You don't want to mess with Kevin McCallister.
This guy can go from cute kid to villain-from-Saw at a moment's notice. He can act innocent and adorably bratty around his parents, before unleashing the booby traps on his burglar enemies. (Actually, if you have time, check out this article, which makes a convincing argument that Kevin grew up to become Jigsaw from the Saw horror series. We're just throwing that out there.)
In the course of Home Alone, Kevin goes from being a whiny little brat to a hardcore survivalist to an Avenging Fury, smiting down the enemies of the All-American Christmas.
At the beginning, he craves attention. Given that he's a little kid—he's only eight years old—this is understandable. But his family is preoccupied with preparing for their big Christmas trip to France, so it's a bad time for Kevin to be demanding this kind of attention. It doesn't help that his brother Buzz just scarfed down a cheese pizza ordered specifically for Kevin, or that his Uncle Frank won't let him watch the violent movie Angels with Filthy Souls…even though it's not even rated R.
Kevin's attempts to assert himself, attacking Buzz over the pizza thing. This just irritates everyone else in the family. He gets banished to attic bedroom, wishing his family would disappear.
KEVIN: This house is so full of people it makes me sick! When I grow up and get married, I'm living alone! Did you hear me? I'm living alone! I'm living alone!
Kevin soon gets a taste of this solitude and discovers it's not all that it's cracked up to be. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.
After Kevin's family accidentally leaves him behind as they go to France (he thinks he made them disappear through a magical wish), he's initially excited. He's king of the castle—with total free reign. He gets to eat all the ice cream he wants, ride a toboggan down the stairs, and watch Angels with Filthy Souls, the (horrible sounding) movie that his obnoxious uncle denied him.
But, gradually, the need to survive overcomes the thrill of his own liberty. Ultimately, he's not purely free, because without his family around, he has responsibilities: he has to buy his own food (like a microwaveable TV dinner) and his own toothpaste. He even purchases fabric softener. Under pressure, Kevin learns how discover his competent inner hero, and his brattiness starts to subside.
Look at how deftly he handles the nosy (but rightfully concerned) lady who checks out his groceries when he goes shopping:
CHECKOUT WOMAN: Are you here all by yourself?
KEVIN: Ma'am, I'm eight years old. You think I would be here alone? I don't think so.
At other times, his immaturity gets the best of him. He thinks his neighbor, Mr. Marley, is a serial killer, and runs out of the drugstore when Marley enters, inadvertently stealing a toothbrush in the process. His childish fears are also evident in his fear of the basement, where he imagines the furnace morphing into a monster.
Hey—he's only eight.
But gradually, Kevin gets a better handle on his reactions and he's able to conquer his fear of the basement. Just in time too, because he's got another challenge to face: burglars Harry and Marv (who are just as sleazy as they sound) are creeping around his house and plotting a big break-in. Kevin puts his imagination to work and uses clever ruses—involving a violent VHS tape movie and the silhouette of a Michael Jordan cardboard cut-out—to keep the burglars at bay.
Of course it can't be that easy, and he can't hold them off permanently. He discovers when they're planning on coming back to rob the house, and vows he'll be ready. He's at a point now where taking on a pair of bumbling burglars doesn't seem so far-fetched.
Also in line with this newfound maturity, Kevin realizes Mr. Marley is one of the good guys—or at least that he's definitely not a serial killer. Listening to a choir in church, he and Marley talk to each other, and Kevin urges Marley to reconcile with his estranged son so he can spend Christmas with his granddaughter.
At this point in the story, Kevin's been through a lot. He's realized that he really does want his family back, even though he's capable of surviving without them. See what he tells a Santa impersonator (who works at a Christmas display place):
KEVIN: This is extremely important. Will you please tell Santa that instead of presents this year, I just want my family back. No toys. Nothing but Peter, Kate, Buzz, Megan, Linnie, and Jeff. And my aunt and my cousins. And if he has time, my Uncle Frank. Okay?
Even Uncle Frank gets a shout-out. You know Kevin's lonely if he misses Uncle Frank.
