To make one thing perfectly clear, the original two 'Home Alone' movies (specifically the first one) are a couple of Christmas classics that can't quite be recreated, although God knows people have tried time and time again. I've always held those first two rather close to my heart while never seeing anything beyond it, and being quite happy with that decision. Then, along came this, and out of pure curiosity, I felt for some reason that I had to check it out. This is one of those cases where I checked out a movie to see how bad it actually turned out, as the trailer makes it look quite literally like a complete theft of the first movie.
Well, for the love of Saint Nick's big, bushy beard, I'll be damned if this didn't turn out exactly as I expected. I went into this with three big things on my mind. For one, this kid wasn't gonna be able to hold a torch to Culkin despite the fact that he once played my favourite "little buddy" character in 'Jojo Rabbit'. Two, the traps were bound to be more family friendly and less violent for this day and age despite the fact that the violent slapstick in 'Home Alone' was part of what made it comedy gold. And three, the overall threat of being left home alone was going to be a joke this time. Much of this is indicated by the trailer anyway, but I didn't realize it was gonna be as lame as it actually was.
This one's premise actually follows the would-be criminals, Jeff and Pam McKenzie (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper, respectively) a bit more closely than the kid. These two are a couple trying to sell their house, but have yet to tell their children, Abby (Katie Beth Hall) and Chris (Max Ivutin). They have run into hard times with Jeff losing his job, and Pam on a minimal salary, so they kind of have to sell. To add to their stress, Jeff's brother, Hunter (Timothy Simons), his wife, Mei (Ally Maki) and son, Ollie (Aiden/Allan Wang) come to stay for the holidays.
Meanwhile, on the road and having to drain the lizard, Max (Archie Yates) is coming home with his Mom, Carol (Aisling Bea). His Mom stops at the open house Jeff and Pam are having for Max to use the bathroom (though I don't remember ever seeing it happen), and soon Max bumps into Jeff and his collection of old dolls. Then, max is a total jerk to him and one wonders why we're supposed to sympathize with this damn wiener kid. Anyway, long story short, you see something come across Max's face having to do with the dolls, eventually leading to Jeff and Pam assuming Max stole one as some sort of vengeful act after their exchange.
While Max's family all leave for Japan, they forget him at home, and that part of the film is the exact same premise as the first 'Home Alone', although in this, the kid is left alone at the age of 10, the family goes to "Japan" (which you get no hint of, whatsoever - it's like watching Jason "Take Manhattan"), and Max misses his family WAY too fast. Add to that the couple who are trying to get their doll back from Max. Max ends up setting up traps for them and such, but there's little to no humour here as this is just a relatively innocent couple here trying to get something back that belongs to them. It's not tough guy Joe Pesci and bumbling buffoon Daniel Stern going around robbing neighbourhoods. There's no satisfaction in their injuries (if you can call them that) you just kind of want Max to knock it off and stop being such a little shit.
And speaking of that, Max really is such a little bastard. I'll admit that Kevin wasn't exactly the most likable kid in the original, but one of the big points of the original was to show that Kevin still loved his family deep down despite all of the bad he said about them. Its a realization on his part that he still needs them in his life, and his wishing for them to disappear is something he ends up regretting. You really feel this in the moments between him fending off Harry and Marv and his Mother coming home. He still sets the house up for Christmas Eve etc. It's subtle but, it's there. In this, the kid comes across as a whiney little brat and you almost want to see the couple turn the tables on him.
I could sit here all day picking this movie apart, but there were a few little odds and ends I have to admit I sort of appreciated. For one, Buzz McCallister (Devin Ratray) makes a cameo appearance here as a cop, and there's a gag involving Kevin prank calling in, reporting a kid who has been left home alone. Apparently something he bugs him with on a yearly basis. I sort of appreciated that, even though it was a touch crow-barred in and sort of implausible. Another character I liked here was Uncle Blake (Pete Holmes) who adds a touch of comedy relief to things by seemingly spotting all of the more realistic things about the plot, like for instance, leaving Max at home as a sort of "first world problem" (his words, not mine, but I get his point).
Anyway, it's time to wrap this one up. The bottom line is simple - the original 1990 version is most definitely the way to go when it comes to these movies. I love the second one too, but the first is the highly recommended and incredibly quotable Christmas classic. This comes across as something an angry mother in the fight against cartoon violence would have come up with. Even the happy ending to this is lame. It merely focuses on "poor" Max, where the first at least had that side story about their neighbour reuniting with his son to really pull at the heart strings. Despite a few little giggles here and there, as a whole, this is just crap. And note to writers - jokes about remakes never being good as the originals DO NOT excuse your film for being a crappy remake!