The Movies Made Me Do It: Confessions of a Film Actor (Issue #8)

Russell Bradley Fenton
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)
4 min readDec 13, 2020
“home alone” by s_herman is licensed under CC BY 2.0

HOME ALONE, 1990, PG — I remember the part where Kevin gets scolded by his mother in front of the rest of his family. The older brother, Buzz, mocks Kevin for missing out on the pizza. Kevin seethes, then explodes, knocking Buzz backwards, spilling milk, causing a ruckus, etc…and it’s all Kevin’s fault. Somebody in the audience went, “Awwwwwwwwww…” which was followed by laughter. Right then, it felt like, whoa, this movie’s connecting with people. It’s a strange memory, but a warm one. You felt everybody bond in the screening room. They got more settled in. Prepared to have a good time. And I was totally jazzed. Because that scene felt so real. Everyone staring down at you, hating your guts, and knowing that you screwed up. That you were the lowest rung on the ladder. Congratulations, you’re grounded.

This was my favorite film of all time. It remained #1 for two solid years. I had refused to accept that any other film could top it. Kevin McCallister was my hero. And everyone else’s in third grade, the year Home Alone came out and made ridiculous amounts of money at the box office. I saw it twice, so double contribution from me. Actually from my parents, who tolerated the experience, especially since once was probably enough for them. I also got the movie on VHS and wore the shit out of it. There was a real excitement watching it again and again, as you waited for the climax with the burglars, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, who remain two of the best slapstick actors in my opinion. Little did I know that Pesci had whacked a bunch of people months before this little holiday hit came along.

Watching a kid as the star of a film, I began to think, “That’s totally me,” and that I was totally capable of being home alone, meaning:

  • grocery shopping? check
  • do laundry? check
  • saw trees? check
  • home decorate? check
  • devise elaborate booby traps around your house in less than an hour?

The list goes on, but the point is that Kevin McCallister, played by Macauley Culkin, planted the seed in every kids’ mind that they are the heroes of their own lives. And to protect the household and maintain order was the coolest thing you could ever do for your family. Scenarios began going off in my head after the movie was over. The obvious one being, “Does spraying water from the hose on our front yard steps really turn to ice if it’s cold enough?” A question that I got answered after my dad caught me doing so, then patiently reminded me that movies are not the same as reality. Years later, rewatching the film, I cringe more than laugh at the booby traps sequence. There are exceptions. Yes, Daniel Stern’s Tarzan cry after stepping on a nail IS funny, as well as his high-pitched scream when Kevin puts a tarantula on his face. And Joe Pesci’s bug-eyed reaction to getting blowtorched or losing his gold tooth from a paint can still makes me smile.

But what really makes me laugh now are all the adult jokes and grown-up moments earlier in the film, which reminded me of the same feeling I got watching John Hughes’ other films (this was written and produced, not directed, by him). Beyond the funny gags and lightheartedness, there was a deeper honesty and truth with Hughes’ characters. Movies like Sixteen Candles and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off exposed this with teens’ insecurities and challenges in life. Hughes had already expanded from his usual teen territory with his Thanksgiving comedy, Planes Trains, Automobiles, which also demonstrated that a buddy movie can have laughs and heart. He also explored marital problems in She’s Having a Baby, which had some great moments of humor, but really felt honest in its concluding drama.

In Home Alone, there’s also nice little moments that elevate the film:

  • When Kevin meets the old man/the supposed ‘Shovel Slayer’ in a church and they have a heart-to-heart, revealing their similar problems with family, as well as being misunderstood
  • When lovable John Candy, in an extended cameo, sympathizes with Kevin’s mom, played by the wonderful Catherine O’ Hara, and tells his own story about leaving his child behind in a funeral parlor, ALL DAY
  • When Kevin’s mom can’t help Kevin’s dad find his razor, and he asks how he’s supposed to shave in France, to which she replies, “Grow a goatee.”
  • When Kevin’s sister reveals how sorry she feels for Kevin, but Buzz retorts, “The little chop could use a few days in the real world!”

There’s other fun moments too, like when Kevin tries to buy a toothbrush at a store, or makes himself a macaroni and cheese dinner, complete with candles. But the main success of the film is how it generates holiday warmth and cheer, despite all the violent and goofy humor at the end. It’s still loved by millions and remains the finest in the franchise (Home Alone 2 has its moments, and at least Home Alone 3 tried to do something a little different). Above all, the film still evokes strong, favorite memories of mine when it was first released: the excitement when we rode into town to see it; my cousin and I just crying from laughter, and seeing my parents, aunt, and uncle also laughing loudly; discussing our favorite moments on the way home; then settling into bed, smiling, because I just saw the best movie ever.



Russell Bradley Fenton
An Idea (by Ingenious Piece)

I am a film/TV actor for life, screenwriter in development, and film/TV enthusiast.