Home Alone analysis

Also, Marley (any chance his first name is Jacob?) has a clear change from being too afraid to call his son to clearly having gotten over it. This doesn’t mean that Kevin doesn’t also change, but does help add to the cumulative argument against it.

The question that brings up for me is how does the mother change? Since we saw Marley change do we also need to see mom change? Does this lack of change end up relegating her to an OS role after Marley changes? Or OS and RS?

(Edit: I sidetracked myself. My original point was going to be that, in convincing Marley to change, it seems Kevin maybe convinced himself to grow out of his attitude toward his own family)

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Yeah, I don’t think the Mom’s change is necessary. Which is good because it’s hard to see. Maybe by apologizing to Kevin immediately when she sees him, you can see how she’s resolved her Fixed Attitude, but there’s not a lot there.

But you can really feel how much that moment of Old Man Marley reuniting with his family matters in the end. I believe that moment is so important because without that, there’s would be no clear Change character in this film.


Where are we at? Is it: steadfast, stop, do-er, male, action, optionlock, success, good, physics, doing, and experience? Or are we still looking Experience?

If that’s where we’re at, I like Worry for IC Issue and Desire for RS Issue.

In the IC, I see Worry, Value and Worth coming from mom and Worry and Confidence coming from Marley. Worth seems to be the area of biggest impact on others. We can go over examples if needed.

If the RS, I see a desire for something better within the family from each of them. What makes this problematic is Kevin’s looking for something better for himself within the family while the mom is looking at the family in a larger sense. “Why is it, out of all the kids in this house, you’re the only one that has to act up”-or something to that effect. So the tension seems to come from this differing perspective regarding what “something better” means.


Just realized something else that points toward experience. I recall hearing on a directors commentary or somewhere that it was amazing that they got away with the same gag multiple times in one movie. One of those gags doesn’t add much to the story. It’s just the pizza boy knocking over the statue. But the other gag was playing “Angels with Dirty Souls” for the pizza boy and scaring him off, and then playing it for Marv and making him think someone named Snakes just blew another guy away.

Also, the bandits keep coming back to the house and seeing people there (Kevin setting the house up to look crowded, gaining familiarity with setting up elaborate contraptions) and they have to gain familiarity with the house to realize that there’s only a kid inside home alone.


Right – that’s it except we haven’t quite ruled out Wisdom in place of Experience.

However, if we’re going with Desire as the RS Issue, that will force the OS into Experience. And since we all had a preference for Experience, maybe we should go with that?

EDIT: just saw your other post with further good examples of Experience; I think those are also great examples of MC Unique Ability (see below). Plus, if you zoom out a bit what is happening is kind a fight about Experience between Protagonist and Antagonist: “no no, I’m not home alone, there are experienced adults here” vs. “gaining enough familiarity with the house and Kevin to realize he’s home alone”.
Actually, even all the time Harry spends in the house dressed as a cop at the very beginning is Experience. He’s gaining familiarity with the house, the family and their plans, while they’re all trusting him because of their familiarity with a policeman’s uniform.

Just want to comment on the Unique Abilities and Critical Flaws, which are set now (the same in all remaining 4 storyforms):

  • MC Unique Ability of Security: this is awesome and obvious, Kevin securing the house to defend against the Wet Bandits. Especially all his cool traps in the last act; but I think he also uses this earlier when he uses the black & white movie and other tricks.

  • MC Critical Flaw of Wisdom: Hmm… maybe this is Kevin’s unwise entry into the Murphy house (the one with the flooded basement), being a little too reckless there? Coupled with the Wet Bandits finally understanding how to apply their knowledge of Kevin against him.

  • IC Unique Ability of Confidence: I think this is Kate’s confidence that Kevin is the one responsible for the kitchen incident; she never doubts or wavers in believing he needs to be punished. This is what pushes Kevin into his “I wish I had no family” temper tantrum, an immature, little-kid response. (Where his growing up enough to admit his mistake and wish for them back shows his steadfast growth.)

