Sucker Punch (2011)

Sucker Punch tells the story of a young woman nicknamed Babydoll (Emily Browning) who is committed to an insane asylum after the death of her mother and sister. The asylum is run by an absolute dirtbag who operates the facility as a brothel and strip club. Wealthy clients come in, the inmates (who all happen to be nubile hotties) dance and (we assume) sleep with the clients, the clients pay the warden. The first time Babydoll dances she discovers an unexplained power that allows her to shift herself and her surroundings into a violent dream world. In this other dimension she and the other girls learn to fight back against their captors by battling representative monsters and bad guys. In the real world their opponents are unaware of what’s happening, which allows the girls to carry out various tasks to prepare for escaping the asylum. Babydoll dances periodically, the girls execute a plan in the dream world, they get one step closer to a jail break, and when she’s done everything goes back to normal.

All of director Zach Snyder’s trademarks are on display here: brilliant art design, choreographed fight scenes, heavily stylized violence, great soundtrack, and an imaginative but ultimately porous plot contrived to show off the earlier items in this list. Snyder (300, Watchmen) is a master of visuals and settings, but a poor storyteller. Babydoll’s spontaneous interdimensional excursions are never explained, and while I’m not a fan of dialogue that exists only for the sake of delineating plot points for the audience, it often feels in this movie like story cohesion was sacrificed for the sake of packing in a few more epic fight scenes in a dimension in which the apple never hit Newton on the head and teen girls can survive getting dropped-kicked by robots into stone walls with little more consequence than messing up their hair.

Which brings me to the crux of this review: hot chicks and violence. And more specifically: why the hell we as a culture love it so much when these two things mix on screen. Ostensibly Sucker Punch is about women fighting back against abuse and exploitation and learning to use the weapons at their disposal to gain their freedom. On this front the movie is praiseworthy. A little while into our viewing Lyndie referenced an abusive character and said, “People like that make it really hard to endorse non-violent resistence.” And indeed, once our protagonists are placed in this situation, protecting themselves is a must. But I have a couple hangups with wholeheartedly cheering Snyder’s creation on the grounds of female empowerment, because it seems at least possible the film is guilty of a few of its own rebukes.

First of all, there’s the issue of these girls learning the empowering, freeing message that sex is a woman’s only weapon. This is a recurring theme for Snyder. One of my biggest complaints about 300 (and there were quite a few) was a plot point involving the wife of Leonidas, the Spartan king. She agrees to sleep with her husband’s rival so she can use the incident against this political enemy later on. This choice goes directly against what makes the 300 Spartans so admirable in the first place - they refuse to compromise character and principle for safety and survival. They would rather die than sleep with the enemy, literally or figuratively. So Leonidas and his small army fight to the death to defend a way of life, while his wife uses sex to gain political leverage. The implication from the screenplay is subtle but not hard to pick out: Men have valor; women, it turns out, have vaginas.

This incident in 300 is nowhere to be found in the source material (Frank Miller’s graphic novel), which leads one to ask why it was included in the movie. The answer seems clear enough, even if we don’t want to face it - without Leonidas’ wife the entire movie is an unappealing sausage party, but add hot a woman being taken advantage of, regardless of whether or not it is consensual, and suddenly you have a bachelor party instead. Violence + women = young men spending money.

Whether sex is being used as a weapon against the girls or as a weapon by them, it still sends the message that women are nothing more than sexual objects.

To be fair, I don’t think Snyder sees it that way. I think he believes he is sending an empowering message, and I admire that. Unfortunately, I think he’s missing the message behind his message. We have a movie about young women being sexually and violently exploited and objectified and wanting to fight back. Okay, I’m with you. In the process, however, we get the voyeuristic pleasure of exploiting and objectifying them ourselves. This isn’t a serious look at sex trafficing or rescuing young girls from brothels in India or low income women in America being abused by their alcoholic husbands and learning how to get back on their own two feet and stand up for themselves. Not to put too fine a point on it, but if that were the case they wouldn’t all be this smoking hot, they wouldn’t be wearing bustiers and hot pants in their down time, and Jamie Chung wouldn’t be suggestively sucking on lollipops while she pilots an attack helicopter.

