Home Alone

John Williams

 
" This is my house, I have to defend it! "

Written by Thomas Glorieux - Review of the limited release

John Hughes, the legendary director behind such classics as Sixteen Candles, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller's Day Off and Planes, Trains and Automobiles produced and wrote a screenplay about a kid who was unexpectedly left behind. The simple concept became however the top grossing film of the year and made Home Alone (and inadvertently Macaulay Culkin) a trademark experience during the Christmas Holidays. And the trademark sound came of John Williams, a composer who has done nothing but creating classic sounds that would stand the test of time. So it may not be Jaws or Indiana Jones, but nobody will think of something different the moment tinkling bells start playing deviously over a house in a now legendary opening credits scene.

Strangely and basically unacceptable is the fact this main theme doesn't open the complete La-La Land release of 2010, but instead two of John Williams' most magical tunes of this release, namely the songs that Kevin hears the moment he spots a children's choir singing in a church. The magical strength of these songs (though the second is here the powerful orchestral arrangement) are undeniable and deserve a special place in our Christmas heart each time it's that time of year, but they can't open this soundtrack like that. That and that alone is for "Home Alone (Main Theme)", a track that has that same devious charm of Hook and ends with the delicious notes of Somewhere in my Memory.

This Christmas edition of La-La Land has some extra minutes of never before heard music, and "Go Pack Your Suitcase / Introducing Marley / In Good Hands" is one of them, delivering a small version of Star of Bethlehem and the first version of the wet bandits theme. Another one is "We Slept In / Hard Count" which features the scherzo music that was heard on the original album in "Making the Plane". The wet bandits theme returns in "Lights On / Guess Who's Home / Paris Arrival" along with the family scherzo. Showing these new minutes might not deliver something extraordinary, they do unleash more theme statements of already insanely catchy tunes.

John Williams' opening tune does get extended airings as well, mainly due to the fact he uses it as a scary motif for when Kevin makes his wish in "Banished to the Attic" or when he explores the scary "The Basement" (which low and behold holds a true Hook moment at the end). Another scary element is how Kevin sees the next door neighbour Marley, accentuated by a powerful organ in "The Man of the House / Police Check". Furthermore I can't begin to describe how many classics are played when I hear a little cue such as "The Bookshelf". And the bonus side is how fluent comedy, adventure and magical Christmas tunes go through your mind in a cue such as "Phone Machine / Drug Store / Escape Across the Ice", showing that Williams adds melodic qualities to a cue that would have been brainless mickey mouse music with another composer. Just listen to the powerful rise of Star of Bethlehem in "Follow That Kid!" to get extra goosebumps under the mistletoe.

My favourite moment arrives when "Carol of the Bells" is mixed in "Setting the Trap" (in the film at least), because the song does possess such a suspenseful feeling it completes "Setting the Trap" so easily, which happens to be a mind blowing variation on Star of Bethlehem, composed by a man at the height of his career. What follows after that is a combination of wet bandits theme statements and a lot of creative dissonant hits and witty comedic running around music. It might not be Williams at his most magical, it's nonetheless Williams at his most comical. The heroic orchestral outburst of Somewhere in my Memory in "Clothesline Trapeze / Marley to the Rescue" shows a rare Williams melodic highlight in what is essentially a 10 minute culmination of mickey mouse music. It nonetheless ends with the soaring theme of Somewhere in my Memory, highlighting the homecoming of Kevin's mother and the bringing together of Marley with his family (which makes it a tearjerker all right).

Composing music for a comedy is one thing. Excelling in it is another. You can either support everything that happens on screen (which John Williams does here vividly), but you can choose to let it turn to mindless comedy scoring, or you can let melodies and sharp witty tunes do the rest. And this here is exactly the difference between Mr. Williams and all the rest. Home Alone is a score that needs to be appreciated for the film it supports (especially the gag sequences and its initial music), but Williams' melodies and his astonishing Christmas tunes are nothing short of magical. Put that together and you get Home Alone, a score that didn't need this expanded treatment, but is nonetheless a Christmas cheer during that time of year.

Favorite Moment - Phone Machine / Drug Store / Escape Across the Ice (1.33 - 2.06)
Considering the moment Carol of the Bells isn't combined here with Setting the Trap, I prefer the Hook spirit in this one

Home Alone (2000 release) ****
Home Alone 2 CD (2010 release) ****

Track Listing

1. Somewhere in my Memory *** (3.24) Excellent track
2. Star of Bethlehem (Orchestral Version) (2.54) Excellent track
3. Home Alone (Main Theme) (1.27) Excellent track
4. Go Pack Your Suitcase / Introducing Marley / In Good Hands * (1.51)
5. Banished to the Attic (1.07)
6. We Slept In / Hard Count * (1.20)
7. Making the Plane (0.54)
8. The Basement (2.18)
9. Target Practice / Sledding on the Stairs ** (1.31)
10. Lights On / Guess Who's Home / Paris Arrival * (3.18)
11. The Man of the House / Police Check ** (1.22)
12. The Bookshelf (1.10)
13. Phone Machine / Drug Store / Escape Across the Ice ** (3.06)
14. Follow That Kid! (2.12)
15. Listening to Carson * (0.44)
16. Cleaning Clothes / Kitchen * (1.39)
17. Scammed by a Kindergartner (2.10)
18. Walking Home (Somewhere in my Memory) *** (1.06)
19. O Holy Night *+ (2.51) Excellent track
20. Star of Bethlehem *** (3.00) Excellent track
21. Carol of the Bells (1.27) Excellent track
22. Setting the Trap (2.31) Excellent track
23. The Attack Begins (1.30)
24. Marv Enters the Basement / A Hot Hand / Sore Head * (2.50)
25. Paint Cans (2.06)
26. Clothesline Trapeze / Marley to the Rescue ** (4.13)
27. The Next Morning / Mom Returns / Finale (4.26) Excellent track
28. We Wish You A Merry Christmas / End Title *** (4.19) Excellent track

Additional Music
29. Walking Home (Without Chorus) (1.05)
30. Clothesline Trapeze (Film Version Insert) * (0.23)
31. Jingle Bells * (1.02)
32. Christmas Carol Medley * (7.43)
33. Finale (Alternate Version) / O Holy Night * (1.34)
34. We Wish You A Merry Christmas / End Title (Original Soundtrack Version) *** (4.15)

* previously unreleased
** contains previously unreleased material
*** lyrics by Leslie Bricusse
+ composed by Adolphe Adam / lyrics by John S. Dwight

Total Length: 78.48
(click to rate this score)  
 
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(total of 38 votes - average 4.93/5)

Released by

La-La Land Records LLLCD 1158 (limited release 2010)

Conducted by

John Williams

Orchestrations by

Herbert Spencer & John Neufeld