So, Kevin's developed as a person. His brattiness has entirely subsided, and he's a seriously competent dude now. But he still has to deal with the burglars…
Finally, the storm of ultra-violence ensues, and Kevin blasts the burglars with a BB gun before leading them through a house full of booby traps. This leaves Marv with a nail in his foot and the imprint of a clothing iron on his face. Harry gets a burned head and hand, and other injuries besides. Kevin's showing them exactly what he's made of: iron.
We realize that he's no one to mess with. He will mess you up. He is the one who knocks.
After being rescued by Marley—who bashes the burglars with his snow shovel, and hands them over to the cops—Kevin waits to see if his family will return. The next day, on Christmas, they do. His mom gets there first, having gone through her own personal journey to reach him. Then, the other family members pour in, having taken a flight she didn't want to wait for.
Kevin impresses everyone with his survival skills, even though he doesn't reveal the truth about the burglars. His transformation complete, all he has left to do is observe the results of his actions coming to fruition.
With Kevin's encouragement, Marley reunites with his son's family, and Kevin waves to him from the window. Kevin's not only gained the ability to help himself, but also to help other people around him. When Buzz flips out because Kevin destroyed his room while he was gone, we sense that Kevin will be more than competent in dealing with him…hopefully.
Let's just hope he doesn't burn Buzz with a blowtorch or drive a nail into his foot.
Kate McCallister goes on an actual guilt-trip. Most people travel to France and experience the thrill of falling in love with someone with a sexy accent, the thrill of falling in love with a croissant with sexy chocolate filling, or the thrill of falling in love with café culture (so chic).
Kevin's ma? Not so much. She's just a nervous wreck.
Kate loves her son Kevin—she's just busy preparing their trip to France, and can't waste time listening to Kevin's complaints. After (understandably) ignoring Kevin's whining, her worst nightmare comes true: the family accidentally forgets about Kevin, leaving him home. Alone. This makes her feel like a bad mother.
On the plane to France, Kate's motherly instincts kick in and she senses that they're forgetting something—and finally, she realizes that something is Kevin. Freaking out, she tries to get in contact with Kevin…but the phone lines to their house were knocked down in the night. She calls the cops—who find her "hyper"—but they're not much help either.
Kate's feeling pretty guilty, at this point. Which, you know, makes sense…seeing as she left her eight-year-old son home alone.
While the rest of the family decides to wait for the next available flight, Kate trades off a watch, money, and jewelry to an elderly couple in exchange for their seats on a flight back the U.S.
This begs the question—why is Kevin's dad so laid back about this? Kate's trying to get back to Kevin as hard as she can, but dad is like, "Eh, we'll get there when we get there." Kate's strongly concerned about Kevin in a deeply maternal way: she wants to be reunited with her kid. Maybe Kevin's dad doesn't mind the idea of Kevin having to fend for himself a little bit? If so, they're playing right into some seriously outdated father and mother stereotypes.
Unfortunately, this flight doesn't take her straight to Chicago—it takes her first to Dallas, and then to Scranton, PA, where she flips out at the agent working at the counter when he tells her there are no available flights to Chicago.
Her speech reveals Kate's determination and desperation all at once:
KATE: This is Christmas! The season of perpetual hope! And I don't care if I have to get out on the runway and hitchhike! If it costs me everything I own, if I have to sell my soul to the devil himself, I am going to get home to my son.
Fortunately, Gus Polinski—polka bandleader extraordinaire—shows up, personifying the Christmas spirit. He offers Kate a ride to Chicago, since his band is headed back to their home in nearby Milwaukee. Of course, she accepts.
After some comic relief with Gus—whose story about accidentally leaving his son at a funeral home doesn't exactly put Kate at ease—she finally makes it back home, happily reuniting with Kevin. Ironically, the rest of the family pours in a moment later, having taken the flight that Kate didn't want to wait for.
So, that's Kate—loving, determined, and even desperate to get back to her son. She probably feels guilty too—but, as Gus would probably say, "Hey, these things happen."
