‘Home Alone’ celebrates 30 years as cheek-slapping holiday classic

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 30 years of 'Home Alone' (Part 1)

Are you looking for an excuse to kick off your holiday movie watching early this year?

On this day exactly 30 years ago, “Home Alone” opened nationwide on Nov. 16, 1990.

Not only was it the highest grossing movie of the year at $285.7 million domestically, trouncing “Ghost,” “Dances with Wolves” and “Pretty Woman,” it remains No. 43 all time (adjusted for inflation), ahead of “Pinocchio,” “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Goldfinger.”

To celebrate the 30th anniversary, we look back on what makes it a holiday classic.

Imagine you’re a Hollywood producer setting out to make the ultimate holiday family entertainment. To start, you’ll need an original premise that’s never been done before. How about a crowded Chicago family rushes to Paris for the holidays but accidentally leaves its rebellious son at home, allowing him to discover the importance of family?

Who should write it? How about John Hughes, the voice of ’80s youth angst (“The Breakfast Club”), household gadgetry (“Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”), family high jinks (“Christmas Vacation”) and the stress of holiday travel (“Planes, Trains and “Automobiles”). Imagine if Hughes could combine all of these elements in one movie!

Who should direct? How about the future director of family favorites “Mrs. Doubtfire” and “Harry Potter?” Chris Columbus’ directing is just as mischievous as his young protagonist, pushing in for a close-up on Santa door decor, dollying away from a scary basement furnace and spoofing old gangster flicks with “Angels with Filthy Souls.”

Now, we need the perfect child actor for kids to live vicariously through. Enter “Uncle Buck” alum Macaulay Culkin, who can handle the slapstick comedy of booby traps, the action of shoplifting across an ice rink and the heartfelt emotion of Old Man Marley in a church pew. His signature cheek-slapping screams will become an iconic child star.

As for his parents, let’s cast Penny Marshall favorite John Heard (“Big,” “Awakenings”) and Tim Burton favorite Catherine O’Hara (“Beetlejuice,” “The Nightmare Before Christmas”). O’Hara may go on to Emmy-winning success in “Schitt’s Creek,” but she’ll always be remembered for shouting “Kevin!’ as the incarnation of maternal instincts.

She would sell her soul to get home to her son, but thankfully she doesn’t have to. Let’s give her a guardian angel like Clarence in “It’s a Wonderful Life,” but instead of wings, let’s give him a polka band! Enter John Candy, who babysat Culkin in “Uncle Buck” and tackled the stresses of holiday travel in “Planes, Trains and Automobiles.”

As for the bumbling burglars, let’s cast Oscar winner Joe Pesci (“Goodfellas”), but let’s replace his mafioso profanity with gibberish like “fridgle fradgle.” We’ll even name him Harry Lime after “The Third Man.” As his shrieking sidekick Marv, let’s cast Daniel Stern (“Diner”), the perfect goofball to Pesci’s straight man to form The Wet Bandits.

To send it home, how about an Oscar-nominated score by cinema’s greatest composer, John Williams? We might just get an iconic blend of cartoonish sounds, lullaby tones and Tchaikovsky homages, ranging from the suspenseful “Setting the Traps” to the heartwarming “Somewhere in My Memory,” nominated for Best Original Song.

We can even round out the soundtrack with a string of pop tunes, including Chuck Berry’s “Run Rudolph Run,” The Drifters’ “White Christmas,” Southside Johnny Lyon’s “Please Come Home For Christmas” and Brenda Lee’s “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.” Cue the Michael Jordan cardboard cutout chugging along toy train tracks.

For all this, “Home Alone” is a holiday classic. While it received mediocre reviews upon its release, its Rotten Tomatoes rating has grown from 54% to 65% in the past five years alone. To fans, we celebrate “all of the music, all of the magic, all of the family home here with me.” To skeptics, we simply say: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley salutes 30 years of 'Home Alone' (Part 2)

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