After the complete disaster that was Home Alone 4, you think they’d put this series to rest. But no, there are still two more movies to get through. Home Alone: The Holiday Heist wisely drops the McCallister storyline though, seeing how badly that was received last time round. This movie also drops the number from the title.
Like Home Alone 3 before it, The Holiday Heist stars an entirely new family – the Baxters. Finn Baxter, the main kid, is played by Christian Martyn. Unlike the kid from Home Alone 4, Martyn is still around. He mainly works in TV, but he’s been in a couple of theatrically released movies. Finn’s older sister, Alexis, is played by Jodelle Ferland, who’s appeared in the likes of Twilight: Eclipse, The Cabin in the Woods, the first Silent Hill movie, and starred in the Canadian Sci-Fi TV series, Dark Matter. Ellie Harvie plays Catherine, their mother. All three of these cast members are Canadian by the way, and there are other minor characters played by Canadians. This movie also happens to be filmed in Winnipeg, Canada – which is the only noteworthy behind the scenes detail I could find.
On that note, Home Alone 4 was filmed in South Africa. Apparently, nothing says Christmas in the Northern States like filming in South Africa, where they rarely get snow. That movie sucks.
As for the criminals, this movie features Debi Mazar as Jessica, the female member of the group who tends to handle logistics. She’s been in a bunch of movies and TV shows, including Goodfellas, Entourage, L.A. Law, a minor role in Batman Forever, and the main villain in Beethoven’s 2nd. If I ever do a dog movie theme month, the first two Beethoven movies will be on there. Eddie Steeples plays Hughes, the groups brand-new safecracker. He hasn’t really appeared in much since The Holiday Heist – just a voice role in Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip and Jiu Jitsu. And of course the leader of the gang is Sinclair, played by Malcolm McDowell. Wait, what?
Yeah, the legendary Malcolm McDowell is in this movie. He’s known for a wide variety of movies, often playing charismatic villain roles. He’s known for movies like A Clockwork Orange, the title character in the very controversial Caligula, Star Trek Generations, the 2007 Halloween remake, and the 2012 remake of the original Silent Night, Deadly Night. He’s also done a lot of voice roles in the last couple of decades, from a supporting role in Disney’s Bolt, to several appearances in the 90’s Spider-Man animated show. He’s even done supporting roles in video games like God of War III and Wing Commander III and IV. It’s also worth noting that he was in his early 70’s when he performed in this movie, yet he still did some of his own stunts.
As with Home Alone 4, this movie went straight to TV. Unlike Home Alone 4, this wasn’t meant to be a pilot for a TV show, but was meant to be a one-off. It didn’t perform so well with the critics, but it did fare much better than the previous movie. It’s apparently earned nearly $1 million from home video sales, as of last December. When you toss in the advertisement money from airing on TV, it’s safe to assume that this one is actually profitable. Also, even though this movie released before Disney bought Fox, because it first released on ABC, Disney already held partial rights on this movie, since they own ABC.
As for my own thoughts, well … they’re a lot more mixed than I thought they’d be. And that’s coming from someone who has seen this movie before. First, let’s talk about how the cast does. The main family is annoying. The dad is mostly forgettable, but the mother and the kids are all annoying to varying degrees. Finn is a wimpy kid who would rather stay glued to the screen than to get out and actually meet people. His very first line in the movie is talking about “a mega boss battle”, which isn’t really a thing in video games. He’s also scared of the new, creepy old house that his family just moved into, to the point where he spends too much time screaming at nothing. That said, he does grow into a more confident kid by the end of the movie. There is some actual character growth here. Also, Martyn does a fairly good job with the material he’s given.
Alexis is the least annoying of the three – she’s just a grumpy teenager who avoids the rest of the family, stays glued to her phone, and complains a lot. We don’t know whether her experience with the crooks makes her grow, beyond the fact that she’s clearly closer with her brother afterwards, because the ending really only focuses on Finn. As for the mother, she’s overly hyper, obnoxious, and gets both excited and angry way too easily. There are a couple of moments when it’s mildly amusing, but it’s usually just annoying. But again, both of these actresses do a good job with the material they’re given, especially Ferland, who plays a disinterested teenager very well, while also looking genuinely worried and cheerful when she needs to be.
Side-note here, the family moves from California to Maine at the very start of the movie. One can fully understand why the kids would be upset. What I don’t understand is how a native Californian boy is able to wear a light jacket in the wintery cold of the north. I remember going to Florida back in 2001 in April (I’m from Ontario, Canada), and a T-shirt and shorts were almost too warm for me. Most of the locals wore jackets and pants.
As for the criminals, two of them are complete idiots. Hughes is so dumb at times that it’s eye-rolling – not funny. Jessica isn’t dumb so much as she’s obsessed with her former lover, who also happens to be the gang’s previous safecracker. It often gets in the way of their hunt. McDowell’s character on the other hand is awesome. He is easily the best part of this movie, and he puts in much more effort than this movie deserves. His character is essentially a grumpy old man, looking for a valuable painting that is connected to his ancestors. He managed to track it down to the very house that the Baxters just moved into – a house that his grandfather used to use as part of his moonshine business during the prohibition era. The way he gets annoyed when the other two are beaten by the traps is actually kind of hilarious, and so is his insistence to remain arrogant when he starts stumbling into traps himself.