I’m not going to lie to you, Emily Browning in a sexy school girl costume is an absolute vision. But why is she wearing it in the alternate dimension while fighting a giant? This is supposed to be her private world where she has the power, right? And why do I get that feeling in my chest when she gets punted across a temple yard and looks for all the world like she’s about to die a bloody, beautiful death? You know, that shocked but thrilled and titillated feeling that I imagine is not unlike the feeling actual exploitative men get when they commit violence against women? I don’t think I’m over sharing here. This is exactly what the movie wants me to feel. That’s the allure of stylized violence against women; it allows us the thrill of sexual violence while massaging our consciences into believing we’re actually fighting the good fight against such violence. The movie crosses over from admiring these girls as they endure and fight back against abuse into the territory of leering at them in the midst of it.

So we have a movie built on the party platform of fighting against exploitation and objectification against women…that hooks its viewers by exploiting and objectifying women. This is apparently how closeted mysogynists do meta-humor.

Sucker Punch is nothing if not entertaining, and I get what Snyder was trying to do with his story and I admire it. There are plenty of cheer-inducing moments when these girls win victories against their oppressors, and I wholeheartedly endorse the intended moral of victimized women finding the strength to break free. I love the idea of the self-rescuing princess, a theme Lyndie and I have looked for in children’s literature for Yosi. I don’t want my daughter buying into the myth that girls in difficult situations are in exclusive, urgent need of male heroes on horses. However, I also don’t want her buying into Snyder’s ongoing myth that her best weapon for getting out of these difficult situation is between her legs. Aspects of Sucker Punch are admirable. But the overarching implications are troubling.

Have you seen Sucker Punch or 300? Do you think the message is empowering or further objectifying?

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Christmas Favorites #1: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.

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George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) is in his late twenties. He is happily married with children. He’s working at a bank when he had always dreamed of doing so much more with his life. He never got to finish college, never got to travel, never got to pursue the professions he was passionate about. And now he wonders if his window has closed, if his rather boring story is already written, if anyone would care if he were gone.

As I write this I am twenty-eight, and I am happily married with a child. I work at a bank doing a job I hate, and I dream every day of doing the things I’ve always been passionate about. I never finished my degree, something I regret every year, I’ve been out of the country only a handful of times. I want to write, I want to own a bookstore, I want to see the world.

One night last year my wife and I sat in my office at home and I tried to explain why I am so desperate to do something with my life. It isn’t just that I would enjoy another job more than this one, though that is certainly true. It’s that I can’t stand the thought of dying someday without anyone knowing my name, without having left some sort of footprint here, whether it be published works or a business or a charitable organization. And every year the need gets stronger as the available slice of time gets narrower. George feels the same way.

Through a series of compounding events, the pressure finally gets to George and he decides to try to kill himself by jumping into a frozen river (there would have to be a better way, right?). His bumbling guardian angel jumps in instead, provoking George to jump in to save this man’s life rather than take his own. From there his angel shows him what the lives of the people he loves would be like if he had never been born – his wife would be alone, his brother dead, his town in the clutches of a money-grabbing banker, and so on. He finally realizes he has made a difference, his life has mattered, but his impact has been more subtle and fundamental than the skyscrapers he had hoped to build when he was younger.

Every good story has an Inciting Incident, an event presented to the main character that will provoke either fight or flight and set the cource of the main story into motion for better or worse. The character will either fight, confronting the conflict with the best aspects of his character and ultimately attaining the goals he, or the writer, has set, or he will flee, either through cowardice or despair or lack of resolve, and we learn from his mistakes rather than his triumphs. In It’s a Wonderful Life the inciting incident is a lost sum of money that will not only ruin the Savings and Loan George runs but will also most likely send him to prison. The money comes up missing, and the pressure and disappointment that has been building in him for years finally breaks him. He yells at his wife and kids, he gets drunk and drives his car into a tree, and finally chooses flight over fight – flight from everything, life included.

The beautiful thing about this story is that George Bailey is given a chance at redemption. He is shown something all of us would benefit from – the chance the see the impact our lives have had. From this he realizes how hideous his actions of the previous twelve hours have been, and he sets about making things right. This town full of people he has helped in his life return the favor and pay the money owed by the Savings and Loan (ignore the fact that he would be going to prison anyway – it’s a hole in the screenplay), and George realizes that “A working-class hero is something to be,” as the John Lennon song says.

