November 13, 2021

Review: “Home Sweet Home Alone” is a Hollow Echo of a Classic

What if Kevin McCallister was British...and played by Jojo Rabbit breakout star Archie Yates? Oh, and what if the robbers were actually the main characters? It sounds great, doesn’t it?

No. No, it doesn’t. Disney has once again come for our childhoods with another soulless reimagining of a classic property — and what’s worse, they even acknowledge this fact in the actual film. While watching an outer space-set remake of “Angels with Filthy Souls” (the movie Kevin watches in the original), a character rhetorically asks “why are they always remaking the classics?” Clearly, they knew what they were doing, and at least someone decided to be self-aware about it instead of blissful ignorance.

Everyone else in this movie is living in that fantasy world. Archie Yates is charming and likable enough (especially given his young age), but it’s a shame that his character, Max Mercer, is such an unsympathetic brat…and not in an endearing way, like this series’ first protagonist. Regardless, Yates isn’t the main problem with this movie, because he’s actually trying, which is more than I can say about most everyone else here. Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney play Pam and Jeff McKenzie, a married couple who have fallen on hard times. They believe Max has stolen from them, so they plan to break into his house and steal back what they believe is rightfully theirs. And...what do you know? Max’s family went on vacation to Japan, and conveniently left him behind.

It seems innocent enough. The issue here is that Home Sweet Home Alone isn’t sure who it wants to focus on. Does it want to keep building sympathy for the antagonists and showing their dysfunctional and non-communicative family, or does it want to do the same with Max, who by all rights should be the main protagonist? These could be interesting changes to the original material, but there’s just no depth to it. While Home Alone gave us well-rounded characters, this reboot(/sequel?) doesn’t even try.

I don’t mean to keep comparing Home Sweet to the original Home Alone, but it really doesn’t give me a choice. While I’m grateful it doesn't do the typical reboot schtick of showcasing things we loved about the original as a way of saying “Don’t you remember this? We can do this to!”, Home Sweet Home Alone is guilty of the exact opposite (and still sinful) thing: it takes out everything that made the original great but doesn’t feel the need to add anything in its place. Thus, we get a ridiculous, surface-level Christmas movie that contributes absolutely nothing new to the genre.

Home Sweet Home Alone is not the worst movie I’ve ever seen. It’s not even the worst Christmas movie I’ve ever seen. Like all bad holiday movies, though, Home Sweet lacks the joy, cheer and triumph that makes this sub-genre sweet, rewarding and cathartic. It’s not for a lack of effort, though — Home Sweet Home Alone really wants to make you to like it, even going so far as to incorporate a game of Guess the Guest Star. Prolific comedic actors Kenan Thompson, Pete Holmes, Chris Parnell, Andy Daley, Mikey Day and Jim Rash (who are quite funny in most everything else) pop in occasionally, and I understand it’s trendy to have recognizable comedians show up in comedies, but it was honestly groan-worthy here. Maybe I had just given up on the movie at this point, or maybe I was just sick of Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney’s phoned-in performances (which is a shame, seeing as they get the most screen time out of everyone), but the cameos did nothing for me.

The biggest guest star might be Devin Ratray, the only original cast member reprising his role. He plays Buzz McCallister, Kevin’s older brother, now a police officer who gets called in to investigate the break-in. I see his appearance as more of a marketing gimmick than anything else, and his only real role in the movie is to make references that the returning audience will understand and eat food sloppily in his police car. This is what counts as fan service in the Home Alone universe.

I did mention this wasn’t the worst movie I’ve ever seen, so clearly there was at least one thing that worked. There are a few moments where we get into Max’s head, and we get a pretty decent portrayal of how kids tend to over-exaggerate things they might hear out of context. Hold on, let me rack my brain, there’s got to be something else…

Home Sweet Home Alone is in-keeping with the franchise tradition of putting the antagonists through the wringer. Max subjects the McKenzies to not easily survivable conditions, and they miraculously come away fully intact, “without lasting nerve damage,” as Jeff proudly brags towards the end. The only issue is that most of the booby traps Max sets are up are basic and uninspired, nowhere near the creativity of the first two films in the franchise. I’m sorry, guys, I’m starting to think I didn’t like this movie…

I’ve noticed that I usually have more to say about bad movies than I do about ones I enjoy. Maybe it’s because I’m pointing out all of their inconsistencies and the things that don’t work, and I think that’s a good thing — I like that bad movies inspire more debate and conversation than objectively good ones do. And if there’s anything Home Sweet Home Alone is, it’s the exact opposite of an objectively good movie. A cheap modern copy of the original, filled with bland, boring imagery and oftentimes painfully unfunny humor, this is a Christmas present you definitely want to leave in the box. [Grade: D-]

Director: Dan Mazer

Writers: Mikey Day, Streeter Seidell

Starring: Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Aisling Bea
Rated: PG for slapstick violence, rude material and some language
Available: Disney+
Fun Fact: Archie Yates is currently twelve years old, which means that he was nine when Jojo Rabbit was filmed, and I still can’t believe it.

No comments:

Post a Comment