For some odd reason, I always thought the Home Alone movies were always made by Disney. Maybe it’s because of the cheerful holiday tone the movies have, the way there’s always some plucky kid and bumbling criminals or how there’s this lesson to be learned about appreciating your family, even though they sometimes suck. Little did I know the films were all made by 20th Century Fox.
Anyway, 20th Century Fox was already in production of the latest film in the Home Alone franchise when Disney bought them out. So that makes me retroactively correct, right? However, does that also mean Home Sweet Home Alone can draw out some of that Disney magic when most of the sequels couldn’t? Let’s find out!
I realize, however, not everyone who wants to see the film will be able to see it. Home Sweet Home Alone is on Disney+ but the streaming service isn’t everywhere, even in my home country of the Philippines; I had to go to my friend’s house who does subscribe to it but has to connect to the United States just to stream it. I also don’t think a lot of theaters even have it. So, with those people in mind, this review for Home Sweet Home Alone is SPOILER FREE.
Home Sweet Home Alone focuses on two particular families. The first is the Mercer family, which is basically the McCallister analogue for this film. Max gets into an argument with his mother and, like Kevin from Home Alone, wishes he was left home alone. He gets his wish as his entire family goes to Japan for Christmas and accidentally leaves him behind. The second family is the Mercers, more specifically Jeff and Pam McKenzie. Their family has hit a rough patch after Jeff lost his job and they need to downsize, which is why they are attempting to sell their house. When Jeff realizes one of his mother’s porcelain dolls is worth a fortune and cannot find it, they figure out Max must have stolen it as he was the only one eying it during the open house the Mercers just so happened to visit. Jeff and Pam then concoct various plans to break into the Mercer house but Max won’t let them.
I will admit, I admire the guts of the people behind Home Sweet Home Alone as there’s a reason why the “thieves” are breaking into this specific house. I also do have to applaud that the “bad guys” are not actually evil; they’re just a family who’s down on their luck, giving them a whole new dimension. Unfortunately, the latter item is also a detriment to the entire premise because the “thieves” are good people! If you’ve seen the previous Home Alone films, you know the people who are breaking into the kid’s house are going to be maimed. So, instead of me cheering on the kid for beating them up, I actually wind up feeling sorry for the people breaking into the house! That just doesn’t seem right!
Another reason why making the “thieves” good people hurts the film is the movie has to devote a big chunk of time developing them. This leads to a big screen time imbalance between the two families as there’s very little development for the kid who’s stuck home alone as well as the mother who has to get back, who are supposed to be the people you’re rooting for!
A big part of what made the original Home Alone film so great was the kid was smart, creative and likable. In Home Sweet Home Alone, you never get to concretely see if the kid is actually smart or creative until the final act. So when we get to the final act and he creates all of the elaborate traps to stop the “thieves,” it seems to come out of nowhere. Also, the sidestory of the haggard mother trying her best to get back to her son is relegated to just a few minutes, making me wonder if it was added at the last minute.
Everyone’s acting in Home Sweet Home Alone seems adequate but, at the same time, there’s a lot of wasted talent here. The kid actor they got is charming enough but does seem to lack the sharp wit of Kevin from the original Home Alone films. Then again, his performance is way better than the last two Home Alone movies. The “thieves” are played by Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper, two particularly good comedic actors but they sadly never get to really shine until the final act. I guess the best low-key performance comes from Aisling Bea, the mother. She doesn’t get much screen sadly but she does come off as an incredibly smart comedian with great timing.
The really strange thing is Home Sweet Home Alone has a lot of secondary or even tertiary characters that should be funny but they’re not given any screentime to make an impact. You have the likes of Keenan Thompson, Jim Rash and Chris Parnell just to name a few but they’re just in one or two scenes! They may not be comedy gold all the time but they do have the talent! So it seems like an enormous waste to relegate them to just a handful of scenes.
The biggest problem I have with Home Sweet Home Alone is, well, it isn’t really funny nor creative. There are a few chuckle-worthy moments here and there but there are just too many so-called humorous which fall flat. The traps the kid develops also feel, well, too childish to be believable. I’m okay with some traps following cartoon logic, like falling from the second floor and only getting an ouchie on your knees. However, there are just some devices, such as one revolving around using VR, that no one would fall for.
While all of that is terrible, I do kind of like the writing as the movie goes out of their way to preemptively answer the viewers questions. There were times in the original Home Alone as to why didn’t Kevin just go to the police straight away. In Home Sweet Home Alone, they do show the reasoning why the kid doesn’t call the police. It’s somewhat smart writing, I guess. In retrospect, though, does a kids movie like Home Sweet Home Along need to close all these loopholes? Shouldn’t they just concentrate on making a fun movie?
In the end, I can’t really recommend Home Sweet Home Alone for most people. If you have young children, it does feel harmless enough to be entertaining to them. It is leagues better than the straight-to-DVD Home Alone movies. Then again, that’s not saying much, is it?
Have you seen Home Sweet Home Alone? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments section below!