Home Alone remains a Christmas classic 31 years after its release, due to the sheer rewatch value of the uproarious trap scenes. When Kevin McCallister took over the "Wet Bandits" causing pandemonium in his home, we laughed our guts out at the travails of Harry and Marv.
It also helped that we knew that the thieves were not above harming him, and this amped up the stakes. Perhaps it's these nuances that Home Sweet Home Alone lacks in, as it fails to recreate the enjoyable silliness of the 1990 film.
Dan Mazer's reboot is largely a replica of the original Home Alone film, and the additional writing choices only serve as deterrents. Unlike Harry and Marv, the burglars in the new film, Jeff (Rob Delaney) and his wife Pam (The Office's Ellie Kemper), are not crooked by nature but are compelled to commit a burglary on Christmas eve. When the couple is convinced that the 10-year-old Max (Jojo Rabbit's Archie Yates) has stolen their rare doll, which could resolve their financial crisis, they are determined to procure it back.
There's no malice here; it's just two adults, who mean no harm to the kid, trying to save their home by breaking into another. Replace the attic from the original with a garage that Max's family leaves him behind on their vacation to Tokyo.
The kid, who initially enjoys solitude, begins to miss his family, exactly like the boy in the original does. Home Sweet Home Alone, as you can see, is largely like Home Alone, sans the entertainment.
The strange conundrum in this film is how we feel bad for the adults, and not the kid! The booby traps, in fact, end up discomfiting us; it's no pleasure watching two innocents being subjected to pain and agony. Perhaps the writer thinks it's justified as it’s children at the other end, but the problems here are so glaring that even a five-year-old should figure out that torturing these innocents is pointless.
Forget the morality of it all; are the booby trap sequences actually funny? No, and this once again boils down to the 'purpose' they serve. When the fundamentals are wrong, it's hard to have fun with the details, and the makers don't seem like they are exactly trying too hard either. It's a film that is convinced that intimately capturing a sandwich’s sauce spilling on one’s shirt is hilarious, when, like the film, it’s trivial and joyless.
There’s a call back to the original, and that’s likely to make you smile for a quick moment - largely out of nostalgia. Perhaps films like Home Alone should be left alone.
Home Sweet Home Alone
Director: Dan Mazer