskate pick out accommodations?

Tim Curry and Rob Schneider: Two of the most recognizable supporting cast characters in this movie, and I’m pretty sure this was the first time as a kid I ever saw something with Tim Curry in it. They were both delightful.

Duncan’s Toy Chest: My kids now desperately want to see a real-life equivalent of this. I did too at their age.

Kevin getting room service: I occasionally pull a joke at a restaurant about “I’ll have x, I’m not driving.” It’s always about something completely innocent like ordering rootbeer or something along those lines and I don’t think I first said it until I was at least in my late 20s (if not my 30s). When Kevin asks for a third scoop of ice cream because he’s not driving, I stared at the screen in shock. I had no idea my running joke had Kevin McCallister’s origins.

Kevin on the run: Again, in this age, once his folks realized Kevin was on the loose in New York, I would have expected them to start a social media campaign to spread awareness. Again, if Kevin was worried about the police, odds are good that in today’s age he would have had some device with him or in his dad’s bag he could use to reach his family directly.

Kevin’s heart-to-heart with the Pigeon Lady: Kevin has wisdom beyond his years once again, but sometimes grown-ups really do muck things up. He gets a little advice of his own too.

Kevin versus the Sticky Bandits: They were going to steal money intended for the children’s hospital. My kids love watching the renovated house of horrors Kevin puts the Sticky Bandits through. Again me telling them DON’T try this at home and we pointed out some of the ways they likely made the stunt safer for actors than it would be in real life. My kids were delighted at the details of Harry still having the “M” branded on his hand and both criminals being wary of situations where Kevin had fooled them before. Watching the birds being sent after them when they tried to shoot Kevin was immensely satisfying for them.

Kevin reunites with his family: As a parent, seeing Kevin no longer running around the streets of New York is comforting, and Buzz actually said something quasi-nice to him, but the best moment was Kevin passing the turtledove ornament to the Pigeon Lady. He’s not a perfect kid, but he has a big heart.

Overall Thoughts

The first two Home Alone movies hold up better than a lot of childhood favorites. While technology would majorly change things, I think the reason the movies still resonate is that deep down they are stories about the challenges of families and being in that preteen age range. Those things don’t change even as technology does. As a parent, I certainly do see the movie with a new set of filters. There are moments that certainly hit me on a new emotional level as a parent that they never did as a kid. At the same time, as an adult, I want to call out the McCallisters the way Kevin called out his uncle. The saddest part might be that Macaulay Culkin’s real-life drama with his parents was arguably worse than what Kevin went through. Kids watching the movie are always going to love the booby trap part where a kid outsmarts adults, and my kids were no exception to this. I understand there are talks of remaking these movies, which they might be able to do if they keep the heart of it but find a way to explain how modern technology and the likelihood of Child Protective Services getting involved don’t come into play. This movie is probably a safer one to share with elementary school-aged kids and have them get why you loved it so much.

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