"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).