Home Sweet Home Alone, 2021.
Directed by Dan Mazer.
Starring Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Pete Holmes, Aisling Bea, and Devin Ratray.
A married couple tries to steal back a valuable heirloom from a troublesome kid.
The possibilities of streaming cinema’s future are basically limitless, but it’s only inevitable that content networks are going to focus their energies on selling the past back to us more aggressively than ever before.
Without the need to worry about box office bucks, Disney and other streaming platforms need only regurgitate name brands with just enough mediocrity to keep punters subscribed between the next glossy tentpole hotness (in Disney’s case, Marvel and Star Wars shows).
And yet, calling Home Sweet Home Alone mediocre would be sunning it with undeserved praise. It was just a matter of time before Disney rebooted the property whether for screens big or small, and while it could never match the bonafide iconic status of the Macaulay Culkin-starring 1990 classic or its solid 1992 sequel, it could’ve at least gunned for third place.
This is the sixth Home Alone film in all, and while certainly not plumbing the worst-of-all-time depths of the fourth, has its chops licked firmly by even the aggressively forgettable Home Alone 3 (remembered only for starring a young Scarlett Johansson).
This is a film so industriously lazy as to prove genuinely infuriating. A Home Alone movie of all things has driven a grown man to genuine exasperation, particularly when it goes out of its way to wink at audiences about the general futility of remaking classics in a scene that couldn’t feel less earned. And yet, it’s both surprising and misguided that this reboot-quel – basically a remake but existing within the original continuity – makes some peculiar changes to the existing formula. But don’t you dare call it ambitious.
Rather than simply redo the cartoonish thieves vs. plucky over-prepared child shtick, a baffling attempt is made to inject moral ambiguity – don’t call it nuance – into that elegantly simple original setup. It all kicks off when 10-year-old Max Mercer (Archie Yates) is accidentally left home alone by his mother Carol (Aisling Bea) as the family jets off on a seasonal holiday to Tokyo.
Max naturally loves his new-found freedom from his obnoxious family until he comes to blows with Jeff and Pam McKenzie (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper), a couple who are led to believe young Max has pinched their priceless doll heirloom. They venture to break into Max’s home to retrieve it, only to find Max putting up far more resistance than expected. You know the drill.
It’s not much of a spoiler to say that this is all a big misunderstanding, set in motion by a laughably contrived opening in which Max stops off at the McKenzie’s open house viewing to pee after consuming too many sodas. You see, the McKenzies are selling their family home after Jeff lost his job, but with the doll recently being valued at $200,000, it would allow them to keep the house they’ve raised their young kids in.
But because Max overhears the McKenzies talking about taking custody of the “ugly boy” after breaking into his house – the doll is aesthetically not-pleasing – he assumes they actually want to bag him rather than the doll he’s apparently in possession of.
This is all important because it rejigs the movie’s moral center in a way that fatally jars its tone. This time the two intruders aren’t grubby thieves but desperate parents who quite understandably don’t want to lose their home, even if breaking and entering is certainly a step too far.
As such watching them fall prey to a series of traps listlessly rehashed from the original feels nothing close to fun. Home Alone thrived on the black comedy appeal of a resourceful kid outfoxing two doofus career criminals with a cartoonish brutality, even if the second film arguably tipped the balance too far in the way of tortious injury.
The decision to subject basically good people to so much physical abuse shows a fatal misunderstanding of the series’ original appeal while doing nothing to rework it for contemporary tastes. Surprisingly enough, Max’s house isn’t some suburban smart-hub fortress as was surely pitched by at least a few Disney execs.
The script is otherwise a bland hodgepodge of unearned schmaltz backed by the abusive deployment of John Williams’ wonderful score from the original film and bop-on-the-nose tips of the hat to its most recognisable touchstones. The only worthwhile invocation of the past is a cameo from Kevin McCallister’s brother Buzz (Devin Ratray), who now works as a police officer.
It’s mildly amusing fan-service that also hints at the life Kevin is leading today, but to kill any remaining suspense, no, Culkin himself doesn’t appear in the film. One at least hopes the vastly over-qualified cast got handsomely paid for their involvement; Delaney, Kemper, Bea, and Yates are all talented actors thoroughly slumming it here regardless.
Joining the long list of reboots without any defining qualities of its own – aesthetically-speaking it can’t even be bothered to ape the style of the original two films – this is a rare franchise relaunch nobody asked for that’s somehow even more low-effort than expected. Yet if it manages to steal the attention of enough young viewers and their likely-exasperated parents, a sequel will probably materialise on Disney+ before long.
Slop-bucket cinema at its most transparently cynical, Home Sweet Home Alone offers no reason to exist beyond lazily rehashing a brand name for a new generation of viewers while making some truly bizarre tonal miscalculations.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★
Shaun Munro – Follow me on Twitter for more film rambling.