Analyzing the Pranks in the 'Home Alone' Movies: A Venn Diagram

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"Home Alone," a "must-watch" comedy for the holiday season, celebrates its 25th anniversary this month. FHEfoxconnect/YouTube

It's time for "eating junk and watching rubbish" without anyone stopping you in celebration of this month's 25th anniversary of a holiday film classic, Home Alone.

Since its 1990 release, Home Alone has become the highest-grossing live action comedy made in the United States. It generated four sequels, including 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. (The other two movies don't have Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, so they are scarcely worth mentioning.)

The original movie—directed by Chris Columbus and written by John Hughes—follows an energetic 8-year-old boy, who first seems bratty. ("This house is so full of people it makes me sick. When I grow up and get married, I'm living alone. Did you hear me?") But then he shows his maturity ("Is this toothbrush approved by the American Dental Association?") and resourcefulness after his parents and extended family accidentally leave him behind at home as they rush to the airport for a Christmas vacation in Paris.

Kevin, like any rational 8-year-old in the same situation, is initially ecstatic to be home alone—jumping on the bed, eating popcorn, ice cream and Little Nero's cheese pizza while watching a violent film, Angels With Filthy Souls—until he has to protect his Illinois home from two burglars, Harry Lime and Marv Merchants (played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), who call themselves "the Wet Bandits." It's up to Kevin to defend his house from the criminals until his family returns.

In Lost in New York, Kevin reaches the airport with his Miami-bound family but ends up on a different plane—destined for New York City—after being separated from his dad in the holiday crowds rushing to catch flights. Kevin soon finds himself in a new, exciting city ("Yikes! I did it again!"), but somehow ends up outsmarting the same bad guys, recently released from jail and calling themselves "the Sticky Bandits" as they steal money and possessions from people around the city.

A timely piece of trivia: In the lobby of Manhattan's Plaza Hotel, Kevin asks Donald Trump (who, 23 years later, is the front-running Republican presidential candidate) for directions. The real estate billionaire owned the hotel at the time of production.

Although he's in a foreign and often scary city ("You looking for someone to read you a bedtime story?"), the clever Kevin uses similar—and, it turns out, sometimes even the same—pranks as those used when he was home a year earlier. Thanks to these pranks, he outsmarts the Sticky Bandits, stopping them from robbing Duncan's Toy Chest of charity money.

In both movies, Kevin doesn't actually pump the burglars' "guts full of lead." Instead, through a variety of traps and Rube Goldberg-esque contraptions made out of toys, household items and tools, Kevin successfully fends off the bad guys and...rescues Christmas? Something like that. In any case, he gave a lot of '90s kids some great ideas for hurting themselves and damaging their parents' property.

For the sake of argument, just how clever was Kevin? We pored over our two favorite Home Alone movies to find out.

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When Kevin McCallister mistakenly is left behind at home by his family—and then a year later separated from his father at the airport—he at first is ecstatic to be alone. But then he has to devise plans to prevent Harry and Marv from escaping. Michele Gorman/Newsweek

As you can see, he didn't have a gaping hole in the unfinished floor or a pile of bricks on the roof at his two-story home in Winnetka, Illinois, as he did a year later in the Big Apple.

We also found that, while in New York, the ratio of tools to toys used by Kevin increases, perhaps because he's slightly older but more likely because he's operating out of his Aunt Georgette and Uncle Rob's partly renovated apartment.

In both movies, he uses a fictional film, Angels With Filthy Souls, to foil the bad guys. Similarly, in both films he befriends misunderstood outsiders who eventually come to his aid—Old Man Marley in the first film and the Pigeon Lady in the second. Ultimately, he twice leads the cops to the criminals. ("You guys should have started earlier. The prisoners have already exchanged gifts.")

What are we to make of Kevin's recycled pranks? Maybe on this point we should forgo analysis and chalk it up to what Peter McCallister says, upon returning home in the first movie to find that his son is totally unharmed and has even bought milk, eggs and fabric softener: "What a funny guy."

Analyzing the Pranks in the 'Home Alone' Movies: A Venn Diagram | Culture