I’ve read that one of the worst things in life is wasted talent. Not true. The worst thing in life is the movie Home Alone, John Hughe’s love letter to child abuse and groin-punching. The film stars McCauley Culkin as Kevin, a spoiled brat who, after being abandoned by his narcissistic parents on Christmas, devises elegant and ingenious ways to inflict emotional and physical torture onto the lovable, neighborhood burglars (Daniel Stern, Joe Pesci) and us all.
Strangely, the film is billed as a comedy. After all, what but hi-jinx (and hilarity) could ensue when an emotionally damaged 8 year-old boy is left to defend his home (and his life) against murderers and thieves? I’ve heard that kids are resilient – that’s what I tell them when I steal their Halloween candy/insulin – but this is a little much.
That’s why I’ve chosen Home Alone for this week’s Fiction vs. Reality. Would it still be a laugh riot in real life? To be sure, I’ve placed my 8 year-old nephew Marvin in an abandoned house – I told him that his parents will arrive to take him to Disneyland. Instead, I’ve hired local criminals to break into the home. Will he survive? Let’s find out together at the end.
Special Note: After repeated viewings of the film for this piece, I now suspect this “accidental” abandonment was all part of the father’s secret plan to rid his family (and the world) of Kevin.
Scenario # 1
What Happens: In an attempt to garner attention and love from his abusers, Kevin throws a tantrum in his parents’ bedroom by employing the following strategies:
1) He hops into his mother’s suitcase.
2) He taunts his mother (calling her a dummy) while she fields a phone call.
3) He leaves toy cars on the living room floor with the hope that his Aunt Leslie will fall and die.
Hollywood Version: When Aunt Leslie asks for a “voltage adaptor,” Kevin’s father, unwilling to deviate from his abandonment plan, replies, “Here’s one!” and hands over the boy. It’s played for laughs.
Reality: According to Brian Reeger, Radio Shack assistant manager, “a voltage adaptor is device that supplies electrical energy to one or more electric loads. It’s essentially a cheap piece of plastic that performs one basic function at a nominal cost. Although I doubt the boy is capable of performing this service, I am certain that this insult is an attempt to demean both Kevin and the adaptor.”
Scenario # 2
What Happens: Furious for not having his own personal pizza, Kevin lashes out at his brother Buzz, which sets in motion of chain of violent events that results... in spilt milk.
Hollywood Version: The family, despondent over the milk-spilling, brands him a “jerk” and forces him to sleep in a deserted attic.
Reality: “This is horrifying,” insists Gloria Reginald, psychologist and consultant for TV’s Dexter. “We’re seeing the beginnings of a serial killer. When a young man displays aggression over trivial matters like pizza and refuses to take responsibility for it – he even lambasts the pizza delivery guy! -- and we see a pattern in his family history (his Uncle Frank overreacts about a stain on his slacks), and he is stored in an attic, it can only lead to a place of great mental anguish. It’s probably better the family abandons him; if not, he would murder them.”
Scenario # 3
What Happens: En route to the airport, the entitled McAllister family belittles and bullies phone repairmen, airport shuttle drivers, and airline passengers. Amidst the carnage, they forget about the “voltage adaptor” they locked in the attic.
Hollywood Version: It’s… delightful! Somehow the audience roots for the McAllisters even though in real life, they would push these same people in front of traffic.
Reality: According to Leni Stahl, biographer of Karl Marx, “This is exactly why communism cannot work. This family of monsters is engaged in high-level conspicuous consumption. Marx would urge for a strong and immediate uprising against this entitled family. The burglars are the proletariat (and heroes) of the film. Long live the Wet Bandits.”
Scenario # 4
What Happens: Kevin wakes up alone in his home and believes that his wish came true: his family has disappeared (or been murdered). Meanwhile, despite the father’s Herculean efforts to throw her off the scent of his plan, the mother realizes that she abandoned her son.
Hollywood Version: Elated, Kevin embraces his new-found freedom by jumping on beds, applying aftershave and taunting the voices he hears inside his mind. To celebrate his victory over his tormentors, he steals his brother’s personal effects, inhales large bowls of ice cream and watches a violent noir film entitled Angels with Filthy Souls.
Reality: According to porn star Alexa Angels, “Angels with Filthy Souls is the Hallmark series of my production company. We guarantee scenes that can satisfy everyone’s needs, even (and especially) a loner who needs some company (besides ice cream) during the holidays.”
Scenario # 5
What Happens: Annoyed that the world refuses to cater to her every whim, the mother bullies a poor French woman for not immediately granting her access to a public telephone.
Hollywood Version: Audiences side with the mother even though she has no one to blame but herself (and perhaps her murderous husband).
Reality: “This is a full blown narcissistic episode,” says psychiatrist Jeanie Wells. “When supply runs low, the narcissist will lash out at those who challenge them. Watch her daughters follow suit. It’s very disturbing. I recommend cognitive talk therapy and sterilization for the mother and PTSD medication for the poor French woman.”
Scenario # 6
What Happens: After showcasing his patented “hands to the face” move (aftershave still stings!), Kevin sets up an elaborate ruse at the drug store – he distracts the store clerks with inane questions about toothbrushes – and then runs off without paying.
