'Tis the season for classic holiday movies, and if your household is anything like ours, you've already cued up such greats as Elf, Christmas Vacation, and The Grinch Who Stole Christmas. But this afternoon, we decided to pop in another favorite: the tale of Kevin McAllister and his heroic efforts to defend his family's home from two of the worst, most beloved, criminals of all time. John Hughes' yuletide slapstick zinger Home Alone (1990).
As we watched it in all it's early 90s goodness (the film was made when I was five), I noticed a few things that would make Kevin's situation improbable, if not altogether impossible. Consider, for a moment:
- Mobile phones - A major plot device for the movie is that the phone lines in the McAllister neighborhood are down. Thus, Kevin's parents are unable to call home from Paris to communicate with their son via landlines, the only phones available at that time. Also, Marv and Harry find out that the family is actually gone in Paris by overhearing an answering machine message left at another house they're burglaring. Throw a cell in the hands of any one of the characters and the plot would dramatically alter.
- Burglar alarms - When Harry the thief comes by posing as a police officer to case the McAllisters' house, he finds out that they only have minimal security measures in place - as Kevin's dad says, "We have automatic timers for our lights, locks for our doors. That's about as well as anybody can do." There's no way a 21st century million-dollar home wouldn't be secured by at least a basic alarm system.
- Amber alerts - Since 1996, law enforcement officials have taken missing children reports much more seriously. This is, in part, due to the January 1996 abduction of Amber Hagerman in Arlington, Texas. Nowadays, a parent calling the police about an 8-year-old child home alone would receive a much more thorough and coordinated response from a number of law enforcement agencies.
- 90s items - Kids these days would be less likely to have access to a number of items that Kevin uses to thwart our bumbling thieves: cardboard cutouts of Michael Jordan, B-B guns, old mobster movies on VHS, firecrackers (which are now illegal in Illinois), and tree houses to zip-line to (don't they just play Nintendo DS instead of going outside?). However, they would be more likely to have computers, smartphones, wi-fi, and hundreds of satellite channels, which I'm sure would make up for the lack of early 90s household items… somehow?
- The McAllister house - 671 Lincoln Ave, Winnetka, IL - is not owned by the McAllisters anymore (not that it technically ever was). The actual house used for the film was sold this past spring for $1.6 Million. Man, do I wish I could've put in a bid...
- Airport security - There are a few reasons our post-9/11 world would make the scenario in Home Alone at least less likely. For one thing, the McAllisters would have been sure to notice Kevin was not with them when checking in at the airline counter, or clearing security, or boarding their plane. In fact, with an international flight, it is highly unlikely the airline or TSA would not set off some sort of alert when one member of their party didn't check in or board the flight. Also, Kevin's mother would not have been allowed to stand at the gate to bargain with passengers in procuring a stand-by ticket home, nor would she have been permitted to alter the passenger name for a ticket so close to flight time (I believe TSA pre-screens international passengers). Of course, she also wouldn't have been able to hitch a ride with John Candy's polka band from Scranton to Chicago. RIP Candy.
Now, that's not to say there aren't still a number of things in this holiday classic that certainly could happen. The good folks at America's Dumbest Criminals have been chronicling the follies of moronic crooks just like Marv and Harry for years. And kids these days are no less clever than Macaulay Culkin's portrayal of a child of the 90s. In fact, this 10-year old girl in Houston foiled the robbery of her home just over a month ago.
Anyway, realistic or not, be sure to revisit the good ole' days with a viewing of Home Alone this Christmas. Remember: This is your house, you have to defend it.