Home Alone appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, dual-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Some minor issues popped up here and there but the flick usually looked pretty good.
Sharpness was the only sporadic concern, and one I found difficult to evaluation due to the movie’s visual design. The filmmakers clearly wanted a warm, homey feel to the project, so some of the softness I saw appeared to come from this; Alone went with a slightly fuzzy look to reflect this tone. However, I thought the transfer was a bit softer than expected, even given the apparent photographic choices. The movie was never terribly soft, and clarity improved as it progressed, but it could have been better defined.
No issues with shimmering or jagged edges occurred, but I noticed occasional edge haloes. Source flaws were happily absent. Only a few minor source defects occurred, as I noticed a speck or two but that was it. This was a consistently clean and smooth presentation.
Home Alone presented some warm and natural colors. I thought the hues looked tight and pleasant throughout the film, and they showed no problems related to bleeding, noise, or other issues. Skin tones were a little ruddy at times, though. Black levels looked nicely deep and rich, and shadow detail was appropriately dense but not excessively thick. The softness almost knocked this one down to a “B”, but I thought the image was strong enough to earn a borderline “B+”.
I also liked the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of Home Alone. The soundfield offered a pretty engaging affair, though it stayed true to the film’s comic roots. Those kinds of movies usually don’t provide active soundtracks, and while Alone had some wild moments toward its end, the spectrum usually remained appropriately subdued. However, music showed good stereo separation in the front channels, and the score also spread very nicely to the surrounds. The forward domain displayed good atmosphere, with clean localization of sounds and smooth integration.
In addition to the usual ambience they added, the rear speakers also kicked in some louder support at times. For example, airport scenes included realistic elements that made those segments come to life. This track featured a little stereo surround material on occasion, as some atmospheric bits clearly came localized in the back. This wasn’t a dazzling soundfield, but it seemed quite good given its era and the flick’s genre.
Audio quality was perfectly solid. Dialogue sounded natural and distinct throughout the film, and I discerned no concerns related to intelligibility or edginess. Effects were clear and appropriately accurate. The climactic scenes displayed the right levels of comic exaggeration and impact, and the whole affair lacked any distortion. Music sounded surprisingly robust and vivid, as the score became a fairly active partner in the package. Low-end also seemed to be nicely rich and deep. Ultimately, the soundtrack of Home Alone has held up well over the 15 years.
How did the picture and audio of this “Family Fun Edition” compare to those of the prior DVD? Audio was pretty similar in terms of scope and quality, though the change from the original disc’s 2.0 track to this one’s 5.1 mix meant that smattering of stereo surround information. The new mix was a bit broader and livelier, so it got a “B+” compared to the original’s “B”.
More notable improvements came from the 2006 disc’s transfer. The old version offered non-anamorphic visuals that suffered from shimmering, jags, softness, heavy edge enhancement and source dirt. Some of the same lack of definition remained, but this edition cleaned up the rest and looked much more satisfying. The 2006 DVD presented a much stronger transfer.
While the original disc included almost no extras, the “Family Fun Edition” comes with a bunch of supplements. We begin with an audio commentary from director Chris Columbus and actor Macaulay Culkin. Both sit together for this running, screen-specific track. They chat about how Columbus came onto the project, Culkin’s casting and performance, the script and working with John Hughes, constrictions related to budget and child labor laws, score and songs, cinematography, locations and production design, unused concepts, cast and tensions on the set, score and how John Williams got the gig, stunts, and general filming notes.
Going into this track, I worried it would be little more than “wasn’t that fun?” and “wasn’t that great” nostalgia. Happily, it turned out to be a very lively and informative discussion. Columbus and Culkin interact well as they display charm and frankness. In addition to notes about the ways the adult actors occasionally seemed to resent Culkin’s starring status, we find amusing details about goofs in the final flick. We get a good sense of the production along with many fine stories about the shoot. This is a consistently engaging and enjoyable commentary.
A slew of featurettes come next. Mac Cam: Behind the Scenes with Macaulay Culkin goes for four minutes, 47 seconds. As implied by the title, we see video footage Culkin shot on the O’Hare Airport set. We get a few comments from Culkin now and then as we watch him and the others during the shoot. It’s a cute artifact but not an especially revealing or interesting one.
