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The kid who stayed home alone.


Kevin McCallister was mistakenly left home alone when his family took off for a vacation in Paris. But it's a cinch that Macaulay Culkin, who played the part, will find being alone again rather difficult after his endearing role in this box office bonanza of late 1990 and early 1991. If figures are required, the handsome sum of $15 million that the movie Home Alone cost 20th Century Fox to produce pales when compared to box office receipts that so soon surpassed $200 million.

If you haven't seen the film, your excuse may be that you don't have kids. But don't wait to have kids. If your kids are grown, that's still no reason for missing out on the comedy hit. In the words of the circus barker, it's movie for "kids of all ages."

Oh, you might question how a family could accidentally take off on a trip and forget one of its members. And how Kevin could possibly come up with all the gimmicks he uses in thwarting a couple of dimwitted robbers: the hot doorknob, booby trapping the front steps with ice and the back steps with tar, the sound effects of gunfire, converting Christmas ornaments into land mines, and so on. But in the fun of watching the efficacy of these innovations until the confidence of the villains is completely shattered, along with parts of their anatomy, these questions are limited to only the severest of critics.

Kids of all ages will easily relate to a child's fantasy of taking over the house and becoming a hero through his ingenuity in defending it. Amid the slapstick results and the mother's wild escapades in returning home to her "vulnerable" baby, the viewer will find three subtle messages to take home.

First, Kevin is the underdog in daily competition with his older brother, who never misses a chance to belittle his younger sibling. Now it's the underdog's day, and he makes the most of it by proving that he is no wimp.

Second, a boy gets mad at his family and wishes it would go away--which it does--then feels responsible for his family's disappearance. Ultimately, having been taught a lesson of responsibility and consequence, he is loved.

Third, a bearded neighbor, reported by his brother to be the "South Bend Snow Shovel Slayer," meets Kevin in church on Christmas Eve and turns out to be a kindly grandfather who takes the boy's advice and resolves a long-standing feud with his own son.

"The movie is a true mirror of our society," says Allen Bohbot, whose advertising company specializes in the children's market. He estimates that two-thirds of all children Kevin's age are alone at home after school. "That child had to grow up quickly," Bohbot says. "Kids love Kevin, and Bart Simpson, because they do it with humor and irreverence. You've got to be cool, but you can't be bad."

For all the several heart tugs among its riotous action, Home Alone might have left many a potential viewer at home but for the magic charm of its budding new star, Macaulay Culkin, wisely chosen for the role by director Chris Columbus. As it was, the film took off running and perched at the top of the hit list for more than two months. To the surprise of even John Hughes, who wrote and produced the film, it successfully fended off the big boys: Robert Redford (Havana), Clint Eastwood (The Rookie), and even Arnold Schwarzenegger (Kindergarten Cop).

But who is this David that brought down the Goliaths with a slingshot loaded with charm?

Macaulay Culkin is just an average Tom Sawyer-type kid. Instead of another obnoxious Dennis the Menace so common on the screen today, his family background left ligtle leeway in making his Kevin character a totally endearing, Nintendo-loving little boy. Macaulay began acting at age 4. And why not? His father, Christopher, has appeared in off-Broadway plays; Bonnie Bedelia, his aunt, played Harrison Ford's wife in Presumed Innocent; and three of his five siblings are actors, with the other two lacking in years rather than talent. Macaulay's biggest previous role was a John Candy's nephew in Uncle Buck.

Although Macaulay has become Hollywood's newest little big man, the accomplishment hasn't been accompanied by the usual big head. "He may push more buttons with women than Mel Gibson," says The Washington Post, "but his roving eye goes no further than Nintendo games." Macaulay is perhaps the only Hollywood star who doesn't have his own bedroom. He is quite content to share it with his four brothers and two sisters in the family's Manhattan apartment.

Viewers will be leaving the theater asking how anyone so young could acquire so much clout so suddenly. Enough clout, at any rate, to become what the trade calls a "hot property," with every studio in town scrambling to make a deal with him. The answer, as one critic phrased it, is because he is so "toothachingly adorable." Enough clout that the low six figures he was paid for Home Alone will be fattened to an estimated $1 million for his next movie, in which he plays a precocious kid who befriends a frightened, motherless girl next door.

And how does this skateboarding fifth grader handle all the hoopla and fame? Very well, thank you.

On a trip to London for the launching of Home Alone, the male Shirley Temple (one of several sobriquets he has acquired) was asked if his newfound success had spoiled him. He modestly said he didn't think so, pointing out that he had been acting since the age of 4, and he hoped that he had improved.

The young star is said to be gracious when people compliment him on the movie and how they loved him. And though he would mischievously smart off to the director between takes, when the shooting finally ended it was reported that "Mac went around and thanked everybody--a real professional." One producer has described Macaulay Culkin as a "sort of goofy, charming kid," and says Home Alone was the perfect idea with the perfect person. Another points out that a Macaulay Culkin doesn't come along very often. John Hughes adds, "Some people get smaller on the screen, some disappear. But this gets bigger, and I don't know why that is."

The question may have been answered by David Friendly, producer of Macaulay's next movie, who is said to have had a "Mac attack" after viewing Home Alone.

"We have to have that kid!" he recalls saying after the screening. "He has more stage presence than any child actor I can remember since Shirley Temple."

And given the box office receipts for Home Alone, who can argue?
COPYRIGHT 1991 Saturday Evening Post Society
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:actor Macaulay Culkin of movie "Home Alone"
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Article Type:Biography
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Portrait of a Post cover artist.
Next Article:Return to Eden.

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