When Home Alone became the third most profitable movie in history for its time, and remained the highest earning Christmas movie in history for over 20 years, of course you know there’s going to be a sequel. And of course most of the people involved returned for said sequel. But the sad thing is, not only was there a sequel. There are now 5 sequels … and several weird rip-offs starring talking dogs home alone fighting burglars, like Alone For Christmas and Pups Alone. Seriously, what?
It was reported in February of 1991 that legendary filmmaker John Hughes signed a 6-picture deal with 20th Century Fox. Among those projects was Home Alone 2. Pretty much every major actor from the first one returned for the sequel. Macaulay Culkin, who was paid $110,000 for the first movie, earned $4.5 million plus 5% of the film’s total gross when he reprised Kevin McCallister. That profit share must have been substantial for a 12-year-old considering Home Alone 2 earned $359 million worldwide.
Among the other returning cast members, you’ve got Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern as the robbers Harry and Marv, who just escaped from prison. You’ve got Catherine O’Hara as Kevin’s mother. Devin Ratray returns as Buzz, Kevin’s somewhat bully-ish older brother. Kieran Culkin, Macaulay’s younger brother, plays Kevin’s younger cousin Fuller. The late John Heard plays Kevin’s father. And of course you’ve got Gerry Bamman as Uncle Frank.
Some of the new cast members include Tim Curry as Mr. Hector, the concierge at the Plaza Hotel. He’s brilliant in his role, somehow both comedic and intimidating at once. He’s both convincing and entertaining as someone who’s capable of being both really smart and really dumb. There’s Irish actress Brenda Fricker, who’s unnamed character is usually referred to as Pigeon Lady, and pretty much takes on the same role as Old Man Marley from the first movie. Eddie Bracken makes a brief but welcome appearance as the owner of a toy store. Rob Schneider plays Cedric, the bellman at the Plaza Hotel.
It’s worth mentioning that Donald Trump, who owned the Plaza Hotel at the time, cameos in the movie. His cameo was one of the conditions for allowing filming in the hotel’s lobby. Director Chris Columbus said in a 2020 interview that Trump “bullied” his way into the film, and he planned to leave it out, but test audiences cheered when Trump appeared. Personally I don’t care about his cameo one way or another.
John Williams also returned to score Home Alone 2. The soundtrack includes many of the same themes from the first movie, although most of them are changed around a bit. For example, the setting the traps theme is a touch more epic. Home Alone 2 also contains several new memorable themes, including “Christmas Star”, which serves as the emotional core of the movie.
Because there isn’t as much information about the behind the scenes, it’s worth talking about Macaulay Culkin himself a bit. He’s actually the fourth of 8 kids. His parents were never actually married, and they split up in 1995. His father, Kit Culkin, was a stage actor who appeared in two movies in the 1960’s, but never made a big name for himself. Despite being part of a large family, they lived in a small apartment. Macaulay said that his father was cruel and violent, feeling that his father was jealous of his success. After his parents split up, Macaulay took both his parents to court to block them from controlling his trust fund, then worth somewhere between $15 and $20 million. He found himself an executor instead. He’s been estranged from his father since.
Although he retired from acting for a number of years to live a normal life, he never completely disappeared. His last film as a kid was Richie Rich in 1994. He did appear in the “Sunday” music video by rock band Sonic Youth. Starting in 2000, he performed on stage, while making scattered appearances in TV and film. His first major film role since Richie Rich was Party Monster, where he portrayed the real life murderer Michael Alig. For several years, he performed in a parody rock band The Pizza Underground, where he played the kazoo, percussion and also contributed to the vocals. In recent years, in addition to appearing in more movies, he’s also appeared in a number of popular web series’, including multiple episodes of RedLetterMedia’s various podcasts, an episode of the Angry Video Game Nerd, and Joe Rogan’s podcast, among others. Also, he legally changed his name to Macaulay Macaulay Culkin Culkin after he held a pole on his website to change his middle name.
Also, two of his older sisters have passed away. His half-sister died of a drug overdose, while his sister Dakota was hit by a car. He’s got a son named after Dakota, born in April of this year.
Anyway, back to Home Alone 2. The sequel actually started off better than the first movie in theaters, earning $100 million in 24 days, compared to the 33 days it took the original to reach that point. It ended up earning $359 million worldwide, making it the third highest earning movie in 1992, behind The Bodyguard and Aladdin. While not as much as Home Alone’s $476 million, earning $360 million on a $28 million budget is still very good.
The first movie received mediocre reviews from the critics, and this movie performed slightly worse. Roger Ebert gave it 2 out of 4, saying “Cartoon violence is only funny in cartoons. Most of the live-action attempts to duplicate animation have failed, because when flesh-and-blood figures hit the pavement, we can almost hear the bones crunch, and it isn’t funny.” The Los Angeles Times review wasn’t all that positive either, claiming “Whatever was unforced and funny in the first movie has become exaggerated here, whatever was slightly sentimental has been laid on with a towel.” The Chicago Tribune review argued that Home Alone 2 “Plays like a coarsened, self-parodying version of the original.”