The curious thing about George’s redemption is that he is not absolved by giving, but by receiving. His “conversion” so to speak is one of perspective, not of action. He does nothing after having his thinking corrected aside from yelling merry Christmas to everyone he sees and kissing his family. He stands behind the counter of the Savings and Loan as customer after customer comes in and pours money on the counter to cover his debts. That it wouldn’t be acceptible legally is irrelevant – George has always missed the gift he has been to those around him, and the payoff is that those around him show up for him when he needs it. He never realized the importance of what he had given, and only when he sees this is he able to receive.

I still want to publish; I still want to start my bookstore; I still want to sit at a cafe in Paris with my wife and waste an entire afternoon double fisting Espresso and Syrah and the occasional cigar and watching people pass by. I still want to do something more with my life, have more experiences, leave something more of myself behind. But Frank Capra’s immortal Christmas film reminds me, especially this year, that living well in one’s daily life is a responsibility we cannot sidestep in the name of greater accomplishments, and doing so faithfully is a legacy that shouldn’t be underestimated. This is, quite simply, the greatest Christmas movie ever made.

Merry Christmas!

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Christmas Favorites #2: A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.

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Just before Christmas circa 1993 my family went to the grocery store to rent #5 on this list, the 1984 version of A Christmas Carol starring George C. Scott. It had already been rented out, and it was looking like a Christmas without what was at the time our favorite holiday movie. In desperation somebody picked up a version starring Jim Henson’s Muppets which had come out the year before, and with a sigh we rented it. It was better than nothing.

We just didn’t realize how much.

The Muppets team have always managed to appeal to the comedy needs of kids and adults both, beating Pixar and Dreamworks at their own crossover game long before either animation studio existed, and doing so with handheld puppets and no fancy technology. That they manage to make Charles Dickens’ classic tale touching, poignant and hilarious all at the same time is a testament to their artistry. Here’s hoping The Muppets, releasing in late 2011, will live up to its potential.

A Muppet Christmas Carol follows Dickens’ book closely, making deviations only where necessary for musical numbers and comedic affect (Fezziwig makes rubber chickens). To help tell the story, Rizzo the Rat and Gonzo serve as narrators and commentators throughout, guiding younger viewers through the nuances of the plot and providing comedic relief. As often as possible, Gonzo uses lines from the original book to narrate the story. They occasionally wink to the parents watching, like in this exchange when the ghosts start appearring:

Rizzo: “Hey, this is kind of scary, should we be worried about the kids?”

Gonzo: “Nah, it’s okay, this is culture.”

As usual for a Muppet production there are live actors playing various roles in the story, including the inimitable Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge. “Kid’s” version or not (I deny the argument. Is Harry Potter just a kid’s book?), he is among the best Scrooges to ever tackle the role. Kermit and Miss Piggy play the Cratchits, and all the Muppet regulars are perfectly “cast” to make this a charming and seamless adaptation. The only weak spot is the breakup song during Scrooge’s trip to the past. It is borderline unwatchable, and I typically head to the kitchen for snacks as soon as it comes on.

We thought we were settling when we picked this movie off the shelf almost twenty years ago, but it has become an treasured part of our Christmas celebration each year. It works for any age, and it’s the perfect mix of reflection and comedy to set the mood on Christmas Eve. Give it a spin this year with your family. I promise you’ll love it.

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Christmas Favorites #3: A Christmas Story (1983)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.

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What can be said about A Christmas Story that hasn’t already been said? It defines the film-going sense of humor of most of us between the ages of 20 and 40, which is roughly 3 parts sarcastic irony, 1 part pessimistic self-deprecation, and 1 part physical comedy mixed together over a story with no plot. This formula has made adults who feel Adam Sandler is below them laugh consistently for twenty-five years. From The Princess Bride to Death at a Funeral, this was been the comedic language of choice for the thinking adults of my generation, evolving to encompass even films of depth and grace like Lost in Translation and Rushmore. A Christmas Story didn’t invent this, but it carried the flag admirably during a time in American pop culture when cheese and silliness were the bullies forcing wit to cry uncle like Scut Farkus beating up Ralphie and his friends. It’s not just that it did it well, but when it did it well.