There's no delicate way to say it: this guy is a slimeball.
Your first hint that Harry Lime's a scumbag? No, it's not the fact that he's played by Joe "Typecast As Lowlifes" Pesci. No, it's not the fact that he's casing a suburban house at Christmas. It's the fact that he has the same name as the villain of the uber-famous and uber-lauded 1949 film noir The Third Man.
Yeah. If you have the name "Harry Lime," you're either a low-rent burglar…or a black marketer selling watered-down penicillin to small children. No real gray area there.
Home Alone's Harry impersonates a police officer when we first meet him—we don't necessarily believe he's a burglar, but we sense there's something sinister going on. The way he smiles at Kevin oozes dishonesty…and it weirds Kevin out.
Harry stops by the McCallister house, acting like he wants to make sure that they're protecting their house while they take their trip to France. Kevin's dad tells him about their automatic light timers, immediately tipping Harry off to the fact that if their lights are on, it doesn't necessarily mean anybody's home.
When he smiles at Kevin so suspiciously, it reveals his gold tooth—which Kevin will recognize later on, and which Kevin's dad will eventually find lying on the floor of their house…
Harry covets the McCallister house, calling it the "silver tuna" and telling his partner, Marv:
HARRY: Look, that house is the only reason we started working this block in the first place. Ever since I laid eyes on that house, I wanted it.
Harry just wants to steal stuff—his motives aren't that complicated and he doesn't have another layer of depth to his personality. In a way, he's more humane, or more intelligent than Marv, since he finds Marv's taste for flooding the houses they rob to be "sick." But don't start thinking he's a saint or anything. He has one hobby, one passion: stealing.
The first time they try to rob the McCallister house, Kevin turns on the lights at an unexpected moment, scaring them off. After Kevin recognizes Harry's tooth, Harry follows him down the street in his van. Next, Kevin frightens them away again by simulating a party at the house, using a cardboard cutout of Michael Jordan attached to a toy train and a mannequin rotating on a record player.
His third attempt to scare them away—using his Angels with Filthy Souls video—works on Marv, but Harry realizes something's up. He figures out Kevin's home alone…but Kevin overhears their plans to return.
So—especially compared to Marv—Harry's brains of the operation. He's the one who directs them, who picks the houses they're going to rob, and the one who orders Marv around. That being said, he's still not very bright.
Thinking kids are all idiots, he believes they can just walk up to Kevin's house and knock on his door, claiming to be Santa and an elf. Kevin's response? To immediately shoot Harry in the crotch with a BB gun. For Harry, things go downhill from there.
After getting burned in the head with a blowtorch, slipping down icy steps, burning his hand, and getting hit with a bunch of paint cans, Harry vents, yelling at Kevin,
HARRY: You bomb me with one more can, kid, and I'll snap off your cajones and boil them in motor oil!
It's not the nicest way to talk to a kid, but Harry's under some serious stress. His whole tough guy identity is falling apart.
Eventually, Harry & Co. manage to corner Kevin, and Harry prepares to start biting Kevin's fingers off. But Old Man Marley sneaks up behind him, and knocks Harry and Marv out with his snow-shovel. Poor Harry never gets to experiment with cannibalism.
Shortly thereafter, they're both getting stuffed into a police car. Kevin smiles from his window as Harry glares back at him. The message is simple and timeless: crime doesn't pay. Also, Harry's confidence in his own criminal genius is totally undermined, since he gets beat by a kid. It's a humbling fall.
Maybe Harry will re-evaluate his way of life, realize crime doesn't pay, turn to the good side? Nah. He's back in the sequel. You can't teach these comical burglar dudes anything.
Marv is…kind of a dope. (To be fair, so is Harry, but Marv is less stable and even less intelligent.)
