The ensemble really is quite good, but they’re let down by a poor script that insists on a moral it doesn’t do the work to earn.
Disney brought out the nostalgia machine for Home Sweet Home Alone, the latest installment in the franchise of the same name. While it’s not a carbon copy remake, Home Sweet Home Alone lacks the charm of the original 1990 film. It narrowly slides into being a passable family film thanks to the work of a committed cast featuring Archie Yates, Rob Delaney, and Ellie Kemper.
Home Sweet Home Alone opens on couple Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam (Ellie Kemper) in Winnetka, Illinois. They’re having an open house, attempting to sell their beloved home as Jeff’s lost his job and they can no longer afford the mortgage on just Pam’s teacher salary. At the open house, Max (Archie Yates) and his mother Carol (Aisling Bea) pop in so Max can use the restroom. While there, they stumble upon some rare creepy porcelain dolls, which Carol notes might be rare and potentially worth a lot of money, before casually mentioning that their family plan to jet off to Tokyo for Christmas. Later that night, Jeff realizes one of the dolls is indeed worth $200,000. Worth $200,000 and missing—with Max the most likely culprit.
From there it’s a slippery slope for Jeff and Pam, as they break bad and become a bickering pair of thieves in their attempts to retrieve the doll from the Mercers. With the family away, it should be easy, a simple matter of breaking into an empty home… Empty that is, except Max, who has, sure enough, accidentally been left home alone amidst his family jetting off to Tokyo. The kid sets out to protect his house, rigging booby traps from Legos, VR headsets, and mentos/cola bottle bombs.
Written by SNL’s Mikey Day and Streeter Siedell, Home Sweet Home Alone boasts some strong comedic bits. They effectively heighten Jeff and Pam’s attempts to burgle the Mercer house, throw in some fart gags to delight the kids in the audience, and have a solidly funny punchline about which house the hapless duo have broken into. There are also some casual winks to the now-grown millennials who grew up on the original film, including a recontextualized version of “Keep the change ya filthy animal.”
Alas, the moments of solid comedy and numerous Easter eggs are not enough for Home Sweet Home Alone to overcome its clunky plot.
And yes, Home Sweet Home Alone shares a setting with the original Home Alone films: the Mercer’s house protected by McCallister Security, and Dan Ratray makes an appearance as Officer Buzz McCallister, a sloppy cop who deals with prank “home alone” calls from Kevin every year while on-duty at Christmas.
Alas, the moments of solid comedy and numerous Easter eggs are not enough for Home Sweet Home Alone to overcome its clunky plot. A late reveal upends the picture’s entire premise—to the point that it feels like a mandate from Disney’s higher-ups. All is well that ends well, no matter how abrupt the turn to that end might be. The original Home Alone was a kids’ movie for kids, drawing clear lines between good (Kevin) and evil (the Wet Bandits). And as a kid who saw and loved Home Alone in the 90s, it was fun to see a kid pull one over on adults. Home Alone Home Sweet Home Alone, by contrast, is a hollow film whose poor scripting leaves its “Let’s all get along” moral feeling forced.
Where Home Sweet Home Alone does work is its cast. Archie Yates, the scene-stealer from Jojo Rabbit, is less cocky than Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin McCallister from the original Home Alone. Yates’ Max is dry and witty, able to deliver lines like “you can’t promise MacDonalds and not deliver” to his mother. Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper are sure as heck committed as Jeff and Pam, an everyday husband and wife pushed to thievery. They’re less nefarious than Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s Wet Bandits—a middle-aged couple who go all-in on robbing a house, all the while trying to overcome their inexperience in crime.
Both Delaney and Kemper pull off some genuinely hilarious physical comedy as Max’s traps harry them. The other comedy heavy-hitters in the ensemble—including Tim Simons as Jeff’s obnoxious (and richer) brother Hunter, Chris Parnell as Uncle Stu, Kenan Thompson as Jeff and Pam’s realtor Gavin, and Academy Award winner Jim Rash as leader of the Ne’er Do Bells handbell choir, are welcome presences one and all.
The strong ensemble elevates Home Sweet Home Alone to “fine” despite its poor scripting. And some of its gags will play well for both kids and their assorted grown-ups. But ultimately, it is a one-off watch at best. For the holidays, there