There are certain mysteries that have confounded humans for generations. The Bermuda Triangle. The underwater kingdom of Atlantis. The Voynich Manuscript. Magnets. The Enigma of Kaspar Hauser. And of course, just how the fuck could the dad from Home Alone afford such an insanely luxurious house and a trip for a dozen people (many of them in first class!) to Paris and then Miami on back to back Christmases? The riddle of Peter McCallister’s wealth has reached the attention of none other than LeBron James, who was apparently discussing the nuances of the matter with Kevin Love and Maverick Carter. When the Chosen One feels the moral imperative to bestow his Chosen thoughts to the discourse of the mythology and minutia of the extended Home Alone universe, it’s time to take notice. Who is Peter McCallister and why is he so rich?
First, let us turn our attention to the family unit that Peter, as a traditional bland Midwestern pater familias, ostensibly presides over. He is married to Kate, an eminently sensible and compassionate woman, one who is more obviously formidable than him in every way. It is she, after all, who moves heaven and earth to reunite with her abandoned son, while Peter takes a more laconic approach to the whole thing. It could very well be that Kate is the breadwinner and Peter merely her basic trophy husband. But since the film takes place in the waning days of the conservative Reagan Era and the McCallisters live in the suburbs of Chicago and seem like a very unadventurous boring group of people (with the exception of cousin Fuller, who wets the bed), and since it is not explicitly mentioned that Kate does anything but vaguely get shit done, we can assume Peter remains the primary earner of the family’s vast fortune. His oldest son is Buzz, a real jagoff who is named after his bad haircut and owns a tarantula. He also has two daughters, Megan and Linnie, both sassy tweens, and another failson, Jeff, who is played by Big Pete from The Adventures of Pete and Pete. Finally, Kevin. We all know Kevin. He’s the famous child who repels a home invasion by coating Joe Pesci in feathers and tricking Daniel Stern into stepping on ornaments.
Peter’s immediate family lives in the mansion shown in Home Alone, which is located on Lincoln Boulevard in Winnetka, Illinois, a suburb that in 2015 had the distinction of being the second richest town in America. Other people from Winnetka? Donald Rumsfeld, Jay Cutler, Liz Phair, Charlton Heston, and Rock Hudson. Great lineup!
Various sleuths over the years have deduced ballpark estimates of how much the McCallisters spent on their ludicrous vacations. It is indeed a vulgar display of wealth and privilege. Besides Peter and Kate and their five children, Peter’s terrible older brother, Frank, and his wife Lesley, and their three kids are also along for the ride. There are also three other children joining them—cousins presumably, though the Home Alone family tree is a gnarled and twisted thing. Peter, Kate, awful Frank, and Lesley are flying first class because they’re rich and that’s what rich people do. Four first class tickets to Paris from Chicago are going to run you a cool $40,000 and 43,000. Eleven more tickets in coach for the kids adds up to between $11,000 and $14,000. This is already an insane amount of money for a short trip to Paris, and it completely excludes extra checked bags, passport fees, eating, museums, and of course hotels. This is not even factoring in Kevin’s solo splurge in New York City, where he stays in a hotel more suited to a Saudi Prince, or one of the more chill Kardashians, or fucking Donald Trump, whose most subtle performance of all time is a small cameo in the second Home Alone. Kevin of course racks up an insane room service bill ($967.43!) and somehow gets from one place to another using various means, including taxis, the subway, limo rides, and his preternatural knowledge of navigating Manhattan.
Pedants and “well actually” detectives will no doubt note that early in the first film, Kate tells Harry the burglar (disguised as a policeman—more on that later) that Peter’s brother is “giving us this trip” to Paris, implying he’s the true mover and shaker of the McCallister family. Maybe that’s true. Maybe Kate is an unreliable narrator. Maybe she just wants to disengage from a potentially too-long conversation with a short policeman mysteriously hanging around her house.
But none of this answers the question: What the hell does Peter McCallister do besides constantly leave his son behind? Here are a few realistic options:
Peter McAllister Is a Doctor
There’s no evidence, hard or circumstantial, to support this. He’s too serene to have a good bedside manner and he never once says anything like, “I wonder how the people at the hospital are doing” or, “Paris smells better than all the dying people at the hospital I work at.”
