The original Home Alone, released in 1990, is a Christmas classic beloved by millions of people across the globe. It has been this popular ever since it was first released to theatres, maintaining the number 1 spot at the Box Office for 4 months. In fact, it would remain the best selling Christmas film of all time until the release of Illumination Studios’ The Grinch in 2018. As you would expect with a movie which made this much profit, a sequel was put into into production by the end of 1991 and planned to be much bigger. This was matched by the $28 million budget, which was $10 million more than the original, and with scenes shot on location in New York City.
We follow 10 year old Kevin MacCallister as he accidentally boards a flight to New York instead of one to Miami with the rest of his family, leaving him stranded in one of the largest cities in the world. Initially, all is well, as he stays at the illustrious Plaza Hotel. But with the return of Harry and Marv (under new mantle The Sticky Bandits) and their plan to steal from a toy store on Christmas eve, it is once again up to Kevin to stop them. I’ve seen a lot of criticism of Home Alone: Lost in New York, with the main critique being that it simply re-hashes the plot of the original in a new setting. It’s hard to dispute that, but I do think that the change in location gives Kevin more issues to deal with this time around. As well as the Sticky Bandits, Kevin must keep his solitude a secret from the management at the Plaza Hotel. Although everything eventually works out well, Kevin is found to be using his father’s stolen credit card and he runs straight into the arms of the Sticky Bandits. He also encounters a homeless woman in the park who he befriends, mirroring his relationship with Old Man Marley in the original. However, this woman is totally alone as opposed to just not talking with her family, which is possibly the biggest difference between these two films. There’s less home and more alone.
I’ve also seen criticisms of Macaulay Culkin’s performance in comparison to the original, and whilst I think it feels less genuine, I think it’s unfair to criticise the man himself. It is now well established just how little control he had over his own career and finances, coupled with his stardom coming literally overnight. What Macaulay Culkin went through, as well as being the result of a system that was drastically unfit for child stars, was incredibly rough, and I think we should cut him a little slack. As for the character of Kevin, I do think there is an inherent flaw with him being two years older. An 8 year old attacking grown men as an act of self-defense is funny, but a 10 year old luring two grown men into a trap just comes off as cruel. He comes across as bratty, and with the change of context (luring instead of defending) he also comes across as vindictive. The comedy itself still works, with the slapstick being implemented well and the traps being just as inventive as in the original film. The standout moments come from the acting of Tim Curry, who portrays a concierge at the hotel and is clearly having a blast with the role. Tim Curry always gives 120% to every single performance, and it is practically impossible to be sad whenever he is on screen. His line delivery on “a cheese pizza” is particularly outstanding, I think the main difference in the comedy- the slapstick in particular- is that it is more child friendly; making the slapstick feel less of a genuine threat. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, although I suppose it depends on your personal opinion. For me, it isn’t enough to spoil the film.
Home Alone 2 ends up being longer than its predecessor by around 20 minutes, taking its runtime to just under 2 hours. This allows for the film take its time to tell a story, and that might be my only issue with it. This instalment takes a little longer to get to the main plot, and it can sometimes linger on a joke for too long. Home Alone 2 is, I feel, not as concise as it needs to be, and it certainly isn’t as concise as the original. I usually don’t compare films, but when it’s a self contained franchise where the plots are so similar, it’s difficult not to. I wonder if the film would have been received better if it had come first, but alas there is no way of knowing.
What makes this film re-watchable is the emotional core. Catherine O’Hara gives another truly heartfelt performance as Kevin’s mother, and much like Tim Curry, it is difficult not to like her. This is amplified by the beautiful score, brought to us once again by the masterful John Williams. There have been essays written about the legacy of his work, and it is well deserved. Once again, the set is adorned with Christmas decorations so it is impossible to escape the festive feel. At the end of the day Home Alone 2 is a suitable sequel and wonderful festive fare. There are several small issues but they are not enough to dampen the movie for me, or many of its other fans. I once wrote this of another sequel, and I feel it is equally applicable here:
There is a marvellous sequel in here trying to get out but, for what it is, it’s fine. It will forever hold a place in my heart.
Until Next Time…