Having spent the better part of the holidays snowed in with two young nieces and a young nephew, A Christmas Story and Home Alone played a huge part in our TV viewing. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about little kids, they never tire of watching the same movie over and over. Not that I protested very much, I can easily watch A Christmas Story half a dozen times in December and never be bored. Home Alone, however, had kind of escaped me. Watching it for the first time in years with three little kids so completely enraptured with little Macaulay Culkin’s Rube Goldbergian traps, it’s amazing to see how much star power he had as a child. Subsequently in December, several YouTube videos of Macaulay’s artsy new cover band The Pizza Underground surfaced, as well as a video of a long haired, bearded Culkin eating a slice of pizza, aping a famous video of Andy Warhol eating a Burger King hamburger, gesture for gesture. Happily seeming to have missed the train to nowhere so many other former child stars bought tickets on with their souls, Macaulay kind of retired from acting when he was 14, but does continue to make some films here and there when his new band’s not covering Velvet Underground songs with pizza references, (the Pizza Underground, get it?). Charismatic child star, Michael Jackson’s best friend, Mila Kunis’ ex-boyfriend, enigmatic cover band frontman and a pretty darn good actor when he wants to be, do yourself a favor and catch up with Culkin’s limited film oeuvre with these, his 5 best films OTHER than Home Alone.
THE PAGEMASTER (1994)
Made a few years after Home Alone, Culkin plays a nerdy kid who seeks solace from a storm in a library, and is subsequently consumed by animation and becomes a cartoon who must work his through the stories in classic literature to find the exit from the library and reenter the real world. It’s a charming little fantasy movie and Macaulay is still in prime precocious kid mode. The movie plays like an homage to the great Don Knotts classic The Incredible Mr. Limpet (1964), and the “vintage” 90s animation is actually still really cool. Listen for the voice over talents of Christopher Lloyd, Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, and Leonard Nimoy in the animated fantasy world. Definitely a great kid’s movie, and if you have them, you should share this with them!
UNCLE BUCK (1989)
Although Uncle Buck is actually more of a tour de force for the late, great John Candy, Culkin does shine as the titular character’s nephew. Made the year before Home Alone when director John Hughes was in his 80s prime, Uncle Buck is a weird credit on John Hughes’ resume. Beloved by its die-hard fans for Uncle Buck’s sarcastic humor and Candy’s keen delivery, other Hughes’ movies from the same era seem to get all the glory. However, Uncle Buck has the hallmarks of a great Hughes’ film, including some mushy bits to temper out the sarcasm. Macaulay’s star power in this movie got him cast in Home Alone and is largely responsible for launching his career as an actor.
THE GOOD SON (1993)
After playing a series of lovable, precocious kids in the Home Alone series and the mawkish My Girl, Macaulay surprised everyone by playing a disturbed, homicidal twelve-year-old in The Good Son. In this terrifying turn as a preteen murderer, Macaulay terrorizes his little sister and stuns his cousin, played by Elijah Wood, by shooting a dog with a homemade crossbow and throwing the corpse in a well. Soon realizing that Macaulay’s baby brother maybe didn’t drown in the bathtub by accident, little Elijah Wood has to scramble to get the adults to believe their son is a psychotic before it’s too late. The Good Son scandalized moviegoers with its unrelenting evil child character played by America’s then favorite loveable little guy, and with good reason, Culkin obviously relishes playing against type in this wicked thriller.
Saved is one of those delicious little indie-comedies you wish they made all the time that lampoons Christian love and giving. The Mean Girls of Christian comedies, it stars Culkin as the wheelchair-bound brother of Mandy Moore, playing the most Godly-and popular-of the Christian It-girls the Christian Jewels. Fallen Christian Jewel Jena Malone finds herself pregnant by her gay boyfriend and the chips start falling from there. Culkin is decidedly not a Christian and his clique of nerds becomes a safe haven for Malone. Wildly funny, full of hilarious lines, and with a quiet, introspective and touching performance from Culkin, Saved is a must-see.
PARTY MONSTER (2003)
In the 80s and 90s a truly loathsome individual named Michael Alig ruled the New York club scene with a twisted, drug filled iron fist. Eventually losing grip on reality, Alig murdered his drug dealer and friend Angel, threw his body in the East River, then bragged about it all on TV and ended up doing a life sentence on Rikers Island. Culkin plays the horrifying Alig, using his youthful charm and innocent face to further infuse an insidious evil about Alig, and, almost makes you feel sorry for him. Almost, but not quite. Arguably Culkin’s best role, his detached portrayal of this wildly messed up drug addict desperately seeking microcosmic fame in the club scene is slightly hypnotic to watch. Seth Green chews up the scenery as Alig’s best friend James St. James and the chemistry between Culkin and Green exchanging jealous, cutting insults is probably exactly like the chemistry between the real life St. James and Alig. A sad tale that makes you shake your head, all the more horrible that it actually happened, with a subtle, amazing performance from Culkin.