Hollywood Version: It’s adorable! A fat cop chases after the boy for an entire block before succumbing to cramps and groin pulls. Audiences laugh; I protect my own crotch from John Hughes’ imagination.
Reality: “We enforce a strict diet for all of our cops,” says Mitchell Frank, LAPD. “They must have a BMI between 27 and 29. This cop would be suspended immediately. Additionally, Kevin’s face would be posted to the precinct wall. Shoplifting is a serious offense.”
Scenario # 7
What Happens: Refusing to give up his plan, the father pretends to contact French authorities. Privately, he speaks gibberish into the receiver, but as soon as Uncle Frank walks into the room, he feigns anger and demands help in English.
Hollywood Version: The audience, waiting for the next groin kick, does not detect the father’s evil plan.
Reality: The father, mired in financial difficulty, reveals that he has hired local criminals known as the Wet Bandits to rob and burn down his house so he can collect insurance money and pay off his massive gambling debts. He left Kevin at home on purpose – it’s one less mouth to feed. Nothing will get in his way. Nothing.
Scenario # 8
What Happens: Kevin goes shopping.
Hollywood Version: Before heading to the store, Kevin (and the audience) is hilariously surprised (again) by the sting of aftershave. Also, I secretly hope for a scene where he uncovers the sting of sodium pentathol. At the store, Kevin flirts with a lonely cashier.
Reality: According to Dominic Sandrine, pick-up artist and author of Alpha Dog, “Kevin might be eight, but he is executing all of my principles better than most of my clients. He always keeps her on her toes while remaining light and playful. He knows how to play this cougar. I predict they’ll be in bed together by Christmas Eve – his “hands on the face” move may make another appearance. I would also offer him a lucrative consulting contract.”
Scenario # 9
What Happens: A kind man and his polka band offer a free ride home to Kevin’s mother. During the trip, he invites her to partake in an impromptu jam session.
Hollywood Version: Feeling this activity is beneath her, the narcissist mocks the men and refuses to participate. In her mind, she is doing them a favor by gracing them with her presence.
Reality: Same. Hollywood gets it right.
Scenario # 10
What Happens: Before unleashing his anger onto the two, unsuspecting crooks, Kevin accidentally runs into a weird old man dubbed the South Bend Shovel Slugger in a church.
Hollywood Version: It’s revealed that the shovel slugger isn’t a murderer; he’s just a sad man named Marley who proffers terrifying advice like: “Church is where people go to feel bad about themselves” and “it’s never too old to be afraid.” After unloading his emotional problems onto an 8 year-old, he asks for the boy’s thoughts on a private family matter involving his estranged son.
Reality: “This lapse in judgment is exactly why I won’t let this man near my child,” says Frank Marley, the old man’s son. “I’d be prouder if he were a killer. At least, he’d be accomplishing something.”
Scenario # 11
What Happens: Kevin channels his inner rage and abandonment issues into unspeakable violence that he cheerfully inflicts upon the two bumbling crooks for nearly twenty minutes.
Hollywood version: The audience laughs and cheers while the robbers’ appendages (especially their groins) endure broken glass, icy steps, tar, flying paint cans, tarantulas, hot pokers, flamethrowers, gravity, and BB gun pellets. I start to believe Old Man Marley: it really is never too old to be afraid.
Reality # 1: “This is essentially a children’s version of Sam Peckinpah’s horror film Straw Dogs,” says Seattle Chronicle movie reviewer Same Raie. “In that film, Dustin Hoffman must overcome his shy demeanor (and his wife’s rape) to defend his home against murderous intruders. It’s a terrifying look at the animal within us all. This film is actually more disturbing because it features a sociopathic minor, an upbeat score, and an unconscionable use of tarantulas. How it did not receive an NC-17 rating from the MPAA is beyond me.”
Reality # 2: According to Mitchell Frank, LAPD, “We got him. The Wet Bandits are the victims of this boy’s dangerous games. Once they identify boy, I would arrest Kevin and charge him with two dozen counts of attempted murder as well as that original shoplifting charge; justice will prevail.”
Scenario # 12
What Happens: After Kevin crushes the souls (and crotches) of the Wet Bandits, the family returns home and expresses unalloyed cheer upon realizing that Kevin, once again, has ruined their plans. After hearing that Kevin went grocery shopping, the father stares him down and declares, “What a funny guy.” He perhaps underestimated his victim.
Hollywood Version: The music swells; everyone is happy. Child abandonment can teach us all a heartfelt (and hilarious) lesson. Also, no one uncovers the father’s devious plan.
Reality: Kevin slaps his hands to his face one last time after witnessing his father approach him with a shotgun. Kevin is shot dead. The father pins it on the South Bend Shovel Slugger, then sets his own house (and family) on fire and starts a new life with that flirty cashier.
Reality (according to Nephew Marvin): [note: Marvin was found wrapped up in a blanket in the fetal position. He is with child services and is not available for comment.]
Final Thought: There is a sadness that envelops lonely people during the holidays. They might attempt to fill that void with work, casual affairs, or alcohol. Thanks to this film, however, we can now add “flamethrowers” to the list. The reality is that child abuse shouldn’t (always) inspire belly laughs, we are endowed with crotches for reasons other than to launch things into them, and, finally, if you ever plan to rob a house, dispense with the drama (and pratfalls) and simply murder the kid. Happy Holidays!