After shifting from his 1980s teen cycle to general family dysfunction in Uncle Buck (1989), writer/producer John Hughes unexpectedly hit the blockbuster jackpot with the family comedy Home Alone (1990). Placing precocious Uncle Buck supporting player Macaulay Culkin center stage, the Chris Columbus-directed portrayal of a clever eight-year-old accidentally left behind by his vacationing family swiftly moves from the expected forays into ice cream gorging and late-night TV to an extended, Rube Goldbergian defense of his well-appointed suburban home from a couple of dim-witted burglars. With Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern executing some overly painful slapstick as the thwarted criminals, a number of critics objected to scenes of "cartoonish" violence that were a bit too intense, but Culkin's easy, wide-eyed charm won over audiences. The unheralded, inexpensive Christmas-season release went on to become a sleeper hit and one of the highest-grossing comedies of all time, turning Culkin into the top child star of the early '90s. Culkin also starred in the highly popular sequel Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), but by the time the franchise got around to Home Alone 3 (1997), the thrill -- and Culkin -- was gone.