  • IC Critical Flaw of Knowledge: Could this be Kevin’s belief/knowledge that he is a good kid, smart and competent? This is what lets him resist devolving into just a scared, immature little boy. Also maybe, the mom’s knowledge that she made a mistake leaving Kevin behind.


I like that. It could also be Kevin’s general lack of wisdom of how to survive in the real world without his family (shoplifting the toothbrush after seeing Old Man Marley, for example).

I agree with your illustrations for the other UA/CFs.


Okay great. Sounds like we’re all pretty much on board with OS Issue Experience, RS Issue Desire?

That means there’s only 2 storyforms left. I started to type up a whole bunch of illustrations for the one I liked better, but decided that would be rude if you guys want to argue for the other. So let’s keep it more general … do you like Theory or Hunch better for MC Problem? Non-Accurate or Accurate for OS? etc. (feel free to state a preference for Symptom/Response too, if Problem/Solution seems tricky)


The MC problem still seems a little tricky for me. But the OS problem seems clear. I’d say all of the OS problems easily occur because of things that are not accurate, or not within tolerances. Kevin’s behavior, counting the neighbor kid who was told to go home, police assuming no one is home because Kevin doesn’t answer, burglars trying to enter a home where they are not welcome, the airline not working with the mom to get her home because they’re not allowed to ask other passengers for their seat (or whatever the excuse was), I’m sure I could go on.

That would put the MC in Hunch, which I feel like i could make a case for, but it feels like I’d have to stretch a bit to do it, so I’'ll leave that one to someone else to argue.


Yay! That’s exactly what I was thinking too. I like how it makes Determination the Symptom(Focus). Now I feel okay with pasting in my illustrations of OS & RS that I’d typed earlier… :slight_smile:

Meanwhile I’ll think about MC Problem of Hunch.

OS Problem: Non-Accurate

  • Harry’s cop disguise is Non-Accurate (misleading)
  • Burgling itself is an activity outside of normal tolerances, and the way they do it (leaving the water on), is really bad!
  • Misbehaving – not just Kevin’s, but the whole bonkers family
  • The alarm clock not going off and sleeping in, both definitely Non-Accurate
  • A kid being Home Alone is Non-Accurate
  • Not being able to catch a flight home.

OS Solution: Accurate

  • Kate decides the rental van with John Candy is “good enough” and worth a try
  • The next-day flight the family took turned out to be “good enough” to get them home on time.
  • Kevin’s traps ALL work with extreme accuracy! (this is a good example of story point used as humour)
  • Kevin cleans up the house, sets everything up perfectly for Christmas

OS Symptom/Response: Determination & Expectation

  • Harry focuses on determining whether the family will be away and for how long, and comes to expect an awesome score from their house
  • Focusing on his determination about which homes have lights on timers, Harry demonstrates his perfect expectations by predicting when each will come on
  • The Wet Bandits focus on determining if the boy is really home alone
  • Kevin sees the Wet Bandits determination to rob his house as a problem, and responds by making them expect pain!
  • Faced with the cashier trying to determine if he’s alone, Kevin plays into her expectations: “Ma’am, I’m 8 years old. You think I’d be here alone? I don’t think so.”

RS Problem: Test

  • Kevin and his mom keep trying each others’ patience, testing each other to see how far the other will go. (Kevin’s misbehaving, Mom’s goading)
  • Kevin tests the idea that he could wish his family away, causing huge strain in their relationship

RS Solution: Trust

  • Kevin trusts in Santa’s agent to help reverse his wish and bring his family back
  • There is a second when the mom comes home where Kevin looks at her, and you’re not sure whether he’s going to accept her back into his heart after what she did … but then he decides to trust her

I was gonna go OS Problem of Non-Accurate, also. There’s also Buzz throwing off the headcount, making the count inaccurate and leaving Kevin at home. Definitely Non-Accurate.

For Kevin’s drive of Hunch, there are little moments that stand out for me. The best example I can think of is when he sees Harry as the cop, and when he smiles, Kevin just has a feeling that something is off. I’ll have to think more about it, but there are definitely little things that work there.


Great stuff @jhay!