And he also has a sadistic streak a mile wide. Instead of simply robbing houses, he leaves the water running, flooding them (he does this to the house of Kevin's neighbors). As Harry puts it, Marv's "sick," and this extra-dash of property destruction is unnecessary. Check out this exchange:
HARRY: What's so funny? What are you laughing at? You did it again, didn't you? You left the water running. What's wrong with you? Why do you do that? I told you not to do it.
MARV: Harry, it's our calling card!
HARRY: Calling card.
MARV: All the great ones leave their mark. We're the Wet Bandits!
Yeah, this is messed up. Robbery ain't enough for Marv; he wants to damage property. But these destructive tendencies are actually what indict Marv and Harry, in the end. When the cops finally arrest them, they know all the houses Marv and Harry have hit because of ye olde Wet Bandits calling card. And the boys in blue are able to send Harry and Marv away for a good long time.
But, before that happens, we get to see Marv lose his cool when Kevin fakes him out with the Angels with Filthy Souls video. Marv thinks an actual gangster is shooting another in Kevin's kitchen, though Harry rightfully finds this suspicious.
Finally, he goes through Kevin's maze of booby traps—getting hit with a clothing iron, stepping on a nail, and shredding his feet on Christmas ornaments (among other injuries). He also beats Harry with a crowbar in an attempt to kill Buzz's tarantula.
…and you thought karma didn't exist.
This makes it clear that Marv isn't cool under pressure. He immediately freaks out when he sees the tarantula, and needlessly smacks his partner with a blunt instrument. He isn't exactly a criminal mastermind, to put it mildly.
If Kevin's enemies had been geniuses, he might have been little overmatched. Fortunately, they're anything but.
In the end, after catching Kevin and then getting knocked out by Marley's snow-shovel, Marv is arrested along with Harry. They're going away for a long-time…or, actually, just for two years, since they reappear in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.
This kindly old man might give you a case of the warm fuzzies—seriously, he even made George from Seinfeld weep while watching Home Alone by himself.
At first, Buzz tells Kevin that Old Man Marley—a neighbor who shovels snow and salts the neighborhood's sidewalks—is actually a serial killer who makes the people he kills into mummies by placing them in his trash can full of salt. This is obviously not true, but Kevin believes it and runs away every time he sees Marley.
First, he screams after going outside and bumping into Marley: he darts back into his house. Then, at the drugstore, he flees when Marley enters, unintentionally stealing a toothbrush in the process.
Even though we could easily assume Marley isn't a serial killer—nothing Buzz says is trustworthy—we see him as Kevin sees him. Marley's eyes look intense and his boots clomping on the drugstore floor look distinctly serial-killer-ish.
But then we learn better.
When Kevin goes to church, Marley sits next to him and says,
MARLEY: You live down the street from me, right? You know, anytime you see me you can say hello, you don't have to be afraid. A lot of stuff has been said about me, none of it's true.
This immediately diffuses all tension, and Kevin isn't afraid of him anymore.
However, Marley himself is still afraid—"You're never too old to be afraid," he tells Kevin. He can't celebrate Christmas with his son because of an argument they had years ago, and can't spend time with his granddaughter. Kevin urges Marley to make up with his son, telling him about how he overcame his own fear of the basement.
Kevin hasn't appreciated his own family (and they haven't been very nice to him) but they're still on speaking terms. Marley's sad case demonstrates what can happen if the lack of appreciation gets way out of control. You can end up losing something really valuable purely through being stubborn and insensitive.
Marley's a cautionary tale for Kevin. Even though he's a really nice guy, Kevin doesn't want to make the same mistakes as him.
Later, Marley saves Kevin when the burglars finally capture him—he sneaks up from behind and bashes them over the head with his snow-shovel, allowing them to be arrested. (Anton Chekov said that if there's a gun in the first scene, it will be fired in the last—the same is true with a snow-shovel and smashing people on the head).
The next day, Kevin looks out the window and sees Marley making up with his family members and hugging his granddaughter. Aww—he knows that he's given something to the old man too, helping him find the courage he needed. They exchange a friendly wave.
And then Marley whips out his snow-shovel and murders his whole family. What a twist. (We're lying. But maybe in a spinoff?)
