23rd Nov2021

‘Home Sweet Home Alone’ Review – Second Opinion

by Jason Brigger

Stars: Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Devin Ratray, Kenan Thompson, Timothy Simons, Ally Maki, Pete Holmes, Chris Parnell | Written by Mikey Day, Streeter Seidell | Directed by Dan Mazer

Nerdly readers, the punishment I take for you, so you don’t have to knows no bounds. If you are on the fence about watching the newest film in the Home Alone franchise, I hope this review can sway you to watch something, anything(!) else than this clunker of a movie. If you still decide to watch the film, please proceed with caution.

Believe it or not, this is the sixth film in the Home Alone franchise and the first one since 2012’s Home Alone: The Holiday Heist, which I’m sure is as forgettable as it sounds. This time, youngster Max (Archie Yates) has just moved to Chicago with his mother Carol (Aisling Bea), his father Mike (Andy Daly), and his sister Katie (Maddie Holliday) into their massive mansion, which eventually becomes a house of horrors for would-be thieves/married couple Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam (Ellie Kemper) McKenzie.

I say “would-be” thieves because unlike the Wet Bandits in the original two films, Jeff and Pam are not villains or even out to hurt Max like Harry and Marv were with Kevin in Home Alone. No, it’s a giant case of mistaken identity as Jeff thinks Max stole one of his old, creepy dolls during an open house for their property, which they are trying to sell as they can no longer afford the payments due to Jeff losing his job. Carol tells Jeff that the doll could be worth a fortune as it looks to be rare and once Jeff does some research, he learns the doll is worth $200,000. When Jeff goes back to the doll box, the doll is gone and the number one suspect is Max. Spoilers, Max didn’t steal it, but Jeff doesn’t know that.

The rest of Home Sweet Home Alone revolves more around Pam and Jeff trying to devise a plan to break into Max’s house to retrieve the doll while Max’s family is away in France than what Max does when he is home alone. Yes, Max is this predicament as he got into an argument with his family and ends up looking for some alone time, so he goes to the family car in the garage and eventually falls asleep, missing the Uber ride to the airport the next morning. When the Uber cars pick up Max’s extended family for the airport, the uncle thinks Max took the earlier flight and was already on vacation with his immediate family. For a movie named Home Alone, we really don’t see how Max spends his time home alone or what he does in the house, outside of 3-minute montage of his activities right after he realizes his family is gone.

The biggest flaw in the film is also what sells the franchise to the audience: traps and hijinks that hurt the burglars. Unfortunately, the film spends the majority of the time making Pam and Jeff sympathetic (who wouldn’t root for parents trying to save their house from foreclosure?) so when Max unleashes his Saw-like traps, including shooting billiard balls at Jeff’s forehead or setting Pam on fire, we don’t laugh and instead think we are watching the birth of a serial killer. To be fair, through some miscommunication when eaves dropping on a conversation with Pam and Jeff, Max thinks they are coming to kidnap him and sell him to elderly women. Again, don’t ask.

The frustrating part isHome Sweet Home Alone had the opportunity and the tools to create a decent story but instead of focusing on Max and his family, like the original Home Alone did with Kevin’s family, the film focused on making the antagonists too nice. A simple swap of roles with using the original film as a template, and the film could have worked. By switching Pam and Jeff from the burglar role to the role of the friendly neighbors that save the day, showing Max’s mom multiple times (not just once) trying desperately to get home, make Max actually care about seeing his family again and actually make the new burglars act like “bad guys” and you could have had a coherent film. Unfortunately, none of this happened.

If you think I’m being harsh on the film, I am. The Disney+ streaming service has made many wonderful films but Home Sweet Home Alone is not one of them. Unlike the original, there is no heart to the film and thus no reason to root for Max. We are never given a reason to care about Max or his family, which we spend approximately two minutes getting to know, before they leave for vacation. The whole film seems to rush any development of characters not named Pam or Jeff and as a result, our main protagonist seems more like an antagonist.

In spite of all its misgivings, let’s end the review on a semi-positive note. The cast, on paper, is exceptional and had the potential to make a funny movie. Bringing Kevin’s older brother, Buzz (Devin Ratray), back into the franchise was a great nostalgic move and also provided the perfect reason why Max was not picked up by the police as soon as Carol realized she left her son alone. The cast is made up of hilarious comic actors/actresses, including Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney and Pete Holmes so the failure ends up with the writers, Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, who have found prior success with comedies but not this time. The actors/actresses do try to make the best of the script but in the end, they can only do so much with what they were given.

Final Grade: D (Bad)

Home Sweet Home Alone could have been a new holiday classic and it had the makings of one but then it all fell apart. At the end of the day, the point of these films is to laugh at the misfortunes of the bumbling burglars while a 10-year-old kid protects his home but when the burglars are the good guys, it just seems like a mean-spirited film. In the age of reboots, it was only a matter of time until the Home Alone franchise was remade but after this attempt, hopefully this franchise takes a billiard ball to the forehead and stays down for a long time.
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You can catch Jason Brigger on the geek-centric podcast, The History of Bad Ideas, as new episodes are released every week at www.nerdly.co.uk or subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Amazon Music and other podcasting apps. 
You can listen to their latest episode right here.

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