Peter McAllister Is a High-Powered, Asshole, Big Shot Chicago Lawyer
In Home Alone 4, it is revealed that Peter’s new girlfriend Natalie (he and Kate get separated because he feels they married too young and he’s horny now) is friends with THE ROYAL FAMILY, so clearly somehow he’s managed to stumble into the right social circles. It seems possible then that as a hotshot lawyer he represented the extremely rich Natalie and kept her out of prison and then they fell in love and he decided to divorce the mother of his five children. A classic boy meets girl story.
Peter McAllister Works in the Front Office of the Chicago Bulls
The Chicago Bulls were on a slow path to becoming a dynasty in 1990 during the first Home Alone film and it is of course possible John Hughes/Chris Columbus intended to make the fact that Peter McCallister had some influence in their front office more of a plot point but ultimately decided Peter was a useless character who didn’t deserve the slightest bit of characterization or biographical zest. However, it’s hard to imagine an NBA executive simply absconding to Paris and Miami during the season and if there’s anything Home Alone taught us, it’s that they cling extremely close to the established rules of reality.
Peter McAllister Has a Boring But Lucrative Job
Peter has done relatively well for himself, especially compared to those of us who may have just had their card declined in public. If Brother McAllister has indeed graciously paid for the entire Paris trip, we’re still left with the irrefutable facts that Peter lives in a huge house in one of the wealthiest areas in the country, wears shirts with buttons on them, and has five children who, let’s face it, probably don’t attend public schools. John Wilmes, a Chicago native and tired teacher explained to me that, “The richest people around Chicago just do, like, the most boring shit really well. Like, chair manufacturing monopolizer.” Peter McCallister may just own a chain of disgusting but successful Italian beef restaurants, or be some sort of genius Chicago style hot dog franchiser (you’ll note however, the pizzas ordered by the family are not of the deep-dish variety, which may indicate Pete’s regional pride in their cuisine is not ironclad). Other possibilities: general manager of a Porsche dealership, snowmobile rental king, owner of Chicago’s largest exotic pet store.
Peter McAllister Is Senior VP of the Chicago Stock Exchange
Yeah, that sounds about right.
Peter McAllister Is a Mob Boss
Ultimately, this may make the most sense, and there is textual evidence to support it. The opening scene of Home Alone takes place in the family stronghold, with various mysteriously aligned brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles moving at a breakneck pace, giving us, the viewer, very little time to acclimate ourselves to this large family unit. Bedlam is the name of the game. This is of course the “large gathering of a mob family” method utilized by Francis Ford Coppola in the opening scenes of all three of his Godfather films, and also used to great effect in episodes of the Sopranos.
Even more telling is the indifference each of the children feels when interacting with Harry, someone they assume is a policeman. These children have obviously been raised to think of the law as a joke, and lawmen as something to gawk at, fools with badges you should pester, ignore, or stonewall. You can almost imagine Fuller, the bedwetting cousin, informing Pesci that he intends to take the fifth.
And when his son is left behind, Peter’s not exactly happy, but he’s more or less calm throughout the entire affair. You get the feeling this isn’t his first rodeo in things going remarkably bad, and the experience of bouncing back before has instilled in him a certain confidence that everything is going to be alright. He’s right. No one would dare harm his son, or the full weight of the McCallister Crime Family would fall upon them.
When Peter finally notices the (fake) cop standing in his doorway, he saunters over to him without a care in the world, squints, and in a cocksure monotone asks, “Am I under arrest or something?” Of course he knows he’s not, because no lone city cop is taking Peter McCallister down. The contempt he has in his eyes for Pesci is clear. A couple of FBI Agents? That might have rattled Peter McCallister, but not some dope with a golden tooth. The Wet Bandits are such idiots they didn’t bother to do their research. It’s only their good luck that an eight-year old boy repelled them instead of Peter, who may have sent his goons after them. (In their first appearance in Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, the former Wet Bandits, Marv and Harry, are seen shivering and emerging from a truck full of frozen fish, surely an allusion to Luca Brasi sleeping with the fishes.)
Finally, when Peter returns to Chicago and finds that Kevin went shopping, he smiles briefly and says, “What a funny guy!” which brings to mind Joe Pesci’s epic rant in Goodfellas, the other important mobster film released in 1990.
So yes, when you examine the evidence, there’s really not much ambiguity. Peter McCallister is a gangster. That’s what he does. That’s why he is the way he is. That’s why he has that nice house. And that’s why dropping a hundred grand on two vacations is really no big deal to him. His anger that Kevin spent $900 on room service is thus, less about the price, and more about the terrible junk that Kevin wasted his blood money on.