Over the years, it seems like Home Alone 2’s reception with the general public is a little bit polarizing, but for the most part it’s remembered fondly along with the original. Just like with the first one, as far as I’m concerned, the critics were overly harsh.
As for myself, I enjoy Home Alone 2 almost as much as the first movie. As a kid, I think I actually liked the sequel more. Sure, the first movie is better overall. It’s far more original in its concepts (even if there are those who argue it wasn’t original), and it really was lightning in a bottle. Home Alone 2 does repeat a bunch of the story elements from the first, including the elderly stranger that Kevin is initially afraid of, but later befriends.
The entire movie is a bit of a battle between Kevin, and the thieving pair of Harry and Marv. The entire situation only happens because of MaCallister mishaps that begin with Kevin causing trouble, and then outright stating that he’d rather spend Christmas alone. While it makes sense that Harry and Marv would go to a different city after escaping from prison, where they wouldn’t be recognized, it’s a big coincidence that they ended up in the same city as Kevin, who arrived there by accident. This entire movie is only possible thanks to a number of coincidences and events that, while not entirely impossible, are very unlikely.
With all that said, there is both clear growth in the main cast since the first movie, and there are significant changes to the formula. For one, Kevin isn’t home anymore – he accidentally flies to a completely different city. He’s alone in New York while his family is in Florida. That’s something that could never happen in a post-9/11 world, but this movie makes it believable. This time round, the mishap is mostly on Kevin, who decides to stop in the middle of the airport to put batteries in his toy while everyone’s trying to run to catch the airplane. He then starts following some guy who happens to be wearing the same coat as his father.
Every major character has shown some sort of growth since the first movie. Kevin is clearly smarter and more self-reliant, having learned from his experience in the first movie. He’s even able to come up with a convincing story to get himself a luxury hotel room to himself (it helps that he happened to be carrying his father’s bag, complete with a credit card). He’s also smart enough to record the robbers threatening to kill him, and later submit that as evidence. The robbers have also learned how smart this kid is, and they attempt to adapt to his traps. Of course Kevin has also upped the ante. Buzz has also become more subtle in his approach to tease/bully Kevin. Well … usually. At the same time, he’s got more respect for his brother, and the movie’s ending makes that clear.
Curray is very entertaining in his role as the concierge. He immediately suspects Kevin’s story for getting a hotel room. He’s enthusiastic and friendly any time he meets Kevin, but switches to sneaky and smirky whenever he tries to investigate. The scene where he tries to defend his actions as Kevin’s parents confront him is probably his most entertaining scene. As for Harry and Marv, their chemistry is even stronger in this movie, and they get a lot of the film’s best banter.
It would be wrong to talk about this movie without mentioning the traps. When I mentioned that Kevin upped the ante, that may have been an understatement. If this movie went realistic with the traps, Kevin would have killed at least 14 robbers with their lethality. For some people that may make this movie hard to watch, but for me, I find it hilarious how over-the-top some of these are. While some of them are based on the traps in the first movie, Kevin is smart enough to switch it up and play with the robbers’ expectations.
Another difference worth mentioning is that this movie can be scary for some kids. It fully embraces early 90’s New York, with one scene at night where Kevin is wandering the streets, after having been caught in his hotel scam. It’s an effective scene, but I know it was a bit too much for some of my friends back when they were kids.
Last, but not least, Kevin’s growth since the first movie plays a major part in this movie’s holiday theme. He’s much more selfless in this movie, and he shows genuine wisdom. He recognizes that the Pigeon Lady isn’t a threat, based on how the pigeons like to be around her. He then learns that she’s an intentional loner after having her heart broken, so he gives her a very meaningful gift at the movie’s ending. It’s a brilliant moment that might even be more heartwarming than the first movie’s ending. In the first movie, he’s merely defending his house. In this one, he’s knowingly risking his life to help other children in need. The robbers intend to rob a toy store in which all that money is supposed to go to the Children’s Hospital. If the first movie explored themes of family at Christmas time, this movie explores themes of generosity and general kindness in addition to the themes of family.
Overall, the first Home Alone is better, but Home Alone 2 is still a worthy sequel as far as I’m concerned. Despite repeating a number of the first movie’s plot points, it’s still an amusing movie. It mixes up the formula enough that it doesn’t feel stale. It adds enough new elements that it doesn’t feel like a rip-off. And of course, it still has strong performances all-round, both from the returning cast and the new cast. I would recommend this one just as much as the first, but I also acknowledge that it’s not as popular or as loved as the first.
Next up is Home Alone 3, which John Hughes wrote towards the end of his career, and is the last theatrical release of the series. That one is very polarizing to fans of the first two. Then there are two straight to TV entries, and then we’ll wrap it up with Home Sweet Home Alone, which released last month on Disney+. I already know that Home Alone 4 is terrible, but from what I’ve heard, Home Sweet Home Alone might actually be worse.