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The Twelve Days of Bits-Mas!
Blu-ray Disc review by Barrie Maxwell of The Digital Bits

Home Alone: Family Fun Edition (Blu-ray Disc)

Home Alone: Family Fun Edition
1990 (2008) - 20th Century Fox
Released on Blu-ray on December 2nd, 2008.

Film Rating: B
Video (1-20): 14
Audio (1-20): 15
Extras: B


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I hadn't seen Home Alone for quite some time, but even so I was surprised when I realized that this film is almost 20 years old - can Macauley Culkin now be really pushing 30? The film was a surprise financial success when first released and I recollect that it was fashionable for some critics to deride the film's mainstream appeal. Well, too bad for them if they couldn't manage to simply enjoy some good old-fashioned slapstick comedy.

Culkin plays 8-year old Kevin McCallister who together with his family and his uncle's family are all heading off for a Christmas holiday in France. Kevin manages to get in his family's bad books and is banished to a temporary bedroom in the attic where in the confusion of a rushed early-morning departure precipitated by a power failure overnight, he gets left behind all alone. He's not missed until the family is already winging its way to France. As his mother (Catherine O'Hara) scrambles to get back home, Kevin manages to adapt fairly successfully to fending for himself, but his resources are put to the test by two thieves intent on breaking into his home (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) and a neighbour with a mysterious past.

The film was written and produced by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, but it's Macauley Culkin who makes the whole thing really work. Aside from a few minor sequences when his reactions seem excessively forced, he makes Kevin an appealing character, at times very vulnerable and at others precociously diabolical. His battle plan to thwart Pesci and Stern's thieves is delightfully set up, but even more effectively and amusingly executed. Pesci and Stern react hilariously to the painful-looking experiences they suffer and it's wonderful to see Pesci try to react to his misfortunes without allowing an actual curse to escape. Perhaps the best sequence in the film, however, occurs before that pair arrive on the scene. Kevin has ordered a pizza and in order to test out his defences, he uses the dialogue from a grade B thriller as a means to extract the pizza from the delivery boy and deliver the payment to him. The film's slapstick sequences are nicely balanced by the humanity of a sub-plot with Marley, a neighbour who may have murder in his past or just be suffering from something deeply personal. Look also for a welcome appearance by John Candy as the head of a polka band.

Fox released this Family Fun edition of Home Alone on standard DVD two years ago and has now brought it to Blu-ray. The 1.85:1 transfer is not particularly remarkable as a Blu-ray effort, as the improvement over watching the upconverted standard DVD is minimal. Colour brightness and detail may be a tad better, but colour fidelity could be better particularly in respect to skin-tones which seem a little on the red side. The DTS HD Master audio is fairly aggressive although the emphasis is strongly on the front channels. Surround activity is limited although there is some notable LFE on a couple of occasions. John Williams' pleasing score is well rendered. The supplementary content is carried over from the recent standard DVD version and although a lot of it comprises rather anemic featurettes, there is a very entertaining and informative audio commentary by Chris Columbus and Macauley Culkin. Recommended.

Barrie Maxwell
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