'Home Alone' is the Charles' post-Christmas gift for kids, parents and hipsters

The 1990 Yuletide smash returns as a pick-me-up for the week before New Year's

December 23, 2010|By Michael Sragow, The Baltimore Sun

"Home Alone" premiered in 1990 and swiftly became the third-highest-grossing film up to that time. Leaning hard on the sensitive-brat charm of 8-year-old Macaulay Culkin, it convulsed family audiences — and some slapstick and cartoon fans, too — with its tale of a boy literally left behind in the Christmas rush when his family flies off to Paris without him.

My theory is that producer-writer John Hughes hired Chris Columbus to direct because of Columbus' script for Joe Dante's horror comedy, "Gremlins." Culkin's character, Kevin McCallister, is like the cuddly good gremlin and the spiky bad gremlin rolled into one. Indeed, the movie is at its liveliest when Kevin gets to be good by being bad — relying on his vicious childish ingenuity to defend the family homestead against the bumbling burglars played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. For one sequence, the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse cartoon and a lampoon of home-invasion thrillers.

Of course, this slapstick relief floats in a pile of Yuletide mush, revolving around the mutually enlightening friendship between Kevin and a deceptively menacing next-door neighbor (Roberts Blossom) and Kevin's reconciliation with the family that had unwittingly abandoned him (led by Catherine O'Hara as his mom).

But a lot of films that become semi-camp classics rely on peculiar mixtures of heartlessness and sentimentality — and "Home Alone" may be one of them.

Relying on its young employees' fervid opinion that it would make "fun alternative programming" for the week after Christmas, the management of the Charles Theatre has scheduled "Home Alone" for two showtimes next week: 2 p.m. Monday and 9 p.m. Thursday.

"A couple of our enthusiastic staff members have been lobbying for things like midnight movies," the Charles' Kathleen Cusack said this week, "and these two showings are in that vein. Parents can bring their kids at 2 p.m. on Monday and 26-year-old hipsters can see it then or at 9 p.m. on Thursday. We're told that the 26-year-old hipsters watch it because it's cool. Showing the film is their idea. They know more about what's cool than I do. The kids who work for us are very hip, and we defer to their judgment."

If it's a success, I'd humbly suggest that next year, instead of showing "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," the Charles reserve the screen time for "Gremlins."

michael.sragow@baltsun.com

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