Despite its talented cast and franchise appeal, Home Sweet Home Alone struggling to entertain, clumsily fumbling its core premise and completely misunderstanding what made the original films so special. The 2021 contribution is the sixth film in Home alone franchise and acts as a soft reboot introducing a new child left behind at Christmas: Max Mercer, played by the adorable – and usually very charming – Archie Yates. Unfortunately, poor characterization, weak structure, and some serious ethical implications plague the script, depriving the film of the little fun it offers. Home Sweet Home Alone is an unnecessary sequel that fails to revive the franchise, which lacks the fun, charm and magic of the 1990s Christmas classic.
Directed by Dan Mazer and written by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, Home Sweet Home Alone is an ill-considered children’s film that wastes its talented actors and basically does not understand physical humor. The basic format borrows heavily from Home alone formula, using the Christmas environment, a similar premise for Max being left behind, and the plot about a child who traps his house to protect it from robbers. Like its predecessors, much of the comedy comes in the form of spectacular falls and ridiculous pranks. In 2021, it is admittedly a tired concept, especially after five films – but the real problems in Home Sweet Home Alone is actually where the film differs from the others in the franchise.
Home Sweet Home Alone has two intersecting narratives that drive the plot: the first is the story of oppressed parents Pam and Jeff McKenzie (Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney), who are forced to sell their family home because of their financial problems; the other is the rich boy Max, who is accidentally left behind when his family flies to Tokyo on vacation. The big twist in Home Sweet Home Alone is that McKenzies are not really robbers; in fact, the whole conflict is the result of two major misunderstandings. When a valuable doll is stolen from McKenzie’s open house, they assume it was taken by Max, who had commented on the doll while he was there with his mother (played by Aisling Bea). Driven by desperation, Pam and Jeff decide to try to pick up the doll, initially in the belief that no one is home. Max assumes they will kidnap him, so he fortifies his home with inventive and colorful traps.
Even now, having the conflict based on erroneous assumptions is a weak basis for a story, but the fact that McKenzies is characterized as both pathetic and well-meaning deprives the film of any effort. Max is not in danger and he is without a doubt much less sympathetic and sympathetic than the adults he teases. The film spends as much, if not more, time focusing on McKenzies’ story and paints a picture of two loving parents crushed over having to sell their homes. Max, meanwhile, is a spoiled brat who lives in a mansion and enjoys the kind of luxury and surplus that the McKenzie kids could only dream of. Instead of learning to appreciate what he has, Max is happily unaware of his privilege – even taking a large toy gun home from a pile of gift donations, intended for needy children. In 2021, when so many families are struggling financially, the implicit message is toned down.
Home Sweet Home Alone has no villain – and in a movie franchise built on physical gags, this is a big problem. That kind of slapstick humor Home alone franchise is built on the need to feel earned and in Home Sweet Home Alone, this is not the case at all. The best films in this category have characters that give it as good as they get it – scary and predatory villains from Wile E. Coyote to the original Home alone thieves, Harry and Marv, who repeatedly try to cause bodily harm to the sympathetic, ingenious and amiable hero. Even in a movie like National Lampoons Christmas Holiday, Clark Griswold, the yuppie neighbors and even his stingy boss Frank Shirley, are all framed in such a way that the audience feels that the characters deserve what happens to them. Although they are not villains, these people largely create their own problems thanks to their pride and greed, which makes gags so much more fun. It’s easy to laugh at someone who gets their showdown – it’s much less fun to see two unlucky parents being burned, stabbed and thrown down stairs.
In general, Home Sweet Home Alone feels misled and half-run. The characters are two-dimensional and lack coherence – both in terms of their actions, reactions and motivations, as well as their inner coherence. Most, if not all, of the characters say and do things for the sake of plot or punchline and not because it suits their established character. Jeff is e.g. an unlucky data migration expert who has struggled to come back after being fired. But he constantly struggles with basic computer technology and concepts throughout the film, despite it being a very obvious opposite of his one established character trait. In one scene, he exudes data jargon, but in the next, he is comically uneasy at the thought of deleting his search history. Children may not notice it, but for parents, it breaks credibility.
Home Sweet Home Alone is a children’s film, and it contains a few slapstick moments that make young people laugh. However, parents should be warned: This is a violent film with a problematic ethical framework. At best Home alone the sequel can entertain young viewers for 90 minutes, but at worst, it encourages horrible behavior and has no redemptive morality at the end. Families would be better off just by revisiting the 1990 original – which also happens to be on Disney +.
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Home Sweet Home Alone debuted at Disney + on November 12, 2021. It is 93 minutes long and is rated as PG for slapstick violence, rude material and some language.
- Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)Release Date: November 12, 2021
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