‘Tis the season to gather the family around the TV and bring out your favourite holiday films. Some are guilty pleasures, some not as well known as others, but near and dear to your heart nonetheless. But we all have that list of can’t-miss, iconic Christmas movies that, if you don’t see it, the season hardly seems complete.
Among those iconic films for me is a classic written by the great John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, Home Alone. The movie made McCauley Culkin one of the most famous faces in the world, and its sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, combined with the original to make a wonderful one-two punch for your holiday viewing pleasure.
We’ll just forget about the additional ill-fated sequels for this review.
Well, Disney+ is attempting to bring back the magic with another Yuletide tale of child abandonment, Home Sweet Home Alone. They bring you a new twist on the formula in the hopes that a fresh take may help recapture the magic of the original, while giving you a new story at the same time.
The film takes you back to suburban Illinois, where another well-to-do, large family is getting ready for a trip to Tokyo. The Mercer family is set to depart on two separate flights, the matriarch forced to take a different flight than her kids and, in the chaos of the next morning, the remaining family is unaware that young Max was not on the first flight, leaving him behind.
The criminal element of the film is the biggest twist on the original, as the perpetrators are no burglars, they are a couple who’ve fallen on hard times and are looking to retrieve a rare collectable that they believe Max to have stolen. Their story is a much more sympathetic one, but to poor Max, all he sees are intruders and, as it has been said, it is his house, and he has to defend it.
Home Sweet Home Alone follows the regular formula of comedic violence in the form of household booby traps. The couple try to navigate their way through a gauntlet of often brutal creations in the attempt to get to their prize.
The film stars Archie Yates (Jojo Rabbit) as the unaccompanied minor, Max Mercer. Ellie Kemper (The Office, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) and Rob Delaney (Deadpool 2) are the invading couple, the Fritovskis. Aisling Bee (This Way Up) is Max’s Mother, trying to get back to Max.
The supporting cast is rounded out by a solid group of comedic actors, including Andy Daly (Semi-Pro), Timothy Simons (Veep), Pete Holmes (Crashing), Ally Maki (Toy Story 4) and SNL Alums Chris Parnell and Keenan Thompson. SNL’s Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell penned the movie, and it was directed by Dan Mazer, writer of the Borat films.
Performances across the board in Home Sweet Home Alone are solid. Yates presents an equally mischievous, smart and fragile boy. Our breaking and entering couple has potentially the hardest job, being both the antagonists and a couple that you feel for. Lack of sympathy for these characters kills the whole spirit of the movie.
“Performances across the board in Home Sweet Home Alone are solid.”
The remainder of the supporting cast crushes their smaller roles. Pete Holmes is a real highlight as the stressed out uncle. Timothy Simons and Ally Maki’s role as the family of our would-be burglars is hilarious and keeps the pressure on that couple, pushing along the story.
My only gripes are that Aisling Bee fails to capture the desperate mother role that was so perfected by the legendary Catharine O’Hara (though I acknowledge that it is almost unfair to even try and draw a comparison there). Andy Daly’s role is also entirely too small in this film. He is a powerhouse, but is so underutilized it might slip past you that he is playing Max’s Father.
In terms of matching up with the original film, simply put, it doesn’t. It isn’t without its charms, but the story fails to amount to anything more than an even more family-friendly version of an already family-friendly film. Nobody could be inherently bad or scary and, with that in mind, the movie just goes at its pace as it makes its way through the formula.
It is also worth noting that I watched this with my children, aged six and ten, who are immense fans of the original film and its sequel. While they got a few chuckles from the film, they were largely bored. Well, my ten-year-old was at the very least. My six-year old transitioned between being bored and “Daddy, this is the best scene!”
It is a movie, however, that I recommend you check out. The individual parts of this puzzle are worth seeing. There are some funny performances, entertaining scenes and an all important tie in to the original that answers a lot of questions about the McCallister clan, including what Kevin is doing with his life, despite the fact that, sadly, he doesn’t make an appearance (although you will see one of the original cast members on screen).