If you want your holidays ruined, you should definitely watch Home Sweet Home Alone.
When the Walt Disney Company bought out 20th Century Fox in 2019, it was only a matter of time before the mouse started strip-mining Fox’s catalogue for IP ripe for remakes and sequels. It was almost inevitable that venerable holiday classic Home Alone would be attractive to a studio that is seemingly built on nostalgia at this point, and the result is Home Sweet Home Alone, a creatively bankrupt enterprise that seems more like the cheap direct-to-video sequels that preceded it than a genuine attempt to recapture the spirit of the original film.
It’s hard to say who exactly the audience for this film is. Despite its strained attempts at holiday warmth, the film has surprisingly little connection to the original film, save for a rather perfunctory Buzz cameo that is the epitome of “hey remember this guy” wistfulness. The film is unlikely to please millennials who grew up with the first Home Alone, nor is it likely to do much for younger audiences for whom this violent brand of slapstick might seem passe. The film centers around a suburban couple named Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Hunter (Rob Delaney), who are down on their luck and about to lose their house, when Hunter discovers that an antique doll from his late grandmother’s collection is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. At first thrilled about their turn of fortune, they are devastated to discover that it has been swiped by a mischievous little kid by the name of Max (Archie Yates) during an open house, leading the couple to hatch a plot to break into Max’s house and retrieve the doll. But, in classic Home Alone fashion, Max gets left home alone by his extended wealthy family, who jet off to Japan for a Christmas holiday, leaving Max to booby trap the house against the hapless intruders.
Therein lies the essential issue with Home Sweet Home Alone: the robbers are essentially the heroes, sympathetic working-class parents getting pummeled by a rich little brat who wastes no opportunity to wreak violent havoc upon them, generally making their already difficult lives a living hell. It’s nearly impossible to find any of this funny because they’re genuinely good people just trying to save their house for the sake of their kids — and so watching them get burnt, bashed, and turned into human pincushions by a truly heinous little devil child is more awkward than funny. Gone is the Roadrunner and Coyote zaniness, and in its place is something surprisingly mean-spirited, an approach that uses the pain of working parents as the constant butt of a cruel joke. It’s like one of those Twitter memes about the violence of the original Home Alone come to life, but it’s not smart enough to have anything constructive to say about that film’s brand of violent justice. The original Home Alone, and its even more violent sequel, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, are certainly ripe for critique, but they were also uniquely heartwarming yuletide adventures that featured a touch of charm and heart that is completely missing from Home Sweet Home Alone, a truly execrable film as devoid of humanity as any this writer has ever encountered. It almost plays like a Home Alone parody, its “emotional” beats springing seemingly out of nowhere, while composer John Debney liberally deploys John Williams’ original theme music in ways that feel painfully incongruous to the clumsy action happening on screen. But nowhere is the creative bankruptcy of the entire enterprise clearer than when a futuristic remake of Angels with Filthy Souls, the fictional black-and-white gangster film from the original movie, appears on TV, prompting a character to groan “why do they keep remaking these classic movies? They’re never as good as the original!” Why, indeed?
You can stream Dan Mazer’s Home Sweet Home Alone on Disney+ beginning November 12.