Synopsis – A married couple tries to steal back a valuable heirloom from a troublesome kid.
My Take – Personally I got nothing against reboots or remakes, instead I quite favor them especially when a promising plot can be course corrected or brought into modern times with a fresher vision. However, conversely I also do believe some films should be protected from being remade/rebooted, especially from big studios who just want to cash in on our nostalgia feels.
Such as it is in the case of this Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa) directorial which acts as a reboot/follow up to the Chris Columbus directed and John Hughes written, Home Alone (1990), and its four subsequent depreciating sequels, which Disney+ kicked off its holiday lineup with.
When first announced, considering the comedic talent involved, the film actually showed tremendous promise, however, despite its franchise appeal, the end result is tremendously disappointing that holds no comparison to the original Christmas classic which was lapped up audience of all ages especially kids growing up in the 90s.
Here, writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell basically just borrow heavily from the familiar formula, using the Christmas setting, a similar premise for its new child protagonist getting left behind, and how he booby-traps his house to protect it from intruders. Most surprisingly the film just struggles to entertain, clumsily fumbling its core premise and completely misunderstanding what made the original films (well at-least the first two) so special.
Sure, I laughed at a few scenes, as much of the comedy comes in the form of spectacular falls and ridiculous pranks, but backed by a weak structure and mixed up characterization, this sixth film just ends up being yet another ill-thought-out children’s film that wastes its talented cast while also effectively once again killing the Home Alone franchise.
The story follows Jeff McKenzie (Rob Delaney) and Pam McKenzie (Ellie Kemper), a downtrodden couple who are being forced to sell their family home because Jeff’s lost his job and they can no longer afford the mortgage on just Pam’s teacher salary. However, the solution to their problems might lie in selling one particular doll from a creepy collection of porcelain dolls owned by Jeff’s mother, which is worth $200,000.
But when they realize that the doll might have been stolen during the open house, they assume it was taken by Max Mercer (Archie Yates), who had commented on the doll while there with his mother Carol Mercer (Aisling Bea). Driven by desperation, Pam and Jeff decide to try and retrieve the doll, not realizing that Max has been mistakenly left home alone as his family flew to Tokyo for vacation. Assuming that the two are breaking in to kidnap him, Max decides to teach them a lesson by fortifying his home with inventive and colorful traps.
Much of the joy of the original film is derived from the relative simplicity of its premise about two dastardly baddies facing wrath at the hands of a spoiled but ultimately likeable kid. And this is where the new film differs. Here, Max is in no really danger, and arguably, he’s a lot less likable and sympathetic than the adults he’s tormenting. The film spends more time focusing on the McKenzies’ story about two loving parents who are heartbroken to have to sell their home.
On the other hand, Max is a spoiled brat living in a mansion, enjoying the kind of luxury and excess that the McKenzie kids could only dream of. Rather than learn to appreciate what he has, Max is blissfully unaware of his privilege even attempting to take home a large toy gun from a gift donation pile, intended for needy kids. Even the confused nature of that set-up would be forgivable if the film was able to deliver constant laughs along the way.
Written by SNL’s Mikey Day and Streeter Siedell, the film initially boasts some strong comedic bits. They effectively heighten Jeff and Pam’s attempts to burgle the Mercer house, throw in some fart gags to delight the kids, and have a solidly funny punchline about which house the hapless duo have broken into. However, they soon become recurrent with excruciating running jokes about speaking German, senseless one-liners from Max and several slapstick scenes completely devoid of charm.
At its core, naturally, the film is about exalting the importance of family, and teaching all concerned to appreciate those near and dear to them, but the frankly unsubtle ending makes the whole message feel tonally unearned.
It’s a shame because the cast is made up of talented and largely likeable comic performers. Both Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper pull off some genuinely hilarious physical comedy as Max’s traps harry them. But even their best efforts can’t bring about much in the way of genuine hilarity here. Archie Yates, the scene-stealer from Jojo Rabbit (2019), gives his best in the lead role, but he’s no Macaulay Culkin, whose natural charisma in the first film was a large part of its success. Aisling Bea as Max’s stressed-out mother is particularly under-served by the script. In supporting roles, Tim Simons and Ally Maki are fantastic as Jeff’s brother and sister-in-law, however, Chris Parnell, Kenan Thompson and Pete Holmes are wasted.
And yes, the film shares a setting with the original films as the Mercer’s house protected by McCallister Security, and Devin Ratray reprises his role as an adult Buzz McCallister, now a sloppy cop who deals with prank home alone calls from Kevin every year while on-duty at Christmas. On the whole, ‘Home Sweet Home Alone’ is a dismal and unnecessary sequel that lacks the fun and charm of the 1990 Comedy Classic.
Directed – Dan Mazer
Rated – PG
Run Time – 93 minutes