When John Hughes died unexpectedly in the summer of 2009, movie buffs honored his memory by waxing nostalgic about his '80s, coming-of-age tales like "The Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off." And while I too adore those films, I was too young to appreciate firsthand the glory days of the Brat Pack. My movie-going experience began later, when Demi Moore had moved on to spinning clay with Patrick Swayze and Emilio Estevez was coaching Pacey Witter's rag-tag hockey team. No, the John Hughes flick that will always resonate most with me is the classic Christmas caper flick "Home Alone," which opened 20 years ago this week.
I was 8 years old when the movie hit theaters in 1990—the same age as precocious protagonist Kevin McCallister, played by blond moppet Macaulay Culkin. So many elements of this film thrilled me, not least of which were the intricate contraptions Hughes dreamed up as punishment for the bumbling burglars who tried to rob Kevin's house while his family was away on Christmas vacation in France. (We get a sneak peek of Hughes' imaginative Rube Goldberg gizmos in "Ferris Bueller." Remember his voice machine?) Anyway, I loved not only the character of Kevin—a brave, young, quasi-vigilante who spoke his mind and didn't let grown-ups push him around—but also Macaulay, who really was the cat's pajamas. I think my tween self had our entire wedding planned out, down to the "Little Mermaid" dinnerware and Scooby Doo tablecloths.
As an adult, my fascination never seemed to diminish. I spent a year in graduate school in suburban Chicago, mere miles from the setting of Hughes' magnum opus, and am not embarrassed to admit I made several pilgrimages to the tony Winnetka, Ill., neighborhood where the house sits to this day (albeit smaller than it seemed on the big screen). I drove past the pharmacy where Kevin stole a (probably?) American Dental Association-approved toothbrush—a site that's now home to a Panera. And now that I live in New York, I can't help but grin every time I pass the Plaza Hotel, Kevin's temporary home during the events of "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York."
Nowadays, I don't really go out of my way to watch "Home Alone" (even though I do own it on both VHS and DVD), but I do always stop when I find it on cable. To be honest, it's sometimes hard to watch, seeing as I have nearly every line memorized. But I just can't turn away. We all possess little treasures and trinkets from childhood that remind us of a time before life got adult and real, and for me, that beloved bit of nostalgia is "Home Alone."
Are you a "Home Alone" fan?