How this movie happened is sort of a mystery to me. Certainly nothing the director, Bob Clark, had done before had prepared him to make such a classic, and nothing he’s done since has lived up to the promise. His most notable films besides this one are 1974′s Black Christmas, which started the slasher genre and is humorous in its own right, and the 1982 coming-of-age teen sex comedy Porky’s. Not the highest pedigree. The film has no real stars. Peter Billingsley, who plays main character Ralphie, has done little else of note in front of the camera, though he is active as a producer. He played the North Pole elf Ming Ming in the 2003 holiday hit Elf. The story is snatched from short stories written by radio personality Jean Shepherd, who has never written anything else for the screen of any note. Somehow a bunch of disparate parts came together at the right time to make one of the most beloved and witty Christmas movies of all time.

The movie takes place in a small town in Indiana during an unspecified year in the early 1940s. Shepherd narrates as the adult Ralphie and tells of scheming to get the gift of his dreams for Christmas - a BB gun. The movie soars not on the strength of its barely there plot, but on the subtle jokes, the recurring minor story arcs, and the personal quircks of the characters. Ralphie’s family and schoolmates populate a world where everything matters but nothing matters too much, which is what childhood was like for most of us. And that is where the film gets its pathos with the audience – it is our own childhood. Details are different, but we identify with Ralphie’s hopes, fears and dramas, and as we laugh affectionately at him and his family, we laugh at ourselves and our own.

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Christmas Favorites #4: Elf (2003)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.
 
 

 

 

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I’m doing this one a little differently. A year ago I kept a live journal while Lyndie and I watched Elf, so I’ll share it with you here. 

12/11/2009, 8:40 pm.

0:00:00 – We watched Elf the first time in the theater with work friends. It was one of those terrifically awkward coworker dates where you all know you aren’t going to do it again but you pretend you are. Also, the guy almost peed during the treetopper scene. 

0:00:00 – The film is rated PG for “Mild Rude Humor.” Isn’t that most of life? I think mine should have this rating.

0:00:28 – Is there any story you wouldn’t listen to Bob Newhart tell?

Treat every day like Christmas!

0:01:48 – I don’t care for the pre-Ferrell sequence. It is mercifully short.

0:02:27 – My two favorites words in the entire opening credit sequence? “Zooey” and “Deschanel”.

0:04:45 – It is proof Lyndie and I are parents now that all we can think of during the orphanage sequence is all the wrong ways he’s being put to bed.

0:08:36 – Whoever thought of the name Kringle 3000 was WAY too proud of himself.

0:12:21 – I can’t see Bob Newhart without thinking to myself, “This my brother Darrel, and this is my other brother Darrel.”

0:15:15 – Ed Asner just made a joke about people who don’t have feet. Just thought I would share.

0:16:29 – James Caan has aged well, hasn’t he? Is there ANY chance he hasn’t had work done?

0:18:00 – “Bye, Buddy, hope you find your dad,” spoken in that dopey narwhal voice, has been repeated in our household with alarming regularity over the last five years.

0:18:45 – The raccoon scene is hilarious by itself, but it also

Does somebody need a hug?

 reminds me of the Family Guy episode To Live and Die in Dixie, and you either know what I’m talking about or you don’t. Also, it makes me think of my friend Mike trapping a raccoon under a cabin and shooting it with paintballs till it lost its mind, which I don’t approve of but makes a funny story anyway. Hi, I’m from Ohio.

0:19:45 – Can we all agree this Pennies from Heaven sequence is one of the best montages in the history of comedy? “You did it! The world’s best cup of coffee. Wow. Great job, everyone.”

0:23:00 – I desperately hope this line was adlibbed – “Oh, I don’t know, Connie, I’ve never declawed kittens before.” It would make

Everybody likes to whisper now and then. And that's David Sedaris' sister on the left.

me much happier to think Amy Sedaris  just came up with that on the spot. Totally possible since she’s David Sedaris’ sister.

0:25:41 – The taxi scene is proof that physical comedy never, ever gets old. It will always be funny to watch people fall down and get hurt.

