Looking back at the previous Home Alone movies, the original is a great movie overall – no major complaints. Home Alone 2’s only real problem is that it borrows a bit too much from the first one, but it’s still great. Home Alone 3’s biggest problem is its completely inconsistent tone, and that affects every level of the movie. Home Alone 4 is so unfunny that it surpasses the realm of cringe, and is just dumbfounding. Home Alone 5’s main problem is that it feels very cheap – the cheapest movie in the series, but it also suffers from lame writing and a mildly annoying lead character. Home Sweet Home Alone’s main problem is that it’s basically unwatchable.
Development for a sixth Home Alone movie began shortly after Disney’s purchase of 20th Century Fox concluded. They announced the new movie on in August of 2019, just calling it Home Alone at the time. Filming began in February, 2020, but all filming was halted the next month from the virus. During the production delays, there were rumors that Macaulay Culkin would reprise his role, but he eventually denied any involvement with the film. That said, they announced that Devin Ratray, who played Buzz McCallister in the first two movies, would reprise his role. That would make this the most official sequel since the second movie.
For the lead cast, you’ve got Archie Yates as Max Mercer. Yates is actually a very promising young British actor, having earned several nominations for his role in Jojo Rabbit. Irish actress Aisling Bea plays his mother, Carol, while Andrew Daly plays his father. There’s also Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper as Jeff and Pam McKenzie, who are the closest thing we have to the crooks in this movie. More on that later. Tim Simons plays Hunter McKenzie, Jeff’s brother. Beyond that, nobody in the cast is worth mentioning.
The movie is directed by Dan Mazer, whose previous director credits include I Give It a Year and Dirty Grandpa. He also wrote both Borat films, Bruno, and a couple of others. The soundtrack is composed by John Debney, who’s a fairly prolific composer. Some of his credits include The Emperor’s New Groove, Spider-Man 2 and 3, Zathura (which I plan to look at in February), Iron Man 3, The Jungle Book 2016, and The Passion of the Christ, of which he received several nominations for.
The first trailer for this movie released on October 12, 2021. Within 3 days, it received nearly 80,000 dislikes, and even to this day it hasn’t received even half that many likes. When the movie released exclusively on Disney+ in November, it was nearly universally panned. Variety’s review stated, “It’s baffling that Home Sweet Home Alone didn’t turn out better as, on paper, the list of cast and creatives reads like an ideal marriage of talent and vision.” I like this quote from Asile Seat – “The first hour of Home Sweet Home Alone is relentlessly stupid. Then comes the final half our, the point where the movie makes such a monumental mistake that it completely falls apart.”
It’s not worth wasting any more time. Let’s get into why this movie is such a disaster. First off, this movie uses a lot of the same story beats as the original. Max is at home with his extended, and everyone is about to leave for a family trip to Tokyo. They’re a rich family, pretty much living in a mansion. Max is annoyed about being in a home full of people, like Kevin. The difference is, you can fully understand Kevin’s frustration. Max on the other hand is a spoiled, self-entitled jerk. His very first scene is in a car ride with his mother, where he spends the entire time whining and being obnoxiously sarcastic. He needs to go to the bathroom, so they stop by an open house, where his mother pretends to be interested in buying.
While in the house, Max insults the homeowner in several ways, mostly tied to a box full of old dolls. One of them has an upside-down head, a rare defect that could make the doll worth a lot of money. It’s shortly after that when we learn that the open house is currently owned by the McKenzies, who can no longer afford to keep it. This doll, which has no sentimental value to them, may be valuable enough to save their house. But as soon as they realize this, they also discover that the doll is missing.
At this point, you believe that Max stole the doll as part of his petty nature. The movie even uses its cinematography throughout the movie to further this suggestion.
As with the original, in this movie, Max is accidentally left alone at home when the rest of his family is in Tokyo. The original used a series of events to make sense of this, most notably a power outage that takes out their alarm clocks. With this one, Max just goes into the SUV in the garage to get away from everyone, and falls asleep. When he wakes up, everyone else is gone.
Several big problems with this. First, the Mercer family isn’t nearly as large as the McCallisters. Second, there’s no emergency to leave – there’s just a mix-up with the airline that splits the family into different flights, and a complete lack of communication between Max’s parents and the extended family. Third, airport security has changed a lot since the early 90’s. For one, I remember being at the airport back in the early 2010’s, and a nearby flight’s departure was delayed by nearly an hour because two people hadn’t made it onto the plane yet. They kept calling for the couple over the paging system the entire time. I’m sure they would have also informed the people on the plane about such a delay. That alone would mean that somebody would notice Max’s absence.
On that note, as much as Kevin’s mother panicked a lot more when they realized that Kevin was home alone, his father also showed clear concern. He was just the more level-headed of the two. In this movie, Max’s father doesn’t seem to care at all that his son was left behind. He doesn’t even make an effort to return – only his mother comes back.
This is also a good time to mention Buzz McCallister’s role in the movie. It’s basically a glorified cameo to cover up a plot hole. One of many plot holes. He’s working as a police officer, and when the police are called to check up on Max, he’s the officer who is asked to check the house out. He writes the request off as an annual prank call from Kevin, who apparently does that as a form of revenge for being left behind. It’s also noteworthy that the Mercers use McCallister Home Security at their house.
