Welcome, World Travelers! Home Sweet Home Alone Ain’t So Sweet!
by James Coulter
Home Alone is the quintessential 90s Christmas movie. So now that Disney owns 20th Century Studios and the rights to the classic holiday flick, and now that its shiny streaming service has been going strong for two years, and now that most companies are opting to remake their nostalgic hits rather that create anything original, Disney had decided to give the Home Alone franchise a soft reboot with its latest made-for-Disney-Plus flick, Home Sweet Home Alone. And if this movie succeeds in anything, it’s continuing the tradition of making every subsequent installment in the Home Alone franchise incrementally more subpar than the original movie.
This newest movie follows the same premise as the original movie: a young boy finds himself home alone during the holidays and forced to ward off intruders through elaborate Rube Goldberg-style traps created with his toys and other household objects. However, Home Sweet Home Alone decides to put a twist on the tired-and-true formula by asking that bold cinematic question: “What if the home intruders were the main characters rather than the child protagonist?”
In the movie, married couple Jeff and Pam McKenzie are forced to sell their family home upon falling into financial straits after Jeff was fired from his job. A young boy named Max Mercer visits their open house and allegedly steals an antique doll, which they later learn is worth enough money to save their home. Now the couple is forced to break into Max’s house to retrieve the doll while his family is on vacation. Unbeknownst to them, Max was left home alone and, under the assumption they’re going to kidnap him, wards them off with traps. Wacky shenanigans ensue!
And herein lies the problem: this movie wants to remake Home Alone without understanding what made the original movie work. The original Home Alone is a holiday classic because it’s a children’s movie about a child living out a child’s power fantasy by staying home by himself and saving it from intruders. Children loved the movie because they can imagine themselves as Kevin McCallister using his smarts to set up traps and outwit the adult criminals. They want to be Kevin. They do not want to be the Wet Bandits.
Speaking of which, while the home intruders in the original movie were opportunistic criminals, the intruders in this movie, on the other hand, are a desperate married couple who are only breaking and entering because Max allegedly stole a doll from them that they need to sell to save their family house, which they would have to sell otherwise because they’re facing financial struggles following Jeff’s termination.
When Harry gets his head burned by a blowtorch and Marv gets his foot pierced by a nail, we laugh at their suffering because they’re burglars who deserve it. When Pam gets her feet burned and Jeff gets bonked in the head with a paint can, we feel sorry for them because we sympathize with their circumstances. It’s not schadenfreude seeing them suffer. It’s sadism!
As for the child protagonist, Max fares no better. In the original movie, Kevin, being the main character, received enough character development for us to know and care about him. In the first
act, he gets into a tryst with his extended family, making him wish he were alone, then discovers he was left home alone and spends quality time in his unsupervised solitude before realizing he misses his family.
Max, on the other hand, being the secondary character, receives far less development. He only spends a few minutes of screen time getting in an inconsequential argument with his mother, being mildly annoyed by his extended family, and spending a three-minute montage enjoying being home alone before getting bored. We want to see Kevin reunited with his family. We could care less about what happens to Max.
Adding insult to injury is how much the new movie blatantly references the original. There’s a scene in a church where a choir sing “O Holy Night.” The song “Somewhere in my Memory” plays during a flashback. And even Buzz McCallister, Kevin’s older brother, makes an apperance as a cop. In a better made movie, these references would be loving homages to the original film; in this movie, it’s a painful reminder that the original was better.
Perhaps the most egregious pandering fanservice is when the main family watches a movie similar to “Angels With Filthy Souls”, only with the old-timey mobster being played by a galactic warlord in a sci-fi setting. One character watching the movie begrudgingly wonders, “why they are always trying to remake the classics [because] it’s never as good as the original.”
That pretty much sums up Home Sweet Home Alone. In short, if you want to watch Home Alone for the holidays, the original movie and its sequels are all available on Disney Plus. Watch them instead. Don’t watch this remake. It’s not as good as the original.