A 1990 Press Featurette fills a mere three minutes, 53 seconds with notes from Culkin, Columbus, and actors Catherine O’Hara, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. We get some basics about the story, characters and production. No real information appears, but some of the footage from the set proves moderately intriguing. This remains a highly promotional piece, though, so don’t expect much from it.
More behind the scenes material comes from the seven-minute and three-second How to Burglar-Proof Your Home: The Stunts of Home Alone. This features stunt coordinator Freddie Hice, director of photography Julio Macat, executive producers Tarquin Gotch and Scott Rosenfelt and stunt double Troy Brown. Like you might expect, this piece examines how the crew executed the movie’s over the top pratfalls and stunts. Unfortunately, it lacks a lot of detail. We find none of the shots from the set that would help illustrate the elements, and the stories prove only moderately illuminating. This is a subject ripe for exploration, but “Stunts” doesn’t give us a very good examination of the issues.
One of the disc’s longer pieces, The Making of Home Alone goes for 19 minutes and 23 seconds. It includes notes from Columbus, Macat, Gotch, Stern, Culkin, Brown, Hice, Rosenfelt, composer John Williams, executive producer Mark Levinson, and casting director Janet Hirshenson. “Making” looks at the movie’s script and its visual look, the atmosphere on the set, casting and performances, score, and the film’s continued appeal.
This turns into a moderately interesting program. A few useful notes appear, but the piece lacks the depth of the commentary. Expect a decent overview of the production that fails to deliver a ton of substance.
Home Alone Around the World lasts three minutes, 53 seconds. It takes various snippets of the movie and shows them dubbed in various languages. It’s a cute extra, especially since we can compare the foreign voices to those of the original actors.
For the final featurette, we get the three-minute and three-second Where’s Buzz Now?. This gives us the opinions of Rosenfelt, Hice, Hirshenson, Levinson, Gotch, Macat, Brown, and actor Devin Ratray in character as Buzz. All of them tell us what they think happened to Kevin’s obnoxious brother. It’s mildly interesting at best, though one look at Ratray establishes that Buzz spent most of the last 16 years eating – he’s developed into a serious tub!
A Blooper Reel runs two minutes and five seconds. Most of this presents the usual flubs and giggles, though a couple of interesting bits appear. It’s fun to see Stern annoy Pesci with his claps to synch the film.
Angels with Filthy Souls goes for two minutes, six seconds. This features notes from Rosenfelt, Levinson, and Macat as they discuss the little “movie within the movie”. We then get to see the brief bit of footage all on its own. That makes it a cool addition.
Under the Trailers banner, we get three promos for Home Alone. Of great interest to fans, we get 15 Deleted Scenes/Alternate Takes. These fill a total of 16 minutes, 31 seconds. These extend the segments in the house before the family leaves, and Marv tells us why he hates Christmas. We also get to meet the relatives in Paris and see much more of the family as they sit around there.
The funniest bits are the shortest ones. I like Uncle Frank’s childish practical joke on Kevin, and the kid’s declaration of “I don’t remember the food groups” produces a quirky chuckle. Another Marv and Harry piece almost turns into a reprise of Pesci’s classic “Do I amuse you?” riff from GoodFellas. Some of the clips bore, but there’s enough good stuff here to entertain the fans.
The disc finishes with three Games. “Battle Plan” requires you to remember which attack elements Kevin used in various house locations. This offers a moderate challenge. “Trivia Quiz” mix easy and somewhat difficult questions for a reasonably fun piece. Note that if you play again, you’ll get different questions. “Head Count” requires you to pay attention to all parts of some short movie clips and then answer numerical questions about them. Maybe I’m just too old for this, but the bits fly by so quickly that it becomes really tough to see the nuances.
Home Alone didn’t do much for me in 1990 and that hasn’t changed over the years. I can’t deny that it has a few charms - mainly via some solid performances - but the piece as a whole seems inane and excessively mean-spirited at times. The DVD offers very good picture and audio along with some extras highlighted by a lot of deleted scenes and a simply terrific audio commentary.
My lack of affection for Home Alone prevents a strong thumbs-up for it, but I can definitely endorse this DVD for fans. It offers a great improvement over the prior release. It’s the one for new purchasers to get and it would be a fine double-dip for those who own the original DVD.