Seriously, McDowell alone makes this movie watchable. Not good, but watchable.
This movie throws in a whole bunch of ideas, and that’s both the best and worst part of this movie’s writing. At 87 minutes long, this movie tries to touch on too many subjects, and doesn’t handle any of them properly. While you can buy Finn’s character development from a screen addicted gamer to someone who goes out snowboarding at the end of the movie isn’t far-fetched, but it feels rushed. The story behind the valuable painting is sprinkled with a couple of hints as to where it came from, but it doesn’t say much about how it ended up in the basement vault, nor do we find out why it’s worth $85 million. And while Alexis does seem to appreciate her family more by the end of the movie, it’s clearly glossed over.
The movie also shoves in a lot of video game lingo, clearly written by a parent who’s got kids that play games, but doesn’t actually know anything about the games. The games they show on screen look really boring too, with the main character’s walking speed roughly three times the speed of an average turtle. You really couldn’t find an existing video game to show and reference? Not only would that feel more authentic, but that might also give you some product placement money without feeling exploitive. There’s a minor subplot about the house potentially being haunted, which turns out to be false, but it does play into the way Finn sets up his traps. That’s actually a clever twist on the traps, but the movie doesn’t take it far enough. It really just amounts to briefly scaring Sinclair, before Finn reveals himself. It would work better if the criminals discovered Finn on their own instead of him revealing himself.
The dumbest part of Home Alone 4 is that Kevin is never actually home alone – he’s just home with two utterly incompetent adults. Although Finn and Alexis are both at the house this time round, because they’re both kids, and Alexis ends up getting locked in the vault by accident, I’ll let this one slide. Long story short, the Baxter parents go to a Christmas party for her new workplace (in which she’s the new vice president of … something). Neither of the kids want to go. After Alexis is locked in the vault, and Finn learns that the creepy noises he’s been hearing aren’t some ghost, but the criminals scouting the area, he begins setting up his traps.
This feels like a good time to focus on this movie’s worst problem. The production budget is obviously very cheap, and it hurts every aspect of this movie. The music is the weakest in the series yet. Home Alone 4 at least gives us some cheerful music, as cheap as it sounds, and they at least left the John Williams themes alone. This movie occasionally attempts to use elements of the original two movies’ themes, but it’s so cheap and so quick that most people won’t even realize it’s there. The setting the trap music feels like it belongs in a montage in a kid’s show, where the kids are playing with toys. There’s nothing remotely exciting about it. Sometimes it’s even mildly cringe worthy because of how bad it is.
The house also feels much smaller than it appears judging by the exterior shots. The various rooms aren’t small by any means, but it feels like we never see half of them. The basement feels tiny, apart from the vault. Meanwhile, apart from the mansion in Home Alone 4, the outside of this old, creepy house is the biggest yet in this series.
Speaking of the traps, it’s even harder to buy Finn finding the time to build all of his traps in this movie than it was for Alex in Home Alone 3. In what cannot be more than 40 minutes, he manages to bake very spicy cookies, reverse engineer a sink so that it spits out cotton, set up an entire room with flashing lights, floating sheets and spooky sounds to fake a ghost attack, along with all the other traps he builds. Finn even goes out to try to buy supplies for his traps, only to find that the $2 in his pocket cannot buy over $1,000 worth in power tools. It does get him a roll of string though. I’ll admit that scene is mildly amusing. At the same time, these are the most realistic traps in the series, in that it’s quite likely that the criminals would survive with little more than bumps and bruises. They’re not necessarily bad, and they’re certainly leagues better than anything in Home Alone 4, but they still feel quite lame. It doesn’t help that several of the traps only work because two of the three criminals are complete idiots who don’t know how to step out of the way. That also adds to the movie’s cheap feel.
Seriously, how much time does this kid have? The timescale in this movie is all over the place (not to mention that more than half of the movie takes place during the Christmas party).
All in all, is this movie terrible? Not at all. I wouldn’t even call it bad. It’s roughly the same level of quality as Home Alone 3, but for different reasons. It’s the cheapest feeling movie in the series so far. It also feels too short to properly explore the excess of ideas behind the writing. On the plus side, there is some good humour here and there, and McDowell is just as entertaining as Harry and Marv – just that his sidekicks are useless and much less entertaining. It’s got some good ideas behind the story, that just needed better writing and a longer run-time to properly explore. As much as the kids start off annoying, they do get better as the movie progresses. I would not recommend this movie to any adult, but for younger kids who like the first two movies, this isn’t a bad addition. I would recommend this over both 3 and 4 overall, but it’s still vastly inferior to the original two.
Next up, we’ll thankfully be done with this series with Home Sweet Home Alone. I haven’t yet seen it, but depending on the review, it’s either a mixed bag or it’s the worst one yet. I’ll give you the main reason I’ve heard it’s terrible though – apparently the main kid is completely unlikable.
I’ve decided that next month, I’ll be catching up on the MCU, and then for February, I’ll be looking at the Jumanji film series (I’ll include Zathura as well). I’ve got a bunch of ideas for theme months after that, and I’m planning on writing a blog post about some of those ideas to see what people think.
Also, Merry Christmas everyone!