Home Sweet Home Alone
A young kid accidentally left behind as his family goes on holiday terrorises burglars trying to steal back a family heirloom in Dan Mazer’s Home Sweet Home Alone.
The original Home Alone and its sequel are classics. Kevin McCallister’s disproportionately brutal treatment of two criminals has become the stuff of many long discussions over the years and its genuine warmth means that it continues to resonate. There have been other attempts to make Home Alone movies since that have failed to capture that level of sincerity or quality so was another attempt necessary?
In short the answer is no. Home Sweet Home Alone is ill conceived and fails on almost every level despite having some interesting ideas in there. Most prominently is that the home invaders aren’t criminals in the traditional sense. Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam (Ellie Kemper) are a down on their luck married couple who have to sell their house after Jeff loses his job and her income renders them unable to afford it. Salvation comes when they learn that a doll in their possession is worth a lot of money. The drawback is that they believe it to be stolen and turn to a life of crime in order to retrieve it.
It’s a massive contrivance in order to get these nice people to turn to crime that doesn’t really work. The film fails to establish them as characters in any meaningful way before they make the decision to do whatever it takes to retrieve the doll. It plays as if the decision is out of character for them but there’s no indication that’s actually the case. Not enough time is spent making them sympathetic so that the viewer can go along with their decisions and see them as justifiable. This film is full of talented comedic performers but the material leaves them nothing to work with.
The other side of the coin is Max (Archie Yates); the kid left home alone by his family who leave for a Christmas break without him. Broadly it’s the same setup as the original film with him realising this, having fun with his solitude and then eventually coming to realise that he wants his family to come back. The latter doesn’t come across as clearly as it needs to. The biggest issue with Max is that he’s completely unsympathetic. He’s a spoiled brat with no redeeming features who only seems out for what he can get for himself. There’s a scene where he goes to a “Toys for Kids” charity drive at the church and asks for a shopping cart after failing to grasp the meaning of the display. He never learns a lesson of humility nor does he come to understand how privileged he is. The attempt to make the home invaders sympathetic also renders it impossible to believe that Max is in any kind of danger. Jeff and Pam may be thinly developed but it’s clear they aren’t capable of harming Max so there’s never a chance of the brutality being returned to him.
Max’ mother Carol (Aisling Bea) is similarly difficult to relate to as she has such a passive reaction to the realisation that her son is home alone. Her part of the story negatively impacts the already dreadful pacing, provides no entertainment value in its own right and comes across as an afterthought. More time is spent on doing backflips to justify how such a thing could have happened and why it’s impossible to get in touch with Max to see if he’s alright. This is something that was far easier in the 90s when the internet didn’t exist but now a lot more has to go wrong to make it impossible to reach someone. The effort to justify its own premise means that the film takes far too long to actually begin and when it does there’s nothing of interest worth sticking around for.
There’s no sense of what Home Sweet Home Alone is trying to be beyond a repeat of the original. Constant references to the first two films can be found throughout including a direct wink to the audience about remakes never being as good as the original; a point the film makes and then conclusively proves. A small hint of class divide exists with Max being an entitled rich kid and the home invaders being middle class and desperate to hold onto what they have but the film does nothing with it. Jeff and Pam are the villains because they’re committing a crime but Max does nothing to deserve sympathy and brutally attacks them based on a misunderstanding so the theme gets completely lost. Ultimately it’s a film less about a kid being left home alone and more about a married couple trying to justify criminal behaviour. The attempt to tell its own story and shift the focus is admirable but it means it’s painfully unfocused with no clear idea who deserves the viewer’s attention.
The home invasion sequence is very short and underwhelming. Max sets a number of traps designed to keep the invaders out with their desperation pushing them on despite the injuries they take. Much of what they endure should be brutal but the film chooses to play it for laughs with injury detail being remarked on and dismissed in order to get to the next thing. Many of them are riffs on Kevin’s gauntlet from the original film but they feel far more sanitised because of how the couple react to them rather than how severe they actually are which means that the sequence fails to stand out. The film generally leans heavily on slapstick and often awkwardly pauses as if waiting for a laugh track to subside before moving onto the next equally unfunny development. Jeff and Pam not deserving this treatment also makes it more difficult to enjoy as the misunderstanding remains a detail that will be considered. All told it just doesn’t work.
Don’t watch this, just watch the original. The characterisation is weak, the plotting is terrible and there’s no sense of purpose to any of it. It spends a lot of time making references to the classic films while failing to define itself as being in any way worthwhile. There is some merit to attempting to make the home invaders sympathetic but this presents different problems. Max is a spoiled brat with no redeeming features and his mother has a bizarrely passive reaction to learning that her son has been left home alone. The home invasion sequence is short and underwhelming with the severity of the injuries not coming across and the traps themselves feeling too sanitised. Jeff and Pam not deserving this treatment makes it more difficult to enjoy as the misunderstanding remains a detail to be considered. All told it just doesn’t work.
- an attempt to make the home invaders sympathetic
- awful pacing
- terrible characterisation
- being more concerned with referencing the original than doing anything for itself
- the underwhelming home invasion sequence
- no sense of what the film is trying to be
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