Peter MacCallister is Kevin's dad, but he's not really as important to the story as Kevin's mom. Sure, he loves Kevin and all that typical dad stuff, but he's not the one who goes on a quest to get back to Kevin as soon as possible.
He's content to wait for the next available flight back from Paris—which, ironically, gets him back to Chicago at the same time as Kevin's mom.
But Pete plays an important role at times. For instance, he inadvertently gives info about the house's security system (automatic timers on the lights) to fake police officer Harry, which allows Harry and Marv to try to rob the house.
Also, the whole reason the McCallister family is going to France is because Pete's brother lives in Paris. So, Kevin's dad provides the initial impetus for the entire action of the movie, in a way.
After they're on the plane, Kevin's mother feels like they forgot something. But Pete thinks he just left the garage door open, saying: "That's it. I forgot to close the garage. That's it."
This is true actually, but Kate's the one with the parental intuition, the sense to realize that they actually forgot Kevin. So Pete's a bit more of a background character—he doesn't get a lot of funny lines, or sudden realizations or moments of action. He just helps set the stage.
In the end, Kevin's dad finds Harry's gold tooth on the floor—the only remaining evidence that anything had happened, since Kevin keeps his mouth shut about what went on with the burglars. Either it will remain a permanent puzzle, or he'll learn the violent truth…
Buzz is the stereotypical meathead older bro…and not just because his parents saddled him with the unfortunate name Buzz. (Is he a Lightyear? Thought not.)
He's an obnoxious jerk who devours a cheese pizza set aside specially for Kevin before pretending to barf it up all over him, and who spreads a nasty rumor about their kindly neighbor Old Man Marley.
The pizza incident gets Kevin banished to the attic bedroom, which makes it easier for the family to forget about him when they fly to France. So you can pin part of the blame on Buzz.
A typical Buzz comment comes when Kevin asks him if he can sleep in his room, to avoid having to share a bed with his cousin Fuller. Buzz replies,
BUZZ: I wouldn't let you sleep in my room if you were growing on my ass!
His room isn't exactly the city of brotherly love. Maybe that's part of the reason Kevin ends up trashing it, jacking Buzz's life savings and accidentally smashing the shelves in his room.
While in France, Buzz continues to demonstrate his stupidity. When his sister Megan asks him if he's worried about what will happen to Kevin when he's home alone, Buzz says,
BUZZ: No, for three reasons: A, I'm not that lucky. Two, we use smoke detectors and D, we live on the most boring street in the whole United States of America, where nothing even remotely dangerous will ever happen. Period.
He goes from A to two to D—classic Buzz.
Yet, compared to the burglars Kevin has to deal with, Buzz must be a pretty low-key enemy. He's even impressed with Kevin for surviving alone. Of course, he's enraged when he discovers that Kevin trashed his room.
But, at this point, were confident that Kevin can deal with him. Kevin has booby-trap making skillz…and he knows how to use them.
This guy is basically the Christmas spirit personified: he's a jolly, polka-playing Midwesterner with a heart of gold. When he sees Kevin's mom in distress at the Scranton airport, he doesn't hesitate to try to help.
He swoops in and offers to give her a ride from Northeastern Pennsylvania (a place where certain people love polka—that's an accurate detail) back to Chicago. He and his band are headed to Milwaukee (a mecca of polka, we can assume) and Chicago's on the way.
Gus isn't just a helpful dude—he's funny too. He acts like being in a polka band is equivalent to being in a superstar rock group, where the stars neglect their children and wives. He says,
GUS: Gee, you want to talk about bad parents? Look at us. We're on the road forty-eight, forty-nine weeks a year. We hardly see our families. You know, Joe, over there. Gosh, you know, he forgets his kids' names half the time. Ziggy over there, he's never even met his kid. Eddy: let's just hope none of them write a book about him.
