If your favorite movie-the third biggest money-maker in box office history- tells you to bonk grown-ups on the head with an iron and immolate their haircuts with a blowtorch, will you?

That’s the question dogging parents these days as John Hughes’ Home Alone, the 1990 megahit starring towheaded millionaire Macaulay Culkin, makes its way from video racks into family dens across the land. Is there a mom or dad alive who can withstand a kid’s impassioned pleas, the peer pressure-fueled ”I gotta have it!” and the $5 cola rebate offer that comes with every video? I don’t think so.

But not to worry: This antic comedy — a shrewd conflation of Frank Capra corn and Looney Tunes turmoil — is both benign and brilliant. Sure, as 8-year-old Kevin McCallister, accidentally abandoned when his family flies off to Paris for Christmas, Culkin can be seen wielding an arsenal of makeshift weaponry against a pair of malevolent intruders (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). But just be-cause Kevin slathers his cellar steps with tar, does that mean your little ones are going to do likewise? Nah — well, maybe, if Mom or Dad happens to be a roofer.

Let’s inventory the anarchy. Waking up to unexpected, eerie quiet, Culkin looks around, cocks his trusty eyebrows, and yelps, ”I made my family disappear!” at which point he proceeds to defy Household Rule No. 1: No jumping on the bed. Then it’s straight to a hidden copy of Playboy, a breakfast of Crunch Tators, a toboggan ride down the stairs, and a climb up his older brother’s bookshelf. Not to mention some indoor target practice with a BB gun.

By the time the bandits finally breach the threshold, the resourceful pip-squeak has laid out his defenses: firecrackers, jagged shards of Christmas-tree ornaments on the floor, paint-can booby traps, and a high-wire pitfall, to name a few.

But the violence in Home Alone — penned and produced by the kid-empathic Hughes and ably directed by Hughes’ protégé Chris Columbus — is more Road Runner than Road Warrior. The mayhem is leavened by a cuddly subplot about a lonely old neighbor and lots of yuletide hooey lifted from It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street (both of which can be observed in mini-homages flickering from TVs in Home Alone. And the old neighbor’s name is Marley — as in the ghost of Marley, from A Christmas Carol).

Even the venomous threats of the bumbling Pesci and Stern, which seemed a mite severe on the big screen, appear less so emanating from a television. Nonetheless, the market research-wise Hughes anticipated the possibility that some little kids might be troubled by the cartoon carnage: Just before Pesci and Stern storm the McCallister abode, Culkin — talking as much to the audience as to himself — says, ”This is it. Don’t get scared now.”

Christmas gifts don’t come wrapped any neater than that. B+

Home Alone
  • Movie
  • 103 minutes