0:30:39 – I’m sorry, but no one – NO ONE – is named Jovie. No one. Said the man with a daughter named Yosi.

0:33:09 – The song has been around for a while, but this duet of Baby, It’s Cold Outside has kicked off a ridiculous number of covers.

0:39:05 – Every time I see James Caan open the gift box and the note says To Someone Special, I just dissolve into giggles.

0:41:00 – We’ll file this under “Things I Need To Do Better In Future Live Journals”. I have at this time mark “Jon Favreau – auteur theory”. I have no idea what the hell that means. I mean, I know what the auteur theory is, but I can’t imagine how I was going to relate it to Jon Favreau. Note to self – keep better notes.

0:44:40 – “Candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.” This is another line that gets repeated around here way too often.

0:48:10 – “Why don’t you lose the tights as soon as possible.” Which gets taken WAY too literally. This is a great childlike touch, because this is exactly how kids are. Not too long ago I asked Yosi how she slept the night before and she answered, “In my bed.”

1:00:01 – Every office in America has a smart ass who has answered the phone “Buddy the Elf, what’s your favorite color?” since this movie came out. Every damn one.

1:01:30 – Okay, I’ve never understood the whole “Let’s bring in Miles Finch” scene for a number of reasons. First of all, if it was this easy to get the number one children’s writer in the world, why hadn’t they done it before, and why wasn’t everyone doing it? How did this small publishing firm get the money? If they had the money, why were they so desperate? Also, writers have things called contracts. Either Miles Finch has just completed his contract, in which case he would be signing a new one, or he’s breaking it by writing for a competitor. This has always bothered me.

1:05:00 – Zooey Deschanel during the date montage is one of the reasons I believe in God.

Reason #748 why I believe in God.

1:06:35 – Specifically here.

1:07:45 – I love Peter Dinklage. I just love him. He should have played the midget in In Bruges.

1:12:05 – “I’m sorry I crammed eleven cookies into the VCR.” I am shocked - shocked – that Yosi has never done this.

1:15:40 – I would love to see outtakes of Ed Asner in his Santa suit cussing everyone out between takes. This had to be a hilarious set to work on.

1:17:10 – Buddy mimicking the Bigfoot tape is a nice touch. I wonder how many people get this.

Lyndie's favorite scene. She wants ramen noodles every time she sees it.

1:21:00 – We’re dead in the middle of the Ten Minutes Where Nothing Is Funny. Always dread it a little bit.

1:26:20 – Are Mary Steenbergen and Mimi Rogers sisters? I need to look this up.

1:31:00  - The “Come here, little one” scene when Buddy sits on his elf-father’s lap? I SO need to do this to my father-in-law. In fact, I’m a little embarressed I haven’t already.

1:37:00 – And that concludes the best Christmas movie of at least the last fifteen years. I defy you to think of a better one in that time frame.

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Christmas Favorites #5: A Christmas Carol (1984)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.

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A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens is one of the great redemption stories of English literature. A man who cares about nothing but money and looks at his fellow human beings as tools for acquiring more of it is shown the consequences, past and potential, of his cold-hearted greed and is given one final chance to change. And he does. And we feel better about life.

This story has been adapted for the screen more times than almost any other story. Romeo and Juliet probably has more film versions in existence, but no other book or story comes readily to mind.  Dracula, perhaps? But of all the film adaptations of Dickens’ classic tale, this one is the most faithful to the book and most captures the gravity of the story. This London is not cheery. Bob Cratchit does not walk with a hop in his step. The film is serious and doesn’t nod to our Christmas spirit until Scrooge’s final redemption. Until then, the situation is grim.

Sentimental is a cuss word in serious filmmaking (or any art for that matter), but when the artist’s subject is sentimentality a careful dance must be done to distinguish between sentimentality observed and sentimentality projected. Director Clive Donner and his excellent cast (including George C. Scott as the best Scrooge of any version) do a great job of keeping this from becoming a wishy-washy exercise in giving ourselves the holiday warm and fuzzies. Christmas is, as one character says, “a loving, honest, and charitable time”, but it doesn’t magically erase the misery that can define the lives of many people, especially during mid-Industrial Revolution London, which at the time was the largest, and possibly the filthiest, city in the world. For every Scrooge there was a squalorous slum, and this film doesn’t pretend otherwise. I applaud it especially for including the ghastly children of the Ghost of Christmas Present, Ignorance and Want, which Dickens included for a reason.

