Updated: Feb 13, 2021
4K ULTRA HD REVIEW / HDR FRAME SHOTS
Nine-year-old Macaulay Culkin plays Kevin McCallister, who’s accidentally left behind when his family flies off to Paris for the holidays. Joe Pesci plays Harry and Daniel Stern as Marv, the “Wet Bandits,” who’ve been robbing homes in Kevin’s neighborhood.
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“HOME ALONE: 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION”
4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 1990, PG for rude humor; streaming via Amazon Video Prime (4K), Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play (4K), Movies Anywhere (4K), Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)
Best extra: Commentary with director Chris Columbus and actor Macaulay Culkin
THIRTY YEARS ago, writer/producer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus could barely muster a good review for their holiday comedy “Home Alone.” The late Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel of Chicago’s Sun-Times and Tribune newspapers, who had a huge national TV following with “At the Movies,” both gave it a “Thumbs Down.”
Siskel commented first during the three-minute TV segment review, slamming the performance of Joe Pesci (Raging Bull” and “Goodfellas”) who plays Harry, of one of the “Wet Bandits.” “This is the first time Pesci has given a bad performance. It’s a bad role,” Siskel said.
Columbus was actually shocked the Oscar-nominated actor accepted a part in the family-friendly movie. Pesci won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas” four months after “Home Alone” debuted. In the story, Harry (Pesci) and his partner Marv (Daniel Stern) have staked out an upper-middle-class suburban Chicago neighborhood, knowing the majority of the families would be on vacation between Christmas and New Year's. “The slapstick with the burglars in the picture, that’s predictable… I just don’t think a bright enough script was written,” Siskel said. Ebert was just as negative: “It’s totally unrealistic, I lost interest.”
(1&2) Kevin’s older brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) tells him and their cousin Ron (Jedidiah Cohen) the fictitious story of Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) and his involvement in a series of murders. “See that garbage can full of salt? That’s where he keeps his victims. The salt turns the bodies... into mummies.” (3) Cousins Brook (Anna Slotky) and Fuller (Kieran Culkin) are quizzed by Harry (Joe Pesci), who’s impersonating a Chicago police officer.
But for most moviegoers, “Home Alone” became a monster holiday blockbuster hitting 1,202 theaters just before Thanksgiving. My wife and I took our nearly six-year-old son to see it that Christmas at a packed multiplex in South Carolina. By year’s end, it was the No. 1 domestic movie of the year, continuing in the weekly No. 1 position through the first weekend of February, and the Top 10 past Easter.
After the success of Hughes’ comedy “Uncle Buck” starring John Candy, the Chicago writer/director/producer was encouraged to develop a project for a larger audience. He wrote “Home Alone” with Macaulay Culkin in mind – after his role in “Uncle Buck” – to play eight-year-old Kevin McCallister who is accidentally left behind when his family flies off to Paris for the holidays. After a wind storm knocks the power off, they are awakened at 8 a.m. by airport transportation pounding at the front door. In the rush, they forget Kevin, who was sent to the attic bedroom the night before after causing a fuse over the lack of cheese pizza. It’s a classic out of sight/out of mind mistake.
Originally, Warner Brothers had signed on to distribute the film, but wanted to cut the budget by $2 million. Hughes then took the project to 20th Century Fox. Three local gyms were converted into huge soundstages for the interiors of the three-story McCallister home with a $50,000 kitchen, five upstairs bedrooms, and the first-class captain of the airliner. Chicago’s O’Hare Terminal 3 was used for all of the airport scenes. The production finished after 66 days of filming.
(1&2) The fight between Buzz and Kevin over the lack of Cheese pizza leads to a dangerous dinner, the airline tickets getting wet and Kevin sent to the attic bedroom. (3) Kevin’s oldest sister Heather (Kristin Minter) does a headcount. (4) The McCallister’s rush to Chicago’s O’Hare Airport.
All of the bonus features are enclosed on the Blu-ray and digital platforms, which are carried over from two previous Blu-ray editions. The commentary with Columbus and Culkin is quite good, revealing several wonderful backstories. At the time, Columbus’ career was in “dire straits.” He was just coming off what he describes as a “complete disaster, a big bomb,” “Heartbreak Hotel” (1988). He wasn’t sure he would direct again, and thought writing scripts would be his only option. Then out of the blue, he was handed two scripts from Hughes, “Reach the Rock” and “Home Alone.” He and his wife and their first child were staying with his in-laws who lived in Chicago. The rumor was Hughes wrote “Home Alone” over a weekend, and he responded immediately. “It was a great piece of material,” he said.
