(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.
(On DVD, November 2016) The most interesting thing about Home Alone 2 is probably the elaborate fashion through which it seeks to integrate the distinctive elements of the first film into a new framework that doesn’t necessarily call for it. Rather than being left home alone during Christmas, our young protagonist ends up alone in New York while his family is in Florida. So far so good, except that the sequel then goes through shameless hoops in order to copy is own prequel. Bring back the villains as escaped convict; check. Befriend an elderly woman as mirror to the elderly man of the first film; check. Set the third act in a townhouse under renovation so that elaborate traps can be deployed; check. Once again, the script also goes through entertaining contortions to justify its own premise (that Kevin would once again be left alone, despite the family trying to avoid such a thing happening again). Setting the action in New York isn’t such a bad idea—it allows for some interesting scenery, a distinctive first-half feel, hotel hijinks and a cameo by future president Donald Trump (wait, did I really write this? Oh my … it’s sinking in.) But the slapstick third act feels far less interesting this time around—not only has it been already done before, but the traps seem far more needlessly violent than in the previous film, and there’s a fair case to be made about attempted murder on some of them. Macaulay Culkin once again holds much of the film together, with Chris Columbus delivering more or less the same film for the second time. The result is of a pair with the first film—what you think of the first will be what you think of the second, so closely do they align.
(On DVD, November 2016) I had watched bits and pieces of Home Alone over the years, but never the whole film until now. What’s most interesting about its first few minutes is the relentlessness through which John Hughes’ script justifies its hair-raising premise: What if a kid was, indeed, left home alone over the holidays? What would it take (a large family, strife, imperfect communications, accidents) for it to happen, and for the family to be unable to come back? Home Alone virtually backflips in an attempt to make its premise seem plausible. Then it’s on to the fun and games of a kid outwitting burglars with subterfuge and too-clever traps—like a clock, the film winds up over most of its second act, then lets loose over the third one. Macaulay Culkin may not have had much of a career after the first two Home Alone movies, but he is a pivotal part of this one, with his character’s good-hearted innocence fuelling most of the first and second acts. The traps do get to be excessive toward the end, but that’s the kind of thing to be forgiven if the entire film can stand a chance. Otherwise, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern make for capable antagonists, and Catherine O’Hara brings a bit of honest motherly sentiment to the slapstick. While I’m not entirely convinced that Home Alone is a Christmas movie rather than a movie set during Christmas, it’s a decent comedy despite a few first-half lulls, and director Chris Columbus makes an impressive debut choreographing the mayhem. Call it a semi-classic for a reason.