Director: Chris Columbus
Writer: John Hughes
The first Home Alone was an instant classic, a well-made holiday film for the whole family that has lost zero charm over the years. The film was a box office hit, so of course a sequel was commissioned almost immediately. The same creative team is back, but could they strike gold twice with the same formula?
It’s Christmas again and Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) is once again at odds with his family. This time he doesn’t get left behind on their family vacation trip, but rather flown to the wrong state. While his family lands on Florida, he travels to the Big Apple, New York. His fears soon diminish when he realizes that he can hold his own with his quick wit and his dad’s money filled wallet.
Kevin’s mom (Catherine O’Hara) travels to New York with the rest of her relatives to reconnect with her son, once again. But she’s not the only familiar face in the city that never sleeps. The Wet Bandits from the first film are also there in hopes for scoring big. When Kevin encounters the crooks he learns that they are aiming to rob a toy store owned by a sweet old man. Kevin sense of justice awakens and he declares war on the bandits. The venue of the battle is an old house that is under construction and the fight is as cartoony and violent as they come. Because kids sure love their yuletime violence.
It’s unfortunate that the film opts to tread so close in the first film’s track. Every new idea the film has works pretty well, but it gets really tiresome to see the same plot elements recycled. The old scary guy with the shovel in the first one? Here we have an old scary woman with pigeons. A fight with his mom before the home-aloning? Check. Actually there’s one big beef I have with the film concerning Kevin’s mom, but I’ll get to that later. The plot elements are almost identical. Did John Hughes write the script on top of the previous one? But as I said, the new elements are a welcomed addition.
Tim Curry as the hotel manager steals the show and every time he appears, the movie gets a whole lot funnier. His line delivery is impeccable and has me laughing out loud every time. Nobody says “Have a lovely day” quite like him. Although the most unrealistic (and moronic) jokes happen at the expense of his character, his reactions make even those cringe-worthy scenes flow. He is the really MVP of the sequel and the best reason to revisit this luke-warm sequel.
Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern return as the Wet Bandits and it’s a mixed bag. Daniel Stern is still having fun with his dimwitted character Marvin, but Joe Pesci is clearly done with the franchise and seems to be here only for the paycheck. He’s not terrible here, but the spark is gone. Same goes with Catherine O’Hara and John Heard as the parents. Macaulay Culkin is okay (he is still better than most child actors), but it’s obvious that he is getting too old for this. Thank fuck he was not in Home Alone 3.
But you know what’s the biggest issue I have with this film? Kevin’s mom. Well, not necessarily her character per se, but the way she is handled in the film. Kevin and his mom’s story arc reached its apex at the end of the first film, and it was a bad move to try and replicate it again in this film. With only one major change in the script, the sequel would have gotten a whole better story wise. You want to know how? By reversing the roles of the mom and dad. This should have been John Heard’s journey to reach his son, to finally connect with Kevin. The signs are there, in the very beginning. In the opening it’s clear that the mom has a better connection with his son than the dad. It’s also entirely the dad’s fault that they almost miss their flight and had to rush at the terminal in the airport. The dad was also responsible for Kevin in the airport and it was completely his fault that Kevin got separated (some might say it was Kevin’s fault when he stayed behind to change the batteries in his toy tape recorder, but c’mon, he is a kid after all). When Kevin reconnects with his mom at the Christmas tree in the end, it should’ve been the dad asking for Kevin’s forgiveness, not the mom. It’s inconceivable that writer John Hughes managed to overlook this simple switch in the story.
The end battle with the Wet Bandits tops the first film, but I believe that was clear from the get go. Sequels always go bigger, and action wise it works beautifully. The traps and their execution reach Chuck Jones -level of sadistic glee and is a pleasure to watch.
All in all, the sequel is terribly uneven and doesn’t hold a candle against the first one, but Tim Curry and the stand-off at the end tip the scale slightly more to the positive. The first film can be easily viewed annually, but the second one only every other Christmas.
Best Scene: The third act battle. Glorious.
Most Memorable Bit: Tim Curry every time he is onscreen.