Home Alone was a movie people thought would be a disaster... and it definitely was not.
It's hard to think about a holiday season that does not involve watching Home Alone. This perennial classic warms the heart, makes you laugh, and has a nice punch of excitement and creativity to boot.
When word that the movie would be remade reached its director, Chris Columbus, he didn't mince words.
“It’s a waste of time, as far as I’m concerned,” Columbus said in a recent interview with Insider. “What’s the point? I’m a firm believer that you don’t remake films that have had the longevity of Home Alone. You’re not going to create lightning in a bottle again. It’s just not going to happen.”
I think that was the right reaction. Especially when you think about how many crazy things had to go right for the movie to work.
It was in trouble when Fox picked it up, and even though it became the highest-grossing domestic comedy of all time with the $476 million box-office bonanza, we are lucky it was made at all.
We all know the story. Kevin is forgotten at home when his family heads off for a vacation in Florida. He is faced with growing up, targeted by the Wet Bandits, and must conquer his fear of his neighbor, all while his mother tries to get back home to him.
The movie was written by the beloved John Hughes, who came about the idea rather innocently.
“I was going away on vacation, and making a list of everything I didn’t want to forget,” he explained in an interview with Time. “I thought, ‘Well, I’d better not forget my kids.’ Then I thought, ‘What if I left my 10-year-old son at home? What would he do?’”
The writing is perfection, and the performance of Macaulay Culkin somehow maintains that level of exquisiteness. Catherine O'Hara plays his mother, and she's at the top of her game as well. Of course, honorable mention for John Candy, who shot his scenes as a favor and did them all in a legendary 24 hours and was only paid a little over $400 for his role.
And he delivered a lot of the dialogue off the cuff when pages of the script were not working.
“None of that stuff was in the script,” Columbus told Insider. “The funeral-parlor story, that was all improvised at 4:30 in the morning. We could barely keep a straight face on set just listening to John.”
Oh, and what about Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern? That pair was almost never to be, with Robert De Niro being tossed around and Stern being thought of as too expensive.
It's been 30 years since the movie debuted, and it's reasonable to look back and think about what you would change or try to push for in hindsight. But the movie's director doesn't feel that way.
Columbus said, "But because we didn't have CGI back then, there were challenges. I remember the BB gunshot—when Kevin fires the gun at Marv when he pokes his head through the dog door—the way we got that effect, and this is a true story, we paid a guy living in his mother's basement in Chicago $600 to hand paint that BB going into Marv's head. So that was an animated effect. A guy with a paintbrush in a basement for six frames hand-painted a BB. This was an $18 million film, so, for our budget, I'm pretty happy how it turned out."
I love hearing someone without any regrets for a movie. I know that this piece of cinema was so important to me, my personality, and the sense of adventure I developed in my formative years. Remakes come and go, and I wish them luck, but Columbus is right. You can't manufacture lightning in a bottle.
But you can rewatch it over and over again,
Is this film one of your holiday favorites? Let me know what you think in the comments.