I think the clearest example of MC Problem Hunch is Kevin’s family all deciding he’s the guilty one based on circumstantial evidence. (“where there’s smoke, there’s fire” is mentioned in the definition link above, and that definitely applies to the kitchen disaster being blamed on Kevin.)

So Kevin’s problem could be illustrated as: my family all think I’m an incompetent troublemaker, but they’re basing that on circumstantial evidence, and they’re wrong!

“Having misgivings about someone” is a gist for Hunch, so maybe Kevin’s misgivings about his family, especially his older brother, apply here.


Couple of random illustrations and thoughts:

I LOVE the IC Benchmark of Innermost Desires. That’s totally Kate’s heightening concern for her child and her building fears that she’s a bad mother.

The RS Inhibitor of Value is clear in that first argument, where Kevin doesn’t appreciate the value of a family and drives a real wedge between them:

KATE: Then maybe you should ask Santa for a new family.
KEVIN: I don’t want another family. I don’t want any family. Families suck!
KEVIN: I don’t want to see you again for the rest of my whole life. And I don’t want to see anybody else either.
KATE: I hope you don’t mean that. You’d feel pretty sad if you woke up tomorrow morning and you didn’t have a family.
KEVIN: No, I wouldn’t.

Yeah, this feels like the right storyform. Even the 2-act OS structure feels right, with Doing as Signpost 3 (that’s where Harry and Marv enter the booby-trapped house for battle).


At a primeval level, this is about a kid and hunch is more what a kid would do and stupid crooks would be using rather than more intellectual Theory. Then again, it is about the boy being more confident and capable than anyone anticipates so maybe that would fit a theory.

At first I didn’t quite see what you meant, because the Inhibitor is supposed to reduce the conflict, but you’re right – it’s actually kind of gumming up the works in the relationship story, so that their relationship takes a while before it starts growing and heading towards resolution again.

I guess the RS Catalyst of Ability is them being unable to be with each other, and working hard to find someone with the ability to help (Santa, John Candy).

Right, but also I think it’s hard to see because the Hunch is mostly coming from outside of Kevin – it’s his family constantly relying on their hunches that Kevin’s irresponsible / incompetent – and also, I just realized, his family relying on their Hunch that Kevin’s in one of the vans!

I’m starting to feel really good about this analysis! Maybe we could get it posted to the Dramatica site like some other group online analyses have been, after we get an expert to look at it.

What is the difference between hunch and assumption in the Dramatica theory? Are they the same?

I’m pretty happy with it too. There may still be a rough spot or two for me, but i’m not sure if it’s because I’m just not seeing it right or if it’s because most movies just aren’t going to hit everything perfectly. I’m going to go ahead and assume it’s the second one. :smile: I’d be interested to see how an expert feels about what we came up with as well.


I thought the RS Catalyst/Inhibitor worked as a kind of push/pull that either pushes the relationship forward (for good or bad) or pulls it back? Admittedly, the RS is my weak point when it comes to Dramatica.

Hmm. I think that’s close, but instead of pulling it back, I thought the Inhibitor was more like taking a break from the push/pull tug of war?

I think the idea is that any conflict, though it may seem “bad”, is still needed to move the RS to a resolution. So I think the Inhibitor tends to reduce conflict as it impedes progress toward that resolution. But the important part is that impeding progress, so even if it seems to increase conflict briefly as it drives a wedge between them, like in your Value example, I think it still works if that wedge impedes things.

At least that’s my understanding – I could be wrong!

Well, Dramatica has definition of Hunch which is very concise, while the English word “assumption” is broader (“a hypothesis that is taken for granted / a statement that is assumed to be true”).

For example, sometimes you might write down an assumption that you know for certain is true, but you just don’t want to waste time explaining it. I think that’s still an assumption, but it’s not a Hunch.

Now, while all assumptions aren’t Hunches, it’s possible that all Hunches are assumptions… But the English word assumption misses the “circumstantial evidence” part that’s important about Hunch, and it also misses the intuitive nature of Hunch that the word “hunch” so aptly includes.