The holidays are fast approaching, and the streaming giants are once again releasing content by the truckload to meet the demands of customers looking for their jingle bell-fix. Disney+ kicked off its holiday lineup with “Home Sweet Home Alone,” a reboot of the 1990 Christmas classic, “Home Alone,” and its four subsequent sequels.
When first announced, the film showed tremendous promise with Ellie Kemper (“The Office,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Rob Delaney (“Catastrophe”) and Kenan Thompson (“Saturday Night Live,” “Kenan and Kel”) all in major roles. With such comedic talent at the helm of this production, what could go wrong?
The end result was a tremendous disappointment that cannot hold a candle to the original 1990 feature I’d even argue the same for 1992’s “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” despite it also not being as strong as the original.
In all honesty, I really wanted to like this movie. The “Home Alone” franchise holds a special place in my heart, as it does for many Millennials and Gen Z. The problem with “Home Sweet Home Alone,” however, is the fact that the audience does not know who to root for as the hijinks ensue. Instead of simply following the story of Max Mercer (Archie Yates) after his family leaves for a holiday vacation to Tokyo, the movie divides the storytelling time between the 10-year-old protagonist and the burglars robbing his home.
Burglar is probably too strong of a word in this case, as Pam and Jeff McKenzie (Kemper and Delaney) are the farthest things from common criminals one would expect from the slapstick comedy franchise. Unlike the “Wet Bandits” of the first two movies, the McKenzies are a lovable couple who have fallen on hard times and need to sell their family house. When they realize a rare toy worth enough to save their home is stolen by Max, they break in to retrieve it, and bear the brunt of Max’s well-planned booby-trapped funhouse.
In doing so, the comedic aspect is completely lost. Frankly, I don’t think I’ve ever cringed as much while watching a Christmas flick as I had with this movie. Not because the acting or directing choices were bad, but rather because I hated seeing loveable characters in so much pain, especially at the hand of the less-likable Max, whose British accent and lavish home made him seem more like a spoiled brat than a clever genius. I mean, watching Marv’s face being smashed with a hot iron in “Home Alone” made me laugh my head off, but watching a cheery elementary school teacher with bare, burned feet walk on a sea of Lego pieces made me wince in agony.
I have to give the writing team a little credit. They, in many ways, had to take the storyline in this type of direction to keep the story new and innovative. After all, the problem with the third, fourth and fifth installments of the franchise was that it told the same story over and over, with just a new smart-aleck 10-year-old slapping their hands against their cheeks after they put on aftershave. Yes, they had to try something new, but by complicating the story, the audience is left hating its hero and sympathizing with its villains.
The one thing this movie did get right, however, was the abundant references and Easter eggs to the original film. Set in suburban Chicago, the story is told within the same universe as the original movies, with Kevin McCallister, now grown-up and CEO of McCallister Home Security. Though Macaulay Culkin
does not make a cameo in the film, viewers do get a visit from Devin Ratray, who reprises his role as Kevin’s trout-sniffing older brother Buzz. Paying homage to its predecessors in this way certainly earns the film some extra points in my book.
Overall, while the story lacked the traditional charm of the other “Home Alone” movies, there are certainly worse holiday movies to waste your time on (I’m looking at you, Hallmark Channel). So while die-hard Kevin McCallister fans will be left disappointed, uncovering all of the hidden references is mildly entertaining and could be a fun “let me put something on TV in the background while I get things done” kind of movie.
“Home Sweet Home Alone” is available to stream on Disney+.