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  • Stefan Riedlinger

Home Alone - John Williams - Soundtrack Review

I have to apologize for the delay of publishing this review. My plan was to do it last week, for Christmas, but spending the time with my family in Germany was so pleasant that I decided I give you all a well-deserved Christmas break and publish this review this week now. So, after reading this review, you will know which soundtrack you should buy for next Christmas.

The movie

“Home Alone” is a Christmas comedy, written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus. Macaulay Culkin made a great performance as Kevin. Despite the huge success of this movie and the sequel, Culkin’s following movies did just reasonably well. Additionally, he suffered from the divorce of his parents, took too much drugs and described the difficult relationship with his rude father later in his autobiography.

John Hughes , died 2009, was a great creator of mostly teen comedies and responsible for some of the most successful films of the 1980s and 1990s, including “National Lampoon's Vacation,” “Ferris Bueller's Day Off”, “The Breakfast Club”, “Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (one of John Candy”s best performances), “Uncle Buck” and “Home Alone 1 & 2”.

Chris Columbus is well-known for the first “Harry Potter” movies and also for Robin Williams “Mrs Doubtfire” but also for sentimental crap such as “Bicentennial Man”. People sometimes forget that Columbus also wrote the screenplay for “Gremlins” which gave us a deep insight in his dark side. For “Gremlins”, Jerry Goldsmith composed one of his best soundtracks which I will review in a few weeks.

The story of “Home Alone” is not very complicated: Kevin is a boy who is mistakenly left behind when his family flies to Paris for Christmas vacation. Kevin initially finds himself being home alone, but soon has to fight against two would-be burglars played by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. As of 2009, Home Alone was the highest-grossing comedy of all time.

The most enjoyable part is the showdown when Kevin is fighting against the burglars in a very funny way and gives them a hard time in their attempt of robbing the house. The slapstick and comical approach of these attacks reminds some critics of the famous animation series “Tom & Jerry”.

The music

John Williams worked with Chris Columbus again on the “Harry Potter”-franchise, and you can estimate that their good collaboration on “Home Alone” was the reason for this.

Williams created a heart-warming soundtrack with a beautiful main title and incorporated famous Christmas songs, such as "O Holy Night" and "Carol of the Bells". The soundtrack was nominated for an Academy Award. In my opinion, the music is good but not enough that this nomination is understandable.

The main theme "Somewhere in my Memory" was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song and the Grammy Award for Best Song Written for Visual Media. The song was written to "run alongside the film". It can be heard in numerous sections of the film, either in full length or fragments, forming the backbone for the film's soundtrack. A version in Spanish was recorded in Spain for the film's end credits. Again, Williams was able to compose a simple song which became quite popular afterwards.

The whole soundtrack is repetitive like any other Williams’ soundtracks but if you are tired of listening to “White Christmas” all the time, this soundtrack is a great alternative in your CD player while eating Christmas cookies.

Another highlight of the score is “Star of Bethlehem". I thought his track was played when Kevin is visiting a church but one reviewer on Amazon mentioned that he is missing the track when Kevin is visiting the church and it cannot be found on this CD. I cannot verify this without seeing the movie again, so you have to check by yourself. “Star of Bethlehem” is still a great instrumental track, and therefore, the reviewer is perhaps thinking of the choir song in the church scene, and indeed, this song is not on the CD.

My personal highlight is “Setting the Trap”; a two minutes track which I like very much because it is one of the few pieces of music composed by Williams which is using electronics and percussion. For Williams, this track sounds very modern, more like a Goldsmith track, and I have to admit that I bought the soundtrack album especially because of this piece of music.

Here is a fan clip with the piece in it:

I am not sure about the weather condition in your place right now, but if you can still see snow and want to get the Christmas feeling back, get this soundtrack and have a good time!

I found a lovely life performance clip, conducted by the Maestro:

Copyright © Stefan Riedlinger, 2015, all rights reserved. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Stefan Riedlinger.

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