Were it not for the fact that we got Space Jam: A New Legacy
just four months ago, the awkwardly-titled Home Sweet Home Alone
would easily earn the title of the most misguided attempt to resurrect a nostalgic franchise in many a moon. Maybe it still gets that title. Space Jam
was an ode to crass commercialism. This is a confused, mean-spirited, sloppy, and downright idiotic Christmas comedy that not only tries and fails to combine the sentimentality and cartoon slapstick violence of the John Hughes-penned original, but it also tries to look at the story from both the point of view of the kid stuck home alone, and the adults trying to break into his house.
The twist that Director Dan Mazer (Dirty Grandpa
) and his screenwriters throw in this time is that the burglars are really not bad people. They're a married couple named Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam McKenzie (Ellie Kemper), who have been hit with hard times, and may be forced to sell their beloved home in order to make ends meet. Jeff lost his tech job months ago, and hasn't been able to find work, while Pam's teacher salary isn't enough to make ends meet. They don't want to tell their kids that they might lose their home, especially as Christmas is rolling around, so they do their best to act like things are normal. Then, Jeff discovers that an antique doll he has that once belonged to his mother is going for over $200,000 on eBay. He tries to find the doll, but it's gone missing, and he thinks he knows where it is.
Enter our adolescent hero, Max (Archie Yates from JoJo Rabbit
), who was visiting the McKenzie house earlier with his mom (Aisling Bea) during an Open House event. Max was being a brat toward Jeff during the event, and he now thinks that the kid took the doll when he wasn't looking, since Max was nearby when the antique was last seen. The plan is to go to Max's house and explain the situation, only to find out that the boy has been left home alone, as his entire family has flown off on a holiday trip to Tokyo, accidentally leaving him behind. Through plot contrivances too stupid to recap here, Max thinks that Jeff and Pam are human traffickers that want to kidnap and sell him for 200 grand, so he turns his house into a deathtrap for the hapless couple as they try to sneak in to find the doll, and get out.
Home Sweet Home Alone
bends over backwards to try to look at things from the point of view of the McKenzies, and emphasizes that they really are not bad people, but desperate. Then it devotes a good 20 minutes or so to little Max setting them on fire, shooting them with pool balls, giving them multiple concussions, and slamming them with weight equipment. The tonal misguidance here couldn't be more obvious. You have a struggling couple being comically beaten by a self-entitled little brat from a wealthy background. The fact that not once does the kid ever come across as likable or even sorry for his actions, even when things are eventually explained to him, is the least of the film's problems. With the movie only being roughly 80 minutes long, it has to race through its plot, and never slows down long enough for us to get in the kid's corner. Sure, he misses his family when they're away, but that's not enough, especially not when we get a scene where he practically steals from a kid's toy donation table at a church.
Despite having some talented actors in the cast, nobody gets to stand out, or create a believable emotion. There are no laughs, and no real moments of heart or empathy. Instead, the filmmakers have decided to throw a lot of "tributes" to the first movie. We get bits and pieces of John Williams' iconic score on the soundtrack, and even the return of Buzz McCallister (Devin Ratray), who grew up to be a police officer who is still tormented by his young brother Kevin's pranks at Christmas. (Despite his character being mentioned, Macaulay Culkin was smart enough to avoid appearing in this.) Like all uninspired Hollywood nostalgia trips, all these moments do is make us wish we were watching the original instead. And in a movie filled with vast miscalculations, one of the biggest is that young Max looks to be pushing 13 or so, making the situation of him being left home alone less dire than before.
I could go on, but I don't really want to. Home Sweet Home Alone
is one of the most misguided attempts at comedy of this year, and possibly previous years. There was really no chance of this being good, but you would at least expect a kind of effort, and this movie provides none. By the time the tacked on sentimental ending about family and understanding comes around, I kind of wanted to scream. Better judgement won over, and I wrote this review instead.