I don’t say all this to tell you the story is depressing; it certainly isn’t. As I said earlier, this is one of the great redemption stories. After seeing the darkness of his own heart in ignoring and even furthering the poverty and pain of his fellow men, Scrooge reforms. And he is so jubilant when he realizes he’s been spared and given another chance to do good he is “light as a feather, as merry as a schoolboy.” He begins correcting some of his wrongs, and shows love to everyone who he runs into, and we’re told he became “as good a man as the good old city ever knew.” We are rewarded for our patience through Scrooge’s dark night with the bright light of dawn as this man comes from death to life. It isn’t sentimentality, it is joy, and it reflects the wait of Advent bursting into the consummation of Christmas day.

And this hilarious send-up by Garrison Keillor does nothing to ruin that.

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Christmas Favorites #6: Home Alone (1990)

Over at my other blog I recently posted a list of my Top 10 Favorite Christmas Movies, and I will be writing about one of them here every day until Christmas.

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Home Alone is almost certainly the shallowest film on this list. There is no redemption, because our hero does nothing wrong. No one really learns anything. There are no spiritual overtones to speak of. The villains are more or less cartoon bad guys. At no point do we sense true danger. However, for 100 ridiculous minutes, the movie is highly entertaining, and that’s all it needs to be. Sometimes it’s okay not to Say Something, and just laugh.

The movie easiest to compare with Home Alone is The Swiss Family Robinson. Stay with me for a minute. Both films feature impossible pre-adolescent male fantasies; Swiss Family features said family, and young son, getting shipwrecked on an unpopulated island and having to figure out a way to survive. They build a Dinotopia-esque treehouse, spend their days catching wild animals and swinging on vines into waterholes. When they’re threatened by pirates they boobytrap a hill and make life miserable for the attacking buccaneers. The catch a tiger in a pit and conceal the opening. They rig up logs and boulders to roll down the hill. They make grenades out of coconuts. A number of pirates are killed even though our heroes never actually seem to be in danger because the mood of the film just doesn’t provide for that sort of feeling.

Home Alone is about a young boy, Kevin (Macauley Culkin). who gets left behind at his family’s large house when they leave for the airport to fly to Paris for Christmas. At first he’s thrilled, since he doesn’t get along with any of his family members. While a lesser story arc follows his mom (Catherine O’Hara) trying to get home to her abandoned son, the bulk of the movie deals with Kevin’s adjustment to his new position as man of the house. At first he loves his freedom, but slowly he starts to miss his family, as irritating as they can be. The final half of the movie follows his efforts to protect himself and his home from two bumbling robbers played to hilarious effect by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. Rather than calling the police, he does what every 12 year old boy fantasizes about doing – he declares war on the crooks, boobytraps the house and slings his pellet gun over his shoulder. Even though we know this is a tremendously dangerous situation, we never remotely fear something will happen to Kevin – this isn’t that movie.

Every Christmas Eve between my 11th and 17th birthdays my dad and I would basically reenact this movie in our house. Every Christmas morning my sister and I would wake our parents up somewhere between 4 and 6 am by screaming “IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!” as loudly as we possibly could in the doorway of their bedroom. To gain a precious few hours of sleep, my dad announced one year he would be sneaking upstairs during the night to steal our alarm clock. He wasn’t naive enough to think I actually got a wink of sleep on Christmas Eve, and I wasn’t sentitive enough to think he actually wanted to miss out on the pre-dawn jolt from sugarplum dreams that my sister and I had planned for him, but we both kept up the ruse none the less.

To prevent my dad’s silent advance up the stairs to steal an alarm clock that didn’t actually exist, I rigged up noise-making traps to alert us to his attempt. I would spend months preparing the designs, and some of them were truly ingenius. It remains among my favorite Christmas traditions from childhood. And I would watch Home Alone before I started planning each year, just to get in the spirit.

Don’t look for depth or life lessons in this movie, but this John Hughes written gem is as fun and wistful a piece of holiday entertainment as you’re likely to find.

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