Review: Home Sweet Home Alone

By Christian DiMartino

Disney+’s Home Sweet Home Alone is amazing in the ways that it is lazy. Here is an unbelievably unnecessary movie in which the very idea of it elicited groans, and the movie certainly elicits more. It’s clear that Disney and 20th Century Studios never really had a passion for making it, but instead just wanted an excuse to rehash 30 year old storylines, tweak it a tad, and cash in on the Home Alone name. The only wise decision made towards Home Sweet Home Alone though was the lack of a theatrical release. The credits credit John Hughes’ screenplay- sheesh, I wonder why?

Where a good movie typically gets better as it goes along, Home Sweet Home Alone is a bad one that gets worse as it goes along. Why? Simple: there is hardly a creative bone in its entire body. This isn’t a remake- it’s set in the same universe as the first two films, which is revealed in details such as “McCallister Home Security” and the appearance of Buzz McCallister (Devin Ratray, reprising the role)as a bumbling cop in a cameo that amounts to nothing. What it is though is a ripoff, in that the DNA of the Chris Columbus/ John Hughes classic is more than visible throughout. Except whereas that film was fully fleshed out and convincing, Home Sweet Home Alone is so effortless that it just expects you to go along with it because of your affection for the first movie.

There are minor differences, I suppose, but even those hurt the film in ways. Standing in for Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) are Pam and Jeff (Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney), a seemingly nice couple who are grappling with financial woes and are probably going to have to put their house up for sale. While hosting an open house visitation, a doll that belonged to Jeff’s mother ends up misplaced. They believe that, since young Max (Archie Yates, wonderful in Taika Waititi’s Jojo Rabbit), was eyeballing it, that he must’ve taken it. As it turns out, the doll is worth $200,000, so through plot conveniences, Jeff tracks the boy down to his house, and him and his wife plot to get the doll back.

Now, the end of the movie does sort of wrap a bow on this, but here is the problem: there isn’t anything particularly villainous about this couple. With Harry and Marv, what begins as a neighborhood burglary turns into a thirst for blood once Kevin McCallister starts unleashing traps on them. There was a buildup to the iconic showdown that was convincing. The showdown, which of course is necessary for a Home Alone movie, isn’t convincing in Home Sweet Home Alone because we don’t really sense that these are bad people. What they are though is stupid, and the whole plot of the movie is built on misunderstandings. Yet their lack of bloodthirst sinks the climax too because rather than watch villainous monsters get their comeuppance, we’re watching a poverty stricken couple get annihilated in cartoonish ways when, seeing as these appear to be reasonable people, I feel like after the first trap, maybe the second, they would’ve given up and went home.

I digress.

Then there’s Max. Max’s giant family take a trip to Tokyo. Part of the issue of the first movie was that Kevin had an issue with his entire family. Sure, they didn’t bother to recycle that. Yet when Max wakes up and begins jumping for joy because his family is gone… it couldn’t feel less earned, because he really doesn’t have any qualms with his family, other than he finds them a little loud. Every so often in Home Sweet Home Alone, we cut back to Max’s mother as she travels across the country, but it lacks urgency. With the case of Catherine O’Hara’s character in the first movie, we got the sense that she really cared because not only did her and Kevin have a dispute and leave on bad terms, but we also felt like her quest home was urgent because she had to make things right with her son. Home Sweet Home Alone goes through the motions because… well, first movie.

Also unconvincing is Max. With Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin, we knew he was overjoyed to have his family gone because they were such monsters to him. We also bought into the climactic sequence with the traps because we sensed that both parties wanted each other dead. Max has no trouble with his family, and Pam and Jeff’s only encounter with him is at the start of the movie, so again, unconvincing. Yates is a talented little charmer, but even when he’s defeating them via traps, we never feel his excitement because the whole movie is just trying to get from point A to point B, because… well, first movie. He’s also not particularly likable here, either. Take a scene where he stops at a church toy drive for the underprivileged with the intention of… taking toys for himself? The kid lives in a beautiful home and his family just took a trip to Tokyo, and his idea of a great time is nearly murdering the poor. Nothing about this sits well.

See, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was also a blatant ripoff of Home Alone, but what makes it watchable is that its few new ideas are good ones, and because a big chunk of it is decently funny. Home Sweet Home Alone might’ve gotten by if it was funny, but it isn’t. I sat there pretty blank through much of it, with the exception of the occasional decent one-liner. Most despicable though is a gag that made me gag: when lifting Delaney over a fence, he farts right into Kemper’s face. I just sort of put my hand over my face and closed my eyes for 45 seconds. Home Sweet Home Alone is such a blatant ripoff of the original film that they even had the indecency to steal the soundtrack from it. This is an awful film that really makes you appreciate what you have… such as the first Home Alone movie. That film is a classic; this one will perhaps never be mentioned again.

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