Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)
"Home Sweet Home Alone" stars Archie Yates, Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Aisling Bea, Kenan Thompson, Pete Holmes, Ally Maki, and Chris Parnell. Released on Disney+ on November 12, 2021, the film has a young boy defending his home from a couple of criminals.
The film was directed by Dan Mazer, who also directed "I Give It a Year", "Dirty Grandpa", and "The Exchange". It is the sixth installment in the Home Alone franchise. It looks like Hollywood still hasn't learned a dang thing regarding the franchise scenario. John Hughes' "Home Alone" has been widely considered as one of the best holiday classics of all time. From Macaulay Culkin's charismatic performance to its slapstick comedy, the film has brought joy and mayhem to many generations of people since 1990. Its success birthed a franchise that spawned two theatrical sequels, two made-for-TV movies, and video games. Unfortunately, none of its successors failed to copy the same charm as the original. After buying 20th Century Fox and its franchise, Disney announced a new "Home Alone" film for Disney+ with a new cast of characters, much to the dismay of its fans. While I was less enthusiastic about this one considering my love for the franchise, I was willing to check it out because of Archie Yates, who made his impressive debut in Taika Waititi's "Jojo Rabbit" two years ago. Plus, it was released as part of the second anniversary of Disney+'s launch, so I had to honor that occasion by reviewing one of its recent releases, for better or worse. So, was the film able to provide some early holiday cheer for its viewers, or was it another unnecessary revival that's as painful as its traps? Let's find out.
If you grew up with the "Home Alone" franchise, you'd already know what the story in "Home Sweet Home Alone" is about. If not, then allow me to clarify. The film centers on Max Mercer (Yates), a ten-year-old boy who lives with his family in the suburbs. One day, he is accidentally left behind at home for the holidays when his family leaves for a vacation to Tokyo. Max is happy to see that he can do whatever he wants without any consequences. Sadly, his "alone time" didn't last long as his home was being invaded by a husband-wife duo, Pam (Kemper) and Jeff McKenzie (Delaney). These burglars are seeking to steal a priceless heirloom that lies inside Max's house. Max will have to be the man of the house and protect his home by setting up traps for the unexpected guests. If there's one thing the film is good for, it's that it somehow stays true to the original's premise regarding its elements. You got a kid who's sick of his family and is accidentally left home alone, and a bunch of criminals being tortured by the kid's booby traps. But as we all know at this point, "Home Alone" is more than just those things. It's a charming, funny, and thoughtful story about the importance of family during the holidays. Even though they can be annoying sometimes, it's always better to live with them than without them. The film's sequels attempted to recapture lightning in the bottle but wound up being more torturous than the traps shown, with each one being more unbearable than the last. So it should come as no surprise that "Home Sweet Home Alone" fits snuggly into that category. Despite its effort to recapture the original's formula and a couple of interesting ideas, the latest installment in the "Home Alone" franchise is a dull, painful, and charmless gift that contains a bunch of coal instead of Christmas cheer. The culprits for this crime were the film's director, Dan Mazer, and screenwriters Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell. They thought they knew what made "Home Alone" a classic based on the traps, John Williams' memorable score, and its themes. Unfortunately, they do not. Mazer's direction failed to provide any strong charisma and energy into the characters and scenarios, and the screenplay favored more on the slapstick that barely had a soul or even an unforgettable chuckle. Maybe hiring someone who helmed a movie about a foul-mouthed grandpa to direct a family film wasn't the best idea Disney had made. However, I would honestly give it credit for injecting some sympathy into Jeff and Pam, the film's "antagonists". Jeff and Pam are parents who are in debt and are on the verge of selling their house. They seek to save themselves and their children by retrieving a rare and priceless doll they thought Max stole. In my opinion, it was an acceptable approach to make its viewers care about these characters as much as Max. Sadly, the problem was that the direction and the characters were not that great. There was some potential to be had with this idea, but the fact that Max's family problem felt unrewarding and the couple's situation was roughly formulaic made things even more troubling than being left alone. I thought Archie Yates did okay in his role as Max, even though his character wasn't as lovable or charming as Macaulay Culkin's Kevin. Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper struggled to hit the same chemistry marks as Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern from the original regarding their roles as Jeff and Pam. Also, Kenan Thompson is in the film as a real estate agent for people who enjoyed him in his other movies. The film also saw the return of Devin Ratray, who reprised his role as Kevin's brother Buzz from the first two "Home Alone" installments, with the character working as a police officer. While it would be cool to see Culkin's Kevin appear in the movie as well, it was a nice treat seeing Kevin's ungrateful brother being his usual self while in uniform. Too bad he wasn't enough to keep the film company while its charm was away to who knows where. I also want to point out that Max's family was pretty darn annoying. There's always a fine line between charm and nuisance when it comes to characters like them, and Max's family just happened to snap that line in two. It's a good thing they don't share the same screen time as the main characters.
Overall, "Home Sweet Home Alone" is an unpleasant and humorless sequel that'll leave many viewers feeling homesick during the holidays. It had a couple of fresh ideas that could've worked well in its favor. Unfortunately, those ideas were tortured by its cast, Mazer's direction, mediocre characters, and flat humor. Not only was it the worst movie to come out on Disney+ since "Artemis Fowl", but it's also a vastly unworthy follow-up that could leave a massive dent on John Hughes' beloved franchise. If you're in a mood for something that spreads laughs and holiday cheer, you're better off watching the original "Home Alone" film, which is also available on Disney+. If you're still interested in seeing it despite my review, you're still free to do so. Who knows? Maybe you might like it more than I did?
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