Home Sweet Home Alone: You Can’t Go Home Alone Again

This is garbage. I don’t know why they’re always trying to remake the classics. Never as good as the originals.

These are actual lines of dialogue in Home Sweet Home Alone.

Holiday classics were meant to be broken.

This is an actual tagline that appears on the poster for Home Sweet Home Alone.

Why did I let this be our daughter’s first live action movie she finished and watched with childlike Christmas joy?

This is an actual thing I said to my wife after Home Sweet Home Alone.

Now, Home Alone (1990) is no sacred cow. Can we just dispel any notion that it’s a revered or holy cinematic text?

Sure, camp films have their own hallowed sanctity. Goes double for camp family films. Anything that can get the family around the couch and pass through generations gets unnecessarily venerated and canonized in the memory of children that way.

Someone in your family probably gives prank gifts. Maybe it’s you. Maybe it’s an uncle who, for one shining moment of the year, has the humor of Beavis and Butthead and wraps toilet humor gags into Christmas gifts for his unsuspecting relatives. Disney thought they should make a prank gift movie.

Home Sweet Home Alone is a prank gift. Unwrap it with caution, knowing there is uncertainty to what you may find. It won’t bring the family together every year. But for a short time, this year, it will amuse them long enough with its callow brand of backward looking nostalgia baiting, that poking out of that wrapping paper, you might see a glimmer of hope unwrapping the thing. It’s your uncle (or, you) hiding that joke gift inside a nicer box.

A nicer box is the premise here. Home Alone made digitally accessible. Sure, you’ll put it on. You’ve seen what Netflix and Hallmark put out this time of year. This has a better standard of low quality than that. This knows it’s bad, revels in it, laughs as your aunt receives the same prank gift as last year, and thinks that’s the funniest thing in the world.

In a way, it’s right. It’s funny to make Home Alone and not really try in doing it. It’s funny that anyone would make a fuss at all. Because Home Alone isn’t the original article anyway. That’s Dial Code Santa Claus (1989). AKA 3615 code Père Noël. AKA Deadly Games. A hallowed classic that your joke telling uncle (or you) never saw. Dial Code Santa Claus is the definitive Home Alone: French; a horror movie; and a little bit Rambo (1982). A good mixed eggnog.

Home Sweet Home Alone is a funky Turducken. A husk of nostalgia stuffed with other misplaced nostalgias and served like it’s an authentic diversion. It’s not even that. It’s probably not as terrible as it’s been made out to be either. It is neither the worst nor most cynical Christmas movie I have seen the last couple years. It’s a bad movie, of course, the ceiling is incredibly low for this project. But it has moments of intrigue, evidenced by it being the first live action film my daughter has sat through. It being her first was a greater mistake than having watched it.

You see, the pure facile core of Home Sweet Home Alone still fires the right chemicals into my lizard brain. I’m still interested in precariously designed Rube Goldberg machines, especially ones created by children, the machinations of all their Christmasy toys weaponized to murder adults. Still funny. It’s also still funny that the kid’s parents are hysterically rich. They live in an impossible mansion, keying up that refrain from someone just seeing Home Alone for the first time — my god, what do his parents do for a living? Like the first movie, their job and gargantuan house aren’t relevant, they are rich, distracted parents and forget their kid when the family jet sets to Japan.

That still works for my reptilian brain, too. What doesn’t quite work is the rest of the caustically silly setup. The boy went with his mom, before being abandoned, to tour this guy’s house. He stole a presumably useless doll, referred to in the film as the “ugly boy”, with an upside down head. That doll ended up being worth over $200,000. And that guy ended up needing a desperate cash reserve, but his “ugly boy” piggy bank was stolen by this rich kid. So, he must devise a plot to get the doll back, and the boy must devise plans to murder him inside his big expensive house, which makes a nice, easy playground for this sort of thing.

What worked in Home Alone that didn’t work in Dial Code Santa Claus was the natural on-screen ease of Macaulay Culkin. He was believably every boy who has ever been left alone. It was easy to self-insert as a kid, to see the immediate danger, and the joyous havoc enabled by a long tenure left alone. I’m reticent to ever overtly criticize the child actor. They do not deserve that for partaking in a movie. Few kids are Macaulay Culkin. Let’s just say Culkin was always the right actor for Home Alone. And presumably still is (it would be funny, right, the adult version as a home invasion movie with a sense of humor?)

The new film, thankfully, does not rely on all the Smart Enabled Housing options to be the crux of the comedy. It understands that modified nerf guns that shoot pool balls are funnier than our technology advanced options of today. It realizes a series of hot wheel tracks, set in a line down some stairs and used as the trigger for the next event, is more satisfying than using drones or remote control cars. Simple, common children’s toys are still what wins the day and what makes Home Alone a worthy Christmas formula, as the kids eye their pile of toys on The Big Day and think about how to destroy their parents with their own capitalistic failings.

It probably sounds like I don’t hate Home Sweet Home Alone. I don’t, truly. It’s not a good movie. Again, it’s the first live action movie my daughter has finished. I would rather it have been a timeless Christmas classic, absolutely, but I understand deep in my reptilian brain why this formula still inherently works. It may be a self-admitting cynical cash-in on your childhood, but it’s not the worst one of those ever devised. It’s still what families need it to be, an impulsive and easy break between festivities. I might even propose this bad movie is better than it thinks it is. It could have alternatively believed in itself, been made seriously — but not too seriously — and have been more of a prized gift than a simple stocking stuffer. We’ll never know. Unless they keep making these. And maybe they should.

3/10

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Dad, husband, editor of thetwingeeks.com

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