Since Home Alone 3 is the only sequel without a subtitle within its title, I’m including a major plot element in the title of this blog post. Home Alone 3 is the first sequel to not include any cast members from the previous film. It’s also the first to not involve Chris Columbus (who directed the first two), or John Williams on the soundtrack. It’s the final film in this series to receive a theatrical release. This movie is also made late in writer John Hughes career – after this, he only wrote three more movies under his real name, and another two through his Edmond Dantes pseudonym.
The original version of Home Alone 3 was pitched at the same time as Home Alone 2, and both films were supposed to be produced simultaneously. Those plans fell through. After Home Alone 2’s release, Hughes brought those plans back, hoping for Macaulay Culkin to return as a teenager. However, right around the time that his parents split (which I talked about in my previous post), Culkin retired from acting. This forced Home Alone 3 to be completely reworked with a new cast. Home Alone 3 also happened to be the last film in Hughes’ multi-film contract with 20th Century Fox that began with Home Alone 2.
While the first movie takes place entirely in Chicago, it was actually filmed in Winnetka – almost an hour’s drive north of Chicago. Home Alone 3 is filmed mostly in Chicago, with the airport scenes filmed in two different concourses at the O’Hara International Airport. Although 20th Century Fox’s main studio produced the first two, they relegated Fox Family Films to produce the third. Fox Family Films, part of 20th Century Animation, produced a total of 6 live-action films. Some of the others include Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, Jingle All The Way, and Ever After (the only movie the studio produced that wasn’t a kid’s movie). The animation side of the studio also produced 1997’s Anastasia. Now that Disney owns Fox, there are people calling for Anastasia to be added to the Disney Princess canon, and I wouldn’t be against that.
Raja Gosnell directs this movie, and this is actually his directorial debut. He previously worked as an editor, including both of the first two Home Alone movies, along with Mrs. Doubtfire. Oh yeah, he also edited Popeye, which was Robin Williams’ first starring role. Some of his other director credits include both Scooby-Doo movies, the first two Smurfs movies from the early 2010’s, and Never Been Kissed, which is his most well-received movie. The soundtrack is composed by Nick Glennie-Smith, who works for Hans Zimmer’s film score company Remote Control Productions. He contributed to The Lion King’s score, and also composed the soundtracks for The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride, Highlander: Endgame, Secretariat and We Were Soldiers.
Anyway, this film stars Alex D. Linz as Alex Pruitt, an 8-year-old boy who’s stuck at home with the chicken pox. He was a fairly promising child actor at the time, much like Culkin when he starred in Home Alone. Some of his other roles include young Tarzan in Disney’s animated Tarzan, several episodes of The Wacky Adventures of Ronald McDonald, Titan A.E., and various TV appearances from ER to Hey Arnold!. Sadly, none of his movies did particularly well. His career never truly took off.
Other major actors include Aleksander Krupa as Peter Beaupre, the leader of the international criminals. He’s mostly known for playing villain roles, and he’s fairly good in this movie. He adds the right level of intimidation to be taken seriously as a threat in a more serious movie, without taking it too far for a kid’s movie. Rya Kihlstedt plays the female member of the criminal group, and plays the no-nonsense, voice of reason role well for the group. She took a 10-year break from acting in the early 2000’s to raise her two children, but has since started making regular TV appearances, involving everything from Dexter to Agents of SHIELD, to fantasy shows like Once Upon a Time and Charmed. There’s also Lenny Von Dohlem and David Thornton as the other two members of the criminal group.
Haviland Morris plays Karen Pruitt, Alex’s mother, and she’s likeable in a lot of the same ways that Kevin’s mother is, and shows a fair amount of range. She also appeared in Hughes’ Sixteen Candles, Gremlins 2, a minor role in The Fifth Element, and voicing a major character in the first Max Payne video game. She’s mostly working in Real Estate these days, but still makes scattered appearances on TV. Oh yeah, and Scarlett Johansson played Alex’s sister, before she got famous. These days she’s known for playing Black Widow in a number of MCU movies, starting with Iron Man 2, among other big movies.
