(In French, On TV, December 2018) There is a lot about Ri¢hie Ri¢h that doesn’t make sense if you don’t already know that it’s from an older lower-profile comic book of the Casper stable. The setup, clearly, is grade-school wish fulfilment, what with the protagonist being the richest kid in the world, able to afford whatever he wants despite issues in being in the kiddie .0001%. The film adopts much of the comics mythology wholesale, even as ludicrous as it can sound in a live-action production. Alas, the plotting is obvious from the get-go: No friends, lost parents, expensive gadgets, greedy third party, trusty butler and so on. Macaulay Culkin stars as Richie Rich but seems so uninterested in the role (which, to be fair, requires some detachment but not that much!) and the rest of the actors don’t look all that invested either. The result is a humdrum movie: imaginative in moments, slightly obnoxious even when it claims that family is more important than wealth, and far from achieving its fullest potential. But then again 1990s comic book adaptations were still hit-and-miss affairs, being unwilling to deconstruct their own fundamentals and still treating the audience like idiots most of the time. There are much better choices than Ri¢hie Ri¢h no matter how you want to consider it.
(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.