Some day scholars will devote courses to the monstrous box office allure of the original “Home Alone,” which, at the time, surprised even Fox. Still, you needn’t be able to explain success to know not to tamper with it, so for a sequel the studio has simply re-made the first movie, only with bigger pratfalls. Pic delivers on that level and will doubtless be another huge holiday draw, but the law of diminishing returns dictates it should fall well short of its predecessor.
For one thing, the filmmakers have made a minor miscalculation in terms of length, padding the screen time by nearly 20 minutes to two hours–not a great idea considering that a big portion of the audience is very young kids.
For another, one reason “Home Alone” became such an enormous hit–a lack of children’s fare when it was released–isn’t true this time out, with Disney’s superior animated epic “Aladdin” likely to pull away some of the repeat business that drove “Home’s” box office real estate over the $ 250 million plateau.
Finally, adults may be a bit less patient with the more saccharine aspects of the story–which at times feel forced to fit the original mold–as well as the absurd series of coincidences necessary to set up the cartoon-style payoff.
Aside from the lack of like-themed competition, as near as anyone can tell “Home Alone” be-
came a monster blockbuster for three basic reasons: It represents the ultimate child’s fantasy about outsmarting adults; all the grown-ups within it were cartoonishly broad, as was most of the humor; and it offered all the requisite Christmas-time elements, down to John Williams’ sentimental score.
Writer-producer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus thoroughly recycle that material, down to having Kevin (Macaulay Culkin, the child turned cottage industry) overcome his fear and befriend a foreboding adult who provides his eventual salvation–in this case, a helpful homeless lady (Brenda Fricker) roaming Central Park.
At the start Kevin, provoked by his older brother, once again finds himself in the doghouse just before a family vacation, this time accidentally boarding the wrong plane and ending up in New York.
Meanwhile, the inept thieves from the first movie, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, have broken out of prison and, conveniently, escaped in a truck that arrives in New York about the same time Kevin does.
Using his dad’s credit card, Kevin checks into a ritzy hotel, where he finds more adults to outwit, in this case a snooty concierge (Tim Curry) as well as his equally haughty staff. Ultimately, however, it’s again Kevin vs. the two bad guys, setting up an elaborate series of traps at his uncle’s home–the uncle of course being out of town, the place being remodeled and thus loaded with all sorts of pain-inflicting gadgets.
Hughes and company, too, are in the construction business, essentially rebuilding the same house with bigger windows, an inflated budget (reportedly $ 40 million to $ 50 million with all the puffed-up salaries) and, if possible, a sappier outlook.
Under Columbus’ careful direction Culkin proves an effective Everykid, while Kevin’s parents and relatives remain as cartoonish as the villains, with Pesci and Stern hamming it up as the Wile E. Coyotes to Culkin’s Roadrunner.
Those action sequences are well-choreographed, if, perhaps, too mean-spirited even in light of their cartoonish nature.
Tech credits are sound, from the photography to the amusing design of his family’s nightmarish Florida motel.