Home Alone 3 (1997)

(On DVD, November 2016) By the time sequels abandon the main cast and repeat the plot formula of their predecessor verbatim, it’s clear that the creativity has gone out of the series. To be fair, Home Alone 2 went through amazing contortions to repeat the first film’s structure, so it’s not as if Home Alone 3 is an outlier. Still, it starts again with a new kid, new antagonists (spies!) and leads to the familiar slapstick accumulation of elaborate traps vastly beyond our protagonist’s time and abilities. At least the traps don’t always feel as gratuitously violent as the second one, even though some material still skirts attempted murder. Home Alone 3 sort-of-works, but it does feel like a faded copy of the original, minus a bunch of the material that gave substance to the first film (and to a lesser extent, the second). This workmanlike film is most interesting at the edges of the cast list; a thirteen-year-old Scarlett Johansson briefly shows up as a bratty sister, while kids-movie director Raja Gosnell here makes his feature film debut. Otherwise, it is what it wants to be: a clone of the original Home Alone, except without Christmas, without memorable villains, and without the freshness of the original idea. I suspect that most copies of Home Alone 3 will be, like mine, sold in DVD collections as a bonus to its first two better predecessors. See it if you enjoy that kind of thing; otherwise don’t.

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