15th December 2021

Home Alone vs Home Sweet Home Alone: What went wrong?

Bethan Ingman compares a classic festive favourite to it’s 2021 remake Home Sweet Home Alone
Home Alone vs Home Sweet Home Alone: What went wrong?
Photo: S_Herman @ Flickr

Watching Home Alone as a first-time viewer merely proved its iconic status as one of the most enjoyable Christmas classics. The film stands up even thirty years later as a funny and sweet film that skirts on the line of being ridiculous and a benchmark to all Christmas movies that have followed.

Watching a sadistic, small child attempt to grievously harm a couple of thieves with implausibly ingenious booby traps during Christmas is a fun time for all the family. The fifth sequel, however, loses any charm it may have had from the moment it begins. The fifth sequel to the 1990 Christmas classic, Home Alone, Home Sweet Home Alone, is yet another nostalgia bait remake that asks the important questions of “why was this film made and when will this end?”.

Home Sweet Home Alone loosely follows the same plot as the first. Max (Archie Yates), a young boy, is accidentally left home alone when his mother and extended family leave to an overseas location over the holidays. However, instead of Home Alone’s iconic Joe Pesci-led duo of bumbling burglars, the married couple of Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Jeff (Rob Delaney) are dubiously hell-bent on taking back the valuable doll, supposedly taken by Max at a house viewing.

Home Sweet Home Alone panders to an audience that does not exist. From its cringe-worthy references to its egregious product placements, the film takes a beloved tale and turns it into a boring slog of a film. It is a blatant cash grab that begs the question of what the team behind this were trying to do or say. Whilst there are occasional shining funny moments, this cannot redeem the cesspit of bad writing and a directionless, inane attempt to recreate a classic for the contemporary era.

One of the problems lies in its cast. Archie Yates, succeeding Macauley Culkin’s beloved performance as Kevin in the original, unfortunately falls short. But it’s unfair to blame the twelve-year-old actor for the lack of charisma in his performance when the film does not give him enough time to shine.

Whilst Max may appear to be the protagonist, most of the film’s screentime is given to the off-putting married couple of Pam and Jeff, who bumble around for most of the film with no clear motivations or even personality. Max receives none of the character moments that Kevin boundlessly received.

The adult cast also exists in an arena of awkward, stilted conversations. Instead of deriving laughs, most of the quips just make you feel uncomfortable. Their interactions are reminiscent of an attempt to recreate the slapstick humour of the John Hughes written original, though it lacks any actual humour.

Lacking any humour or originality, Home Sweet Home Alone does not disappoint because, frankly, nobody was coming into this fifth sequel expecting something good. But the obnoxious writing and humour is irritating all the same. Whilst Home Alone admittedly gets ridiculous and over the top, it levels the spectacle with a youthful charisma that has unexpectedly emotional moments, helped with the masterful score by John Williams. The score of Home Sweet Home Alone is obnoxiously played with no substance behind it, and the most emotional moment I had watching the film was the relief when the credits rolled.

The constant barrage of meta-references to the original does not give Home Sweet Home Alone an edgy, self-aware humour, but instead creates an atmosphere of a resigned group of people trying to appear relevant in the shadow of a film that has the longevity of a classic.

Whilst Home Alone is an ultimately light-hearted and charming bundle of ridicule and fun, Home Sweet Home Alone is a husk of a remake that merely follows in the line of middling remakes and sequels that have become a staple of the modern landscape of cinema.

Home Sweet Home Alone: 1/5. Home Alone: 4/5.

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