- Composed by John Williams
- La-La Land Records / 2010 / 78:48
The list of incredibly successful films which have been scored by John Williams is almost as long as the list of incredibly successful films – and his remarkable knack for hitting box office gold has extended way beyond the obvious Spielberg / Lucas relationships. One of the less likely entries on the list is Home Alone, which at the time of its release was the third highest-grossing film that had ever been made (yes, really). The popular caper with Macauley Culkin was written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus and spawned a number of sequels, which were subject to the usual law of diminishing returns and have probably sullied feelings towards this film, which in fact you’d have to be particularly Scrooge-like to not enjoy.
Williams’s music for the film is marvellous – near the top of the list of great Christmas-themed film scores (which is admittedly not a particularly long list). There are several wonderful themes, a couple of which get vocal arrangements with Leslie Bricusse lyrics. “Somewhere in My Memory” opens the album and serves as the score’s main theme – it’s a very beautiful piece of music, works equally well in both its orchestral and choral forms, and its very sentimental nature can be entirely forgiven considering what it was written for. In my household it’s become one of the standard Christmas tunes, and I’m sure I’m not alone in that – it’s simply full of festive cheer.
The second theme is arguably even better – “Star of Bethlehem”, an original Christmas carol by Williams and Bricusse. There’s nothing vaguely sentimental about this one: its emotion is very sincere, it is strangely moving in its own way. Again, I love both the orchestral concert arrangement and the choral performance of it as a carol; and Williams uses it throughout the score, most surprisingly in “Setting the Trap”, as the melody plays underneath the style of pop synths the composer would go on to famously use in JFK‘s “The Conspirators” (and slightly less famously in Jurassic Park‘s “Dennis Steals the Embryoes”).
Two other major themes are of the not-quite-Nutcracker variety, clearly inspired by Tchaikovsky. The magical theme heard over the opening titles is one; the “Holiday Flight” music has gone on to become very famous in its own right, perhaps almost as much as the music which inspired it! There’s also a comically-sinister theme for the film’s villains, never really given an extended arrangement but always welcome. Finally, a warm-hearted theme for Macauley Culkin’s character (heard best in the delightful “Scammed by a Kindergartner”) is another winner.
Williams clearly had a lot of fun writing this score – the quality of the themes (and how fantastically memorable they are), the sense of innocent warmth that runs throughout, and indeed his incredibly strong words of praise for the film around the time he was working on it (recounted in the extended edition’s liner notes). The original soundtrack album was a terrific representation of the score; there are about 15 extra mintues on La-La Land’s 2010 expansion and maybe it becomes just a little too repetitive, but its delightful spirit make it a very nice album to sit and listen to during the Christmas period. ****