These blog posts really are starting to blend together.
Anyway, Home Alone 3 mostly received negative reviews from the critics. It’s sitting at a 29% on Rotten Tomatoes, and the audience score is even lower at 27%. USA Today’s review can be summed up with a 7-word quote, “Twice the bad guys, half the laughs.” Ironically, this is the only Home Alone movie that received a positive review from Roger Ebert, stating “I liked the third Home Alone movie better than the first two; I’m even going so far as to recommend it, although not to grownups unless they are having a very silly day.” Home Alone 3 also received a nomination at the Razzies for worst remake or sequel, but “lost” to Speed 2: Cruise Control.
Home Alone 3 also didn’t perform nearly as well as the first two, only earning $79 million on a $32 million budget. While that does technically make the movie profitable, it wasn’t profitable enough to risk a fourth movie receiving a theatrical release.
This also happens to be the only Home Alone movie I saw in theaters. I was too young when the first two released. I remember seeing this with my aunt and uncle, and the older of my brothers (I’m the oldest of three). We all enjoyed it at the time, enough that this is actually one of the first movies I bought on VHS with my own money.
My thoughts on this movie have definitely changed over the years. I really need to be in the right mood to watch it. That mood doesn’t come very often, and I’d still much sooner watch the first two.
First, let’s look at the positive elements of this movie. As I explained earlier, most of the acting in this movie is good. Although Glennie-Smith’s soundtrack isn’t nearly as good as Williams’ in the first two, it works. The opening scene’s theme sounds like it belongs in a spy thriller, but would work quite well in a good spy thriller. Some of the more emotional moments are also well done. On the downside, it relies too much on silly motifs, which doesn’t help the already cartoonish nature of the movie’s comedy.
The traps are also very different from the earlier movies, and there’s even a scene where Alex actively needs to hide one of them from his mother while she’s getting ready for work. While the first two used Williams’ setting the traps theme, this movie features two separate preparation scenes, each playing a licensed song. They don’t feel as intense, but the second song especially kind of gets you pumped up with its rebellious rock nature. It sets a very different tone, but it works.
The method in which Alex is left home alone is also more realistic than the first two movies. He’s home sick with the chicken pox. His father needs to go on a business trip for the week, and despite his mother’s best efforts to stay at home, she’s called into work pretty much every day by an overly demanding boss. She doesn’t have enough time to find a babysitter. That’s the sort of struggle that a lot of parents face in modern times.
Alex’s older brother and sister tease him similar to how Buzz often teases Kevin, but they’re not as brutal. It’s also made clear that they’re protective of Alex, especially when they learn that he’s in genuine danger. In general, the Pruitt’s feel like a more normal, stable family compared to the McCallisters. The movie also touches on a serious matter of calling the police with false alarms. It’s explained directly, and in multiple ways, the kind of damage one can cause with false police calls. At the same time, Alex really does see the criminals, who are smart enough to evade the cops every time they show up. That forces Alex to take matters into his own hands.
As much as the spy plot feels out of place for a Home Alone movie, and it’s hard to believe that respected international criminals would fall for a bunch of traps set by an 8-year-old, it does mix the series up while still providing all the elements that make this a Home Alone movie. Well … save for the fact that this is the one Home Alone movie that doesn’t take place at Christmas. The mental games played between the criminals and Alex are intriguing, but they also lead to the first of the movie’s major problems.
Home Alone 3 is tonally inconsistent for one. The film starts off as a half-decent spy thriller, in which clearly competent criminals are accidentally thwarted by an old woman who grabs the wrong bag at the airport. They’re quick enough to track her down, but not before the information on her exact house on her little street becomes obsolete. Shortly afterwards, the movie fully embraces its sillier nature, and it’s much sillier than the first two movies. Watching Alex pranking his elderly neighbor with a remote control from an impossible distance away isn’t nearly as entertaining as Kevin goofing around. is quite juvenile. Kevin’s own antics never felt half as juvenile. The more childish elements in the soundtrack, along with Alex’s high-pitched laugh, only make it worse.