I’ll give this movie two points here. One, Buzz’s scene is by far the best part of this movie. Yes, his scene feels exploitive, as it only exists to fill a plot hole, but it’s still a little entertaining. Two, it makes a lot of sense that Kevin would start a home security company after his experiences. And yes, it’s directly stated that Kevin owns the company.
Anyway, Max continues to be an unlikeable jerk for the rest of the movie. His goofing off is lame. At one point, he goes to a charity toy drive for poor kids, and convinces one of the adults there to let him take a water gun home … even though he’s a spoiled brat living in a mansion. This also gives you further reason to believe he stole the doll. He makes one attempt to call his mother, using some google assist style device, but it doesn’t let him do that. No further attempts at contacting his mother are made.
Meanwhile, the McKenzies are hiding all of their problems from their kids, from the missing doll to the fact that they’re trying to sell their house. Jeff’s brother shows up at about 3 am one night, with the intention to stay for the holidays along with their kids. I just … what? Despite the fact that they generally seem to get along, this is a complete jerk move, not only showing up unannounced, but when everyone else is sleeping. He’s also a very annoying, unlikeable character who speaks with “hashtag” as if its hip. I don’t believe any one aspect of this character, from the acting to the writing.
When you get to this movie’s traps, you still believe that Max stole the doll, and the McKenzies are just trying to save their house. They’re also trying to talk – they keep saying “we just want to talk”. Through a misunderstanding, Max thinks they want to kidnap him, so he won’t listen. To sum it up, for the entirety of the traps section, you’re watching two sympathetic adults being tortured by an unlikeable twerp. It’s not funny. It’s just sad, and it makes this entire movie kind of unwatchable.
Some of the traps themselves are kind of extreme in nature as well, like how Max uses the dart gun for one of them, but attaches spikes to all of the darts. These spiked darts are sticking out of Pam’s face and hands for a while. Jeff gets a massive welt on his forehead, the most graphic injury in the franchise. A welt that big would suggest serious brain damage in real life. Some of the other traps, like putting a VR device on Jeff’s head while he’s unconscious and fooling him into thinking he’s in the mountains, make no sense whatsoever. Seriously, he’d feel the headset on his head, but somehow he actually believes he’s in the mountains. Another shows Max mixing bottles of pop and mentos, and launching them so that the pressure sends them flying at Pam. They’re weirdly accurate, hitting Pam several times – often after bouncing off something, like a nearby tree. That’s not how it would work in real life.
This movie tries to manipulate you into feeling nostalgic for the original, but it just doesn’t work. Debney’s soundtrack emulates several themes from the first two movies, and it’s not bad, but it feels kind of flat compared to the originals. When this movie barely resembles the original from a thematic standpoint, it feels manipulative at best. Same goes for Buzz’s cameo. When everyone realizes that everything is a misunderstanding (that Max didn’t have the doll), the movie forces a happy ending where Max stays at the McKenzies until his mother comes home. Despite barely knowing this family, and spending the entire movie being a spoiled brat, he’s happy to do this. The ending takes place a year later, where apparently the two families have become friends, the house is saved, and Jeff already got a promotion at his new job.
This movie baffles me in several ways. The plot itself makes the traps – the staple of the Home Alone franchise, nearly unbearable to watch. Making Max an annoying brat only makes things worse. While Jeff and Pam are the most sympathetic characters in the movie, the fact that they’re hiding their financial situation from their kids and Jeff’s brother makes them less so. Not to mention that this only complicates their situation further. Outside of Max’s mother, nobody in his family seems to care, when with the McCallisters, Buzz is the only one who doesn’t show that he cares, and he’s supposed to be a jerk. There is nobody to root for in this movie.
On the note of this movie not having any real villains, that’s a trend with Disney that’s becoming more and more apparent. Outside of the MCU and Star Wars, Disney seems to be quite reluctant to put villains in their movies lately. The last Animation Studios movie to feature a proper villain was Big Hero 6, back in 2014. Although many of Pixar’s movies are the types where you don’t expect villains, even Toy Story 4 exchanges it for a morally ambiguous “villain” who ends up coming to an understanding with Woody, when all three previous movies gave us some sort of villain. It’s a trend that’s starting to get worrying, because with both this embarrassment and Raya and the Last Dragon, the lack of a proper villain severely hurts the movie.
Home Sweet Home Alone is basically unwatchable. The only sympathetic characters are the ones getting tortured by the traps, while almost every other major character is somewhere between annoying and unbearable. That’s not the fault of the cast either – most of them do a great job with the material they’re given. This movie also tries to manipulate you into feeling nostalgia for the first two movies, but the manipulation is so obvious that it doesn’t work. Throw in a truckload of plot conveniences to even make this story possible, yet it’s still loaded with plot holes, and you’ve got a movie that is both almost as bad as Home Alone 4, and one that’s actually harder to sit through because of the way that it’s bad.
But the worst part is, this trash came from a bunch of otherwise talented people.
I refuse to recommend this to anyone.
I’m going to kick off next year by catching up on the MCU – I still haven’t seen any of the movies that came out this year. Then I’ll be looking at the Jumanji film series, and I’ll include Zathura on that. In a couple of days, I’ll be writing a blog post about some ideas for the rest of the year, along with some personal updates.