Home Sweet Home Alone is a miserable piece of shit, a styleless rehash without a single likable character or even the courage to subvert the original film in ways audiences have joked about for decades. You’d think the script by Saturday Night Live player Mikey Day and SNL writing supervisor Streeter Seidell would find something new to explore in the premise of “10-year-old violently defends his house from burglars,” seeing as the first movie has spawned so many imitators (and a near horror-film sequel), but … but no. They don’t. It’s inexplicable, filled with the worst possible people making stupid decisions in service of rehashed home-defense gags. Worst of all, the new protagonist, Max Mercer (Archie Yates), is a James Corden-level on-screen annoyance.
I can’t believe I actually finished this.
HSHA is, of course, not the first bad sequel to the 1990 holiday classic. Home Alone 2: Lost in New York isn’t particularly good despite the return of Macaulay Culkin and screenwriter John Hughes. Home Alone 3 sucks despite what Roger Ebert might have told you. Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House and Home Alone: The Holiday Heist were direct-to-cable cash-ins about which no one cared. Still, HSHA takes the cake among each of those. It exists in an era where re-quels like Candyman, Halloween and Scream bring some level of new life to old properties past which nostalgic millennials cannot move. The film even brings back an actor from the original and directly references Culkin’s character, Kevin, as if to say, “We’re the real Home Alone 3!” The self-importance of the declaration only makes the film more insulting.
My critical instinct is to focus on the positive. I can’t help it. That’s my personality. There’s no reason to be cruel when writing about entertainment, particularly stuff like HSHA that is inherently empty-minded. And yet … there’s not a single positive thing to say about this film. Every creative decision made was the wrong one.
The plot is a basic rehash of the first Home Alone, no sin in and of itself. That first film is a classic for a reason, and its template offers endless opportunities for silliness and mayhem … except this time, the kid, Max, deserves to be robbed and traumatized. He’s mean, selfish and annoying from the jump. The Fritzovskis, on the other hand, are given far too much justification for their decision to rob his house. They’re basically the main characters of the movie. We learn quickly that Pam (Ellie Kemper) is a teacher trying to make ends meet after her husband, Jeff (Rob Delaney) loses his IT job because in 2021, he’s too stupid to understand cloud storage. A week before Christmas, the two host an open house in hopes to sell their home without telling their children. For some reason, Max and his mom are there, and Max gives the Fritzovskis ample reason to believe he stole a priceless heirloom from them. Jeff wants to sell the heirloom to make ends meet for Christmas, so he and Pam decide to rob Max’s house while his family is in Tokyo for Christmas. Unfortunately, Max was left behind, and the only cop in Chicago refuses to respond to his call for help.
It’s just terrible. Why are the thieves given so much backstory? Why is Max so awful? Why does the film shortchange the actual fantasy at the heart of the first Home Alone film, which is Kevin being left alone to play adult without any actual adults or older siblings present to yell at him? The third-act home defense portion is much imitated, but the part of Home Alone I always remember from when I was a kid is the little scene of Kevin walking home from the grocery store having overfilled his bags. He’s a little kid playing adult who learns to value his mother and family over the course of his adventure.
Max doesn’t learn anything here. Neither do the Fritzovskis. They abuse one another with pool-ball launchers, needles and sacks of sugar to the testicles, but it’s all meaningless choreography. Calling it spectacle would be overselling it. There’s nothing redeeming about Home Sweet Home Alone. This franchise needs to die.