Home Alone 2

A quick post: watching Home Alone 2 as a literacy scholar is a bit different than watching it as a child. Random points:

  • Kevin (McCauley Culkin’s character) has almost no personality, as far as I can tell. He generally walks around with an abnormally straight face, talking like an adult. Even when he’s overwhelmed with the huge toy store in Manhattan, he gapes a bit but doesn’t rush to grab anything, doesn’t play much, and tells the owner that it’s a “fine establishment” or something.
  • In fact, Kevin’s use of language seems to be almost entirely parroted from sources he’s heard–to the extent that I started wondering if the film is meant to be a commentary on how media shapes our ways of seeing and speaking in the world. He tells one character, “I’m 10 years old. TV is my life,” and it’s easy to believe. He finds the fancy hotel because of a commercial he saw, he constantly uses big words that surely come from watching bevies of adult dramas, and he mouths the words to the noir thriller along with the original speaker, erasing the distance between himself and the tommy-gun-toting murderer: “Merry Christmas, you filthy animal. [Shots] And a happy new year.”
  • His talkboy is a symbol of this need to repeat the world around him, and his inability to speak without audio recording and reproduction. We first hear Kevin speak when his mother is asking him if he’s all packed, and twice he answers a simple “Yes” by saying it into the talkboy and then playing back the recording for his mom, a mechanical echo of his voice that complicates the idea of Kevin’s “real voice,” whatever that is.
  • Issues of class are bizarrely alluded to and ignored. Kevin’s family is crazily well-off: for 2 years in a row, all 14 people fly away from their massive Chicago house to a “Destination Christmas” location, adults in first class, all on Kevin’s dad’s tab (as the uncle tells us in Home Alone 2). This sheltered, rich-kid life leads Kevin to initially be freaked out by the homeless folks he encounters in New York, though he eventually befriends a nameless, homeless bird woman, promising her that he’ll remember her forever, despite her hints that she’ll soon be forgotten (as seems likely). But then on Christmas day, Kevin sneaks away from the massive pile of free toys in their massive hotel room (both of which were comped) to find his homeless friend outside and offer her . . . a Christmas ornament. Not food, shelter, an offer to come inside, an offer to help her find her financial feet again, or to help her find a job (perhaps from his new friends at Duncan’s Toy’s?)–but a Christmas ornament. Apparently, Kevin’s new “class consciousness” doesn’t run very deep. Oops?
  • The violence against the crooks stressed me out more as an adult than I expected, and more than it did as a kid. Marv takes like 4 bricks in a row to the head, thrown from 3 stories up; surely one would knock him dead. And of course, that’s the beginning. We’re reminded that this is supposed to be cartoon violence by one of my favorite shots, Marv being electrocuted, with his hair getting bigger and bigger until finally they literally film a skeleton standing there screaming–a move that I read as a “Look, this is Road-Runner kind of violence, so don’t worry about it.” But still . . . those guys got really bashed up, and I admit I was a bit uncomfortable with it, in a way I can’t quite explain.

With all that said, I admit I loved rewatching this, snuggled up with some grown-up eggnog and laughing out loud more than once. Tim Curry was the most remarkable casting choice ever, and I always love a good Catherine O’Hara movie. And yes, that was the older Pete as one of the cousins!


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