Synopsis: After being left at home by himself for the holidays, 10-year-old Max Mercer must work to defend his home from a married couple trying to steal back a valuable heirloom.
Stars: Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Kenan Thompson, Timothy Simons
Director: Dan Mazer
Running Length: 90 minutes
TMMM Score: (1/10)
Review: “Holiday classics were meant to be broken.” That’s the tagline being used on the marketing for Home Sweet Home Alone, the sixth (!) film in the series that began back in 1990 with the cheeky cheery blockbuster. It’s a pretty bold statement for any movie to make, least of all one that is so far down the franchise ladder. In my mind, I was thinking director Dan Mazer and writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell (both from Saturday Night Live) had worked up something clever that would rise above the rather tacky logline. Instead, both they and the film are firmly on The MN Movie Man’s naughty list for 2021 because this isn’t just a lump of coal…it’s a pile of something else entirely.
Formalities out of the way first. The story revolves not around young tyke Max (Jojo Rabbit scene-stealer Archie Yates) but financially strapped dunderhead married couple Pam and Jeff McKenzie (Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney) who think the boy has made off with a doll that could get them out of their dire straits. That Max has been mistakenly left behind by his immediate and extended family who have jetted off to Toyko for the holidays is barely the B story. Halfway through the movie you realize Day and Seidell are far more interested in the perspective of the bad guys than the boy forced to defend his home from a suburban couple who don’t have the first clue about how to break into their own house, much less his.
The result is a painfully unfunny 90 minutes with no one to root for, nothing to care about, and a general awe of just how many wrong decisions could be made in a single film. If the filmmakers won’t even go the distance with making the movie comically adept, what’s the point? I kept asking myself (often out loud) who this movie was made for. Kids won’t find any of the hijinks the least bit hilarious because the physical humor skews so violently painful and realistic, something that will surely astonish their adult parents who will already be aghast at the lack of timely jokes. Dated references to OJ Simpson and Beverly Hills Cop feel like they came from a script written ten or more years ago and that’s just the tip of the out-of-left-field references iceberg that act more like cultural touchstones for the writer’s own memory book than anyone else’s.
The small attempts made to connect this movie to what has come before offer glimpses at the right direction the filmmakers could have taken things. Keep your eyes and ears open for references to the McAllisters and one family member that pops up, along with an admittedly clever (hence the 1 star) update to the video Kevin watches in the first film. Why the writers and Mazer (The Exchange) didn’t go further with this is beyond me. We definitely didn’t want to spend so much time with Kemper (Sex Tape) and Delaney (Bombshell) and their obnoxious family, including Tim Simons (Draft Day) showing up as a Cousin Eddie-ish knob that rankles Delaney at every turn. Who cares that this couple needs to sell their house because the husband can’t find a job as in the IT field? Would the original Home Alone have been such a hit if we followed Joe Pesci’s character home and hung out with his relatives? This is premiering on Disney+, a streaming service that took all of the major swear words and objectionable content out of Adventures in Babysitting, so perhaps I shouldn’t be surprised what they’ve done here.
Let’s also just acknowledge another major problem – the movie looks absolutely awful. Within the first ten minutes there’s an editing error involving Kemper’s character showing up in two different scenes at once that’s so noticeable I rewound it just to make sure I didn’t fully dream it. How did this make it through a professional editor’s gaze? There’s also a terrifically terrible scene where the duo is trying to climb over a large wall when we can clearly see a lower wall right next to them…and it’s not for comic effect. Bad use of green screen which make the actors look like paper dolls and a general lack of kinetic energy in the finale keep the film as lugubrious as the script. Sanitized beyond all measure to leave no one truly “bad”, this is quite truly a pointless holiday cash-in on a beloved family chestnut.
With the first three Home Alone films available on Disney+ (as bad as the third movie is, it looks like The Grapes of Wrath in comparison to this), there’s just no reason to even consider watching Home Sweet Home Alone. It will only break your heart in unbearable ways, especially when they corrupt the beautiful Oscar-nominated John Williams score and attempt to stir emotions when it doesn’t deserve our sentiment.