Picks and Pans Review: Home Alone

updated 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/26/1990 AT 01:00 AM EST

Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Catherine O'Hara

In this holly-folly of a Christmas comedy, a large family is jetting off to Paris for the holidays. Halfway across the Atlantic they realize they've left their 8-year-old son (Culkin) at home.

Is the kid beset with separation anxiety? Nah, he's delighted. You would be too if you'd finally gotten rid of a family that call each other endearing names like "phlegm wad." His only problem is warding off a pair of persistent but bumbling burglars (Pesci and Daniel Stern) who keep trying to break into his suburban spread.

Director Chris (Adventures in Babysitting) Columbus has another problem. How do you stretch a simple domestic siege into a feature-length film? Columbus navigates by putting off the inevitable cartoonish confrontation between the child and the overmatched criminals for as long as possible and then throwing in another 20 minutes of delay for good measure.

Culkin was a decent enough foil to John Candy in Uncle Buck, but to ask him to carry an entire movie is insane. Take, for instance, the scenes when he first finds himself alone and rushes around indulging in forbidden activities. There hasn't been a celebration this forced and joyless since Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve.

Fortunately Culkin gets some support from Pesci, one of Hollywood's most ingratiating character actors, and from O'Hara. Her subplot—she's the frantic mom trying to get home by hook or by crook—allows writer-producer John Hughes to reprise his odious odyssey shtick from Planes, Trains and Automobiles. After bouncing from airport to airport, she ends up traveling from Scranton to Chicago in the back of a rent-a-truck with a second-rate polka band. John Candy, in a drive-through role as the bandleader, makes the most of his reunion with fellow SCTV trouper O'Hara.

You know this is a Christmas movie because all the houses are strung with lights, the snow sparkles like diamonds, and every TV—even the ones in Paris—seems to be showing Miracle on 34th Street or some other Yuletide classic. But between Hughes's hermetic plotting, Columbus's overluminous lighting, John Williams's sugarplum score and the unearned bathos of the conclusion, you're being force-fed your cup of cheer. Instead of engendering a holiday feeling, Home Alone gives you that bloated day-after sensation. (PG)

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