Released in November 1990, Home Alone has become one of the go-to Christmas-season movies for many people, but it's not exactly all candy canes and gingerbread cookies.
Macaulay Culkin stars as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister, who lives with his parents (John Heard, Catherine O'Hara) and many siblings in a swank mansion in an upscale Chicago neighborhood. When the family piles out to head to Paris for Christmas, Kevin is accidentally left behind, and nobody realizes until everyone is on the plane.
As his frantic mother tries to get back to him, Kevin must fend for himself, including dealing with persistent but incompetent robbers (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) and a mysterious neighbor (Roberts Blossom).
Home Alone is produced by John Hughes, well-known for his teen-oriented films, but the actual director is Catholic Chris Columbus. He produced Netflix's 2018 hit Christmas Chronicles, starring Kurt Russell and Goldie Hawn as Santa and Mrs. Claus, and is co-writer and director of this year's sequel, Christmas Chronicles 2 (more on Columbus, his faith and that film here).
We checked in with Family Theater Productions producer-at-large Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C. -- a Chicago-area native and film buff -- to see what true Christmas elements are visible in Home Alone.
Home Alone is definitely an action comedy, but what about it makes it a true family film?
The concern of the mother reminds me of Mother Mary and St. Joseph realizing they left their son back in Jerusalem. The worry the saints must have gone through shows their humanity, and I believe serves as the unspoken subtext for the film.
What about it makes it a true Christmas film?
The movement of Kevin from fear to faith. I know when I was that age, being left alone was a real fear that I’m sure I shared with most other children of the time. Kevin eventually trusts in himself and his God-given precociousness to overcome the two burglars.
We sometimes forget Mary was greatly troubled at the greeting of Gabriel. She took time to ponder the message and offer a response in the affirmative: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord.” A similar thing could be said of St. Joseph, initially wanting to divorce Mary quietly, but through God’s intervention he’s convinced to stay the course and foster-father the coming Christ child.
What’s the evidence that the McCallisters are a Catholic family?
The evidence the McCallisters are Catholic would come by the way of conjecture and some stereotyping. That the family is large enough the mix-up of leaving a child behind while the rest spirits away to Paris would be possibly Catholic. The Irish last name traditionally overlaps with Catholicism. The church where Kevin prays seems to be Catholic in architecture or at least high church Protestant (Editor's note: It was an Episcopal church).
However, I’m originally from an Illinois suburb myself, and I know the house used for the film is in Winnetka, which is more historically Protestant in confession. If they wanted to shoot in a Catholic town, they should have chosen my hometown of Naperville.
How would you define the true moral message of Home Alone?
Overcoming fear through faith in oneself. Then one can truly love God and others He has placed in our path.
Where does the movie morally go astray?
Kevin uses physical force to outwit the burglars. While far from the ideal of the “Prince of Peace” born at Christmas, it would still be permitted by Catholic teaching, especially in the aim of self-preservation.
As a native of the Chicago area, what did the movie get right and wrong about the city?
The characterizations and accents were pretty good. I also vaguely remember some family members wearing paraphernalia of the local professional sports teams, which would be accurate, as it’s a sports-crazy town.
I always thought the premise a little far-fetched. While a few families might have traveled for Christmas break, the whole street would definitely not be deserted and, even it it was, a neighborhood in an upper-middle-class city would be well-policed.
Why should families watch Home Alone at Christmastime?
They should watch any time of the year as your house could be robbed at any point. So, maybe it’s ultimately an Advent themed film … as Scripture says, one never knows the time or place …
Image: Adobe Stock
Father Vince Kuna, C.S.C., is also a graduate of USC film school. Click here to visit his IMDB page.