This tone inconsistency works its way into the traps as well. Some of the traps are quite deadly – on the same level as the Home Alone 2 traps. In fact, this movie contains the two deadliest traps in the entire series. One such trap, the lawnmower, briefly sounds like it’s straight out of a horror movie. But then you have a whoopee cushion hiding under a rug, or a can full of glue right above a gate lock, which merely robs the female thief of her glove. Also, this movie brings back the whole “Renovating” shtick from the second movie, but that only matters for one trap, it’s mentioned in a single sentence in a phone call, and it’s never mentioned or even seen at any other point in the movie. It feels like they shoved that line in to explain one trap that otherwise made no sense, but they couldn’t get rid of because it shows how one of the four criminals made it into the house.
The movie’s biggest problem from a writing standpoint is how inconsistent the criminals are portrayed. One minute, they’re hacking phone lines to reroute calls. The next, they’re smashing into each other’s faces. Despite having at least 7 years of international crime behind him, the leader cannot tell the difference between his own gun and a dart gun that happens to be spray-painted black. Surely there must be a noticeable weight difference. It’s also odd how Alex owns both a dart gun and a bubble gun that look almost exactly like a glock. The woman at one point teases the leader and “Burton” for being taken down by an “infant”, even though she already experienced her own pain.
The worst moment is the garage confrontation between Alex and the leader. The leader corners Alex, sits him on top of a shelf, and demands the computer chip they’ve been searching for. He even pulls out his gun. When Alex points out that he’s actually holding a dart gun, and then points the “real gun” at the leader, he flees. No attempt to disarm Alex. No knocking the gun aside, as a criminal of his caliber should know how to do. He just raises his hands and retreats without a word. As a kid, I found this scene amusing, but now it’s eye-rolling.
With the first two Home Alone movies, the Wet Bandits were consistent. They were dumb, uneducated robbers. They knew how to scope a place out without raising suspicion, and knew how to break into a house, but they were dumb and they knew it. The criminals in this movie should be very smart dangerous, yet they occasionally act even dumber than Harry and Marv.
This movie’s biggest mistake is quite possibly in its title. Because it features no direct connection to the first two movies, only features 10 seconds of Williams’ Home Alone themes in the opening title, and it shoves in a spy thriller, this movie shouldn’t be called Home Alone 3. It honestly probably would have both been received better, and performed better, if it wasn’t called Home Alone 3. It may have helped the new cast launch their careers properly if they weren’t standing in the shadows of Kevin, Harry and Marv. Instead, with the exception of Johansson, most of the relative newcomers have faded into obscurity.
Home Alone 3 isn’t nearly as bad as its reputation suggests, but it’s not a good movie either. I wouldn’t recommend it to an adult who hasn’t already seen it, but if you’ve got kids who enjoy the first two movies, there’s a good chance they’ll enjoy this one too. Despite its flaws, and that I don’t enjoy this nearly as much as I used to, there is still a touch of nostalgia in this movie for me. When the traps aren’t overly reliant on pratfalls, which a few too many of them are, they are the best part of this movie.
It is still much better than Home Alone 4, which I’ll be looking at next. Then it’ll be Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist, before we conclude this blog series with the recently released Home Sweet Home Alone. Each of these movies attempt a new twist on the formula, and they all fail to varying degrees.
I haven’t decided which I’m doing first, but for January and February, I’ll be catching up on the MCU for one month, and looking at all of the Jumanji movies for the other. I will be including Zathura in my Jumanji month. I haven’t yet decided what I’ll be doing after that. I am considering a Chadwick Boseman theme month this coming August, considering he was a very charismatic actor who died too young, and that would be the 2-year anniversary of his death. I would look at 42 (the Jackie Robinson story) and Get on Up (based on James Brown), but I’d need to pick two more movies. Beyond that, I’m open to suggestions for theme months next year.