After signing on as director, Columbus still auditioned hundreds of boys before agreeing on Culkin. “No one else came close to what we needed for the film. As a child actor, you were the most unique original kid I had ever seen. There was something enormously real about you.” Culkin quickly agreed with his assessment. “I could remember my lines and I had a lot of energy.”
The rest of the extras include a four-minute, original press featurette from 1990; home movie footage Culkin captured during the production; the stunts for Home Alone; different language clips (Spanish, Italian, Tai) from key scenes; full footage of “Angels with Filthy Souls” the VHS tape Kevin plays; “Keep the change you filthy animal,” and the “20-minute Making Of” featurette with cast and crew interviews. Cinematographer Julio Macat calls it his favorite of his 30-plus film career, while composer John Williams says he wasn’t sure what to expect of the project described as “a little Christmas film.” Williams received an Oscar nomination for his Original Score and Best Song “Somewhere in the My Memory.”
Daniel Stern said during his first read he was laughing out loud, as Hughes described the physical comedy shot by shot for the bandits as an obvious homage to the “Three Stooges.” “The gags were written while some elements didn’t exist,” says Columbus. The original script didn’t include the mysterious next-door character Marley (Roberts Blossom). Columbus wanted to create a sense of warmth, timelessness and style.
Macat said the biggest issue they had during filming was toning down Pesci’s “R rated” mouth while the cameras were rolling. During the finale, Harry threatens to bite off all of Kevin’s fingers, and in rehearsal, Pesci bit a little too hard, “I still have a little Joe Pesci tooth-mark scar on my finger,” Culkin says. “I’m happy … it’s my ‘Home Alone’ battle wound.”
(1&2) Kevin discovers the house empty. (3) Kevin enjoys jumping on his parent's bed. (4) KEVIN! yells Kate McCallister (Catherine O'Hara) in First Class during the trip to Paris, realizing her eight-year-old son was left behind.
Just before 20th Century Fox was purchased by Disney, the studio had already scheduled “Home Alone” as their next 4K catalog release after the successful “Alien” and “Predator” discs. So, a new 4K scan was produced from the original camera negative (1.85:1 aspect ratio) and HDR10 and Dolby Vision (digital) toning was applied, revealing a nice wash of natural film grain. The colors are more saturated and the overall brightness toned down since the 25th Anniversary Blu-ray looks way too bright. Facial toning is natural and the blacks are deeper and highlights more controlled.
Plus, the 4K resolution bump in quality is evident throughout – especially during the numerous wide shots. The 4K remastering is a job well done.
The original two-track Dolby stereo track isn’t available on the disc, but the active six-channel DTS HD soundtrack is quite good, with excellent fidelity on Williams’ heartwarming orchestrated score containing hints of Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairly.” Holiday songs include “White Christmas” with The Drifters and “Run, Rudolph Run” with Chuck Berry during the airport running sequence. The dialogue is never lost or buried during musical numbers.
(1&2) Kevin starts his adventure of being home alone, with a wild ride down the steps and out the front door. (3) After putting on deodorant and aftershave Kevin goes a big Oh! (4) Kevin climbs Buzz’s bookshelves with the hope to find some money.
Here’s the sad reality of the entertainment world we live in. Since Disney now owns the rich 20th Century Fox library of films going back to the 1920s – the Mouseketeers aren’t planning to release any 4K or Blu-ray physical discs in the 20th Century Fox catalog and Disney’s own of live-action films. That means no “Patton” celebrating its 50th Anniversary this year, no “Aliens,” no “Master and Commander,” no “Speed,” no “Sound of Music,” no “Oklahoma!,” no “Tombstone” and “Mary Poppins.” The list goes on and on.
Honestly, someone at Disney should lose their job for such shortsightedness if this turns out to be true. There’s talk the G through PG-13 rated films would only be available on Disney+ as future 4K presentations. R rated films would be shut out. We can understand the economic impact the COVID-19 has had on studios losing billions, but to reduce this library of films only to digital platforms is a CRIME.
— Bill Kelley III, High-Def Watch producer
(1) The Wet Bandits realize Kevin may be home alone. (2) His mother tries everything to get home, including riding in a rental van from Stranton, Pa. to Chicago with members of Gus Polinski’s (John Candy) Polka band. (3) Kevin decorates the Christmas tree, trying to convince Harry and Marv he’s not alone. (4) Kevin has a heart-to-heart talk with Old Man Marley before the Christmas Eve service.