Trying to comfort Kevin's mom for leaving her kid home alone, he tells her:
GUS: I did leave one [of my kids] at a funeral parlor once. Yeah, it was terrible too. I was all distraught and everything. The wife and I, we left the little tyke there in the funeral parlor all day. All day. You know, we went back at night, when we came to our senses, there he was. Apparently he was there all day with a corpse. Now, he was okay. You know, after six, seven weeks, he came around and started talking again. But he's okay. They get over it. Kids are resilient like that.
This probably isn't the comforting message she was hoping for. But, if she's thinking that Kevin will end up traumatized, she can rest assured: tangling with the burglars hasn't scared him…it's only kindled his bloodlust.
So that's Gus—a helpful, jolly, kindly Christmas elf.
Uncle Frank, brother to Kevin's dad, is the same kind of amusing jerk as Buzz—just grown-up. Frank prevents Kevin from watching Angels with Filthy Souls, encourages his wife to steal crystal glassware on the airplane to France, and lets his brother pick up the tab on the pizza they've ordered without offering to chip in a cent.
When Kevin inadvertently causes a bottle of Pepsi to spill on Frank, Frank responds,
FRANK: Look what you did, you little jerk.
His insensitivity and hilarious idiocy are further in evidence when Kevin's mom gets extremely upset over the fact that they forgot Kevin. Here's how Frank comforts her:
FRANK: If it makes you feel any better, I forgot my reading glasses.
So, that's Frank. Don't be like Frank.
Despite joining in with the rest of the family to laugh at Kevin for being an incompetent squirt who can't pack his own suitcase, Megan expresses some sympathy for him. This isn't true at the beginning. When Kevin complains about packing his suitcase, Megan says:
MEGAN: The dope was whining about a suitcase. What was I supposed to say? "Congratulations, you're an idiot?"
But while they're at their uncle's apartment in Paris and feeling bored while watching a French version of It's a Wonderful Life, she tells Buzz that she's worried about Kevin:
MEGAN: He's so little and helpless. Don't you think he's flipped out?
This provokes Buzz's dumb speech about all the reasons she shouldn't be worried. Yet, when Buzz says "The little trout can use a couple of days in the real world," he speaks truer words than he and Megan realize. Kevin's becoming a booby-trap expert, capable of wrecking either of them if they ever cross him again.
Heather should learn how to count. We don't learn much about her during the movie, but we do see her flub the head-count when they're getting ready to go to the airport. She accidentally counts Mitch Murphy the neighbor kid's head, creating the false impression that Kevin is in the van.
Spoiler: he's not.
To be fair, it wasn't really Heather's fault—we blame Mitch for being a pest, and hanging around the van. But since Kevin never would've accessed his inner hero without them, we can congratulate them both. Good job—you helped your brother learn how to rig up a virtual torture chamber.
Kevin's sister Linnie, like the rest of the McCallister family, starts out thinking his a helpless little dweeb. When he can't pack his own suitcase, she tells him:
LINNIE: You're what the French call "Les Incompetents."
This is one of the things Kevin remembers when he thinks his family has disappeared—and he's glad they're gone. And after Kevin demonstrates his competence by beating the living tar out of Harry and Marv, Linnie becomes yet another naysayer disproved by the course of future events. It's what the French call "une prédiction stupide."
Kevin's cousin Fuller is a bit of a one-trick pony. His trick? He wets the bed.
KEVIN: I don't wanna sleep with Fuller. You know him; he wets the bed. He'll pee all over me, I know it.
A true son of Uncle Frank, we see Fuller downing Pepsi in the kitchen, and leering at Kevin knowingly. It's going be a soggy night if he winds up sharing the bed—what an unpleasant prospect.
Fortunately, Kevin gets banished to the attic bedroom, so he doesn't get soaked in Fuller's urine. The bad news is, he ends up isolated from the rest of the family, which allows them to forget about him when they leave.
So, it's a trade off. To get peed on, or not peed on…that's a question even Hamlet never had to deal with.
This guy doesn't get paid enough. While he's a wild motorist—knocking over a statue in front of the McCallisters' house when he first arrives—the pizza boy delivers pizzas successfully and on time, working for a pizza place called Little Nero's (like Little Caesar's). What more could you ask for in a pizza boy?
He shows his appreciation for the tip Kevin's mom gives him—a polite and gracious young man. Yet, when Kevin orders pizza from him later, while he's home alone, he totally stiffs the pizza boy on the tip.
Does Kevin not respect the working people of America?
Pizza boy gets a raw deal, and, moreover, Kevin uses bits of the one gangster's speech from Angels with Filthy Souls to convince the pizza boy that he's about to get shot.
Which brings up another question—why wouldn't the pizza boy call the cops if he thought a gangster was shooting at him? Wouldn't they arrive and investigate the McCallister house?
But we probably shouldn't be examining the plot holes of Home Alone all that closely…or we'll be up all night.
This dude isn't the "real" Santa—but Kevin thinks that he's someone who's in touch with the real Santa, and can relay his message to the Big Man at the North Pole.
Fake Santa's wearing a fake beard, manning the seat at a fake Christmas village. At first, he seems a little rough around the edges—complaining about a parking ticket and telling Kevin:
SANTA: Make it quick. Santa's got a little get-together he's late for.
But when Kevin asks him to ask Santa to give him his entire family back, the guy softens up—probably because he's thinking Kevin's family died in some horrible way. He gives Kevin a bunch of Tic-Tacs, since the girl playing his worker elf took home all the candy canes. What a thoughtful gesture! Tic-Tacs are underrated.
When in doubt, rely on the aid of kindly elderly people. Kevin basically does that when Marley saves him, and his mother does it earlier in the movie.
While the rest of the McCallister family is willing to wait until Friday to fly back the U.S., Kate (Kevin's mom) is determined to get back to her son as soon as possible, despite the lack of available flights. She convinces a pair of married American travelers to give her their seats on a flight, offering them two first class tickets, her watch, a ring, five hundred bucks, her earrings, and a pocket translator.
The traveler husband's eager to quash his wife's sympathies, but Kate is persistent:
KATE: I'm desperate. I'm begging you, from a mother to a mother—please!
This tugs at the old lady's maternal heartstrings, and they give in. Thanks to these malleable travelers, Kate's able to get back to the U.S.—although she could've taken the Friday flight and ended up getting back at the same time, given how long it ends up taking her.
Arguably, this kid is responsible for the entire crisis of the movie. Mitch is a neighbor kid who lives next door to Kevin, and he's nosy and full of curiosity. While the van driver waits to pick up the McCallisters, Mitch pesters him with questions:
MITCH: How fast does this thing go? Does it have automatic transmission? Does it have four-wheel drive?
DRIVER: Look, I told you before kid: don't bother me. Now beat it!
But Mitch doesn't beat it. He hangs around and screws up the head-count—Kevin's older sister Heather accidentally counts Mitch, making the family think that all the kids are accounted for.
Thanks, Mitch. Your annoying meddling just generated a classic family comedy.
When you operate the phone at a police station, you get used to panicked callers. It's a job that requires nerves of steel.
That's why Kevin's mom—anxious to make sure her son is okay—doesn't really disconcert Rose, the police station's telephone operator. When she receives Kate's call, she transfers her to Larry Balzak, the officer in charge of "Family Crisis Intervention."
Rose warns him that Mrs. McCallister sounds pretty "hyper." Eventually, Balzak transfers her back to Rose, who says the police will send someone over. But the police officer who arrives doesn't believe that anyone is home.
What we're trying to say is: Rose is totally useless, and no help at all.
This guy seems like he just drank a massive cup of chamomile tea—he's so laidback, he seems as if he's about to nod off.
Or maybe he's just used to getting phone calls from frantic people.
When Kevin's Mom realizes he's missing, she phones the village police in their Chicago suburb. First she gets the police operator, Rose, who transfers her to the Family Crisis Intervention wing of the department. That's where she encounters Balzak, who goes through a checklist, asking whether her son has ingested poison, been in a household accident, or suffered other mishaps.
When she explains that she just wants someone to check in on Kevin and tell him that the family's coming back, Balzak transfers her back to Rose…who finally agrees to send over a cop.
Why is Balzak's name "Balzak," anyway? Does he have some sort of covert relationship to the great French writer Honor de Balzac (different spelling)? Or is he named that way just because screenwriter John Hughes thought it would be funny?
After Marley brains Harry and Marv with his snow shovel, he turns the two burglars over to Officer Devereux. Devereux doesn't really have much to say, but functions as an information tool, letting us know what Marv and Harry's fate will be.
He tells them:
OFFICER DEVEREUX: Hey, you know we've been looking for you two guys for a long time. You guys are always leaving the water running whenever you break in, now we know each and every house you guys have hit.
While Marv thought he was leaving a "calling card" he was actually providing a trail of evidence, totally incriminating himself and Harry. The message is clear: these criminals are idiots.
Hailing from the noble city of Scranton—"The Electric City" as it's (locally) known—this guy has to deal with Kevin's mom as she scrambles to get a flight to Chicago. (She's landed in Scranton by way of Dallas, by way of France). He seems a bit mild-mannered—a perfect foil for Kevin's mother, as she's on the verge of freaking out.
When he proves unable to book her another flight, he's saved from her future wrath by Gus Polinski, the friendly polka musician who offers her a ride. We don't know what happens to him, but he probably continues living his chill Scrantonian lifestyle.
This lady seems nosy—even though she's doing the completely right and logical thing.
When Kevin shops for groceries all by himself, the checkout girl grows suspicious. Kevin swats away her questions—which, when you think about it, are really just responsible sounding. Check it out:
CHECKOUT GIRL: Are you here all by yourself?
KEVIN: Ma'am, I'm eight years old. You think I would be here alone? I don't think so.
Then, still suspicious, she asks him where he lives, and he says,
KEVIN: I can't tell you that.
CHECKOUT GIRL: Why?
With the verbal equivalent of a Mortal Kombat finishing move, Kevin replies,
KEVIN: Because you're a stranger.
Even though she was trying to help and be socially responsible by looking after an abandoned kid, now she looks like the weirdo. You have to feel a little bad for her.
When Kevin asks this lady if a toothbrush has been "approved by the American dental association" she's baffled—it's like she's been hit with the Riddle of the Sphinx. She has to confer with another employee. (Typically, the package would reveal this information, but apparently it didn't.)
Then, Old Man Marley enters and Kevin starts backing towards the door—he runs away, prompting the clerk lady to yell for the stockboy to intercept him. Kevin escapes, and we never learn whether his toothbrush was approved by the American Dental Association or not. It's a sad day for oral hygiene.
This guy is like Batman—except with preventing a toothbrush robbery by yelling for a cop to help, instead of, you know, with batarangs and martial arts and stuff.
When Kevin inadvertently steals a toothbrush from a drugstore—he panics after Old Man Marley enters, and then bolts—the clerk lady tells Jimmy, the stock boy, to chase him. As soon as Jimmy gets outside, he passes the buck to a cop, telling him that Kevin's a shoplifter. We don't see any more of Jimmy after that.
Jimmy's not very important, all in all. We bet Jimmy cries himself to sleep at night over what a minor character he is.
Now, for the human filler. These characters aren't really essential to the movie, but there are a bunch of other McCallisters traveling to France.
They don't play any really crucial role in the movie, but they're listed in the cast: Sondra (daughter of Uncle Frank), Jeff (Kevin's other brother, who says "You are such a disease!" to him) Rod (son of Frank, who Buzz tells about Marley being a serial killer, as Kevin listens), Brooke (who doesn't say anything at all), Tracy (daughter of Uncle Rob), Georgette (Frank's wife), Uncle Rob, and two unnamed cousins.
Uncle Rob is Pete's brother, who they're all going to visit in Paris—which makes him sort of important. But he doesn't actually have any speaking lines in the movie, making him seem rather less important.
Take away? These guys are way low-key.