Australian Council on Children and the Media

Home Alone

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Short takes

Not suitable under 7; parental guidance to 9 (slapstick violence, coarse language, and some sexual references)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Home Alone
  • a review of Home Alone completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 30 April 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 7 Not suitable due to slapstick violence, coarse language, and some sexual references.
Children aged 7–9 Parental guidance recommended due to slapstick violence, coarse language, and some sexual references.
Children aged 10 and over Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Home Alone
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Occasional low level violence
Length 103 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

A couple of days before Christmas, 8 year-old Kevin's (Macaulay Culkin) extended family gather at his home before setting off for a family vacation in France. When everyone oversleeps on the morning of departure, they get into a hectic frenzy to make it to the airport. Amidst the chaos no one notices they have accidentally left Kevin behind, who had spent the night grounded in the attic after being naughty. When he wakes up, he realises that he is home alone. Delighted about the freedom to do whatever he wants at first, Kevin soon realises that he misses his family, even though he had wished them to disappear when he was angry. Things get worse when Kevin realises that a pair of notorious burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) have targeted his house. While all efforts by his desperate family to make contact or to travel back straight away fail, Kevin is determined to defend his home and comes up with an impressive arsenal of traps to await the surprised and clumsy burglars.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Slapstick humour; resourcefulness; importance of family.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is frequent slapstick violence in this movie including:

  • While home alone, Kevin watches a gangster movie in which someone gets brutally shot.
  • When the two burglars, Harry and Marv try to burgle his home, Kevin lays out numerous traps, with painful consequences:
    • Harry and Marv get shot with an airgun, slip and fall down stairs covered in ice, get smashed into a wall, and get hit unconscious with a shovel.
    • Marv gets violently hit in the head, first with an iron, then with a bucket of paint, steps on laid out nails and sharp objects.
    • Harry badly burns his hand, gets his beanie set on fire, and gets hit with a crowbar.

While the burglars are clearly in pain, they do not get as seriously injured as one would expect if some of these things had happened to them in real life. The violent scenes are scripted to be funny, which trivialises and legitimises the use of violence.

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Children under five might get scared during scenes when Kevin is in the basement and sees a fireplace which he is scared of, because in his imagination it lights up in fire, becomes alive and laughs evilly.
  • Kevin's older brother tells everyone that the next door neighbour, a grim-looking elderly man, is a scary killer about to strike again any time. As a consequence, Kevin is terrified whenever he sees him – until he finds out that he is just lonely and in fact really friendly.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

  • Nothing further of concern.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Playboy magazine.

Sexual references

  • None noted.

Nudity and sexual activity

There are some references to nudity in this movie, including:

  • Kevin finds a Playboy magazine in his teenage brother's room (no graphic details are seen on the front page), flicks through it and comments: "no clothes on anybody, sickening".
  • Kevin’s teenage brother speculates about nude beaches in France and whether French girls do or do not shave their armpits.

Use of substances

  • None noted.

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • you little jerk
  • crap
  • shut up
  • ass
  • you're such a disease
  • you are a puke
  • dummy
  • family sucks
  • you filthy animal
  • shit
  • you little creep
  • morons
  • big horse arse
  • bitch.

In a nutshell

Home Alone, released in 1990, has become a classic family holiday movie that, for parents, will bring back some 90s nostalgia (90s fashion and style, VCR tapes, having to queue up at a pay phone). Now 30 years old, the film still has the ingredients for an entertaining family movie, including a strong cast, a lot of slapstick comedy, and also some positive and important messages. However, due to the violence, coarse language, and some sexual references, this movie is not suitable for children under 7 and parental guidance is recommended to 9.

The main messages from this movie are that it is important to be adaptable and resourceful when times demand it, that there is nothing more important than family, and that it is important to make up after an argument.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • resilience
  • resourcefulness
  • creativity
  • bravery
  • friendship
  • love.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Minimising and making a joke of violence. It is important that younger children are aware that some of Kevin pranks could, in real life, have really severe, potentially fatal consequences.

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