In 1990, Home Alone ruled the box office and became a viewing staple of the Christmas season. Generations have now watched Macaulay Culkin‘s Kevin McCallister get accidentally left behind by his family, then cheered him on as he stopped two burglars in the most painful ways. Now, 31 years later (yes, you read that right, it has been that long), Disney Plus is offering up a whole new story for the holidays. Unfortunately, Home Sweet Home Alone does not live up to the status of the original film.
This time around, 10-year-old Max Mercer (Archie Yates of Jojo Rabbit) is stranded on his own at home when flight mixups send half of his extended family to Tokyo separately and they lose track of him. Meanwhile, Pam and Jeff McKenzie (Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney) are being forced to sell their home since he’s lost his job. Through a convoluted series of events, they find out they own a valuable (and very ugly) antique doll that can allow them to stay in the home they and their kid’s love– but they think Max stole it.
Something that made Home Alone so successful was that it focused on the child at the heart of the story. Kevin learned to be resourceful and appreciate his family. The audience saw his mother’s desperation to get home to him, and a bit of the criminal he eventually takes down, but it was mostly about Kevin. That is not the case with this film. I suppose in our age of automated homes and ever-present security systems, a child home alone is not as dangerous a concept as it used to be.
Instead, the Mackenzie’s take up more screen time. Their bumbling partnership has the same ineptness that characterized the Wet Bandits Marv and Harry in the original film. But there is an important difference here. Jeff and Pam are not professional criminals like Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci‘s characters were. They just want to get the doll back and save their house. That means the vicarious wish fulfillment the viewer gets from the first film isn’t present with this new story.
The foundation of why the physical comedy is funny in Home Alone is missing here, in other words. Now, the broad slapstick is just there, and it’s more obvious than ever that anyone going through these violent booby traps would end up in the hospital. Yates is adorable, and Kemper and Delaney have always been appealing and funny performers, so this is a shame.
Nostalgia is clearly the point of this film’s existence as well. Or at least one of them. The references and Easter Eggs to the original movie don’t stop at the shades of John Williams‘ classic score in the music. Buzz McCallister appears, played by the same actor (Devin Ratray), and he’s a cop now. Apparently, Kevin runs a home security business. (I guess that’s supposed to be ironic.) Also, remember the old gangster film Kevin watches in Home Alone called Angels With Filthy Souls? Well, a super-cheesy sci-fi remake appears in this reboot, complete with the same dialogue.
In fact, this “movie” prompts one of the characters to say, “I don’t know why they’re always trying to remake the classics. It’s never as good as the original.” And that about sums it up. There are countless other Christmas movies to take up your time, including the first Home Alone and its 1992 sequel. Home Sweet Home Alone wants to equate home with family but the results just fall flat. Much like Max makes Jeff and Pam do many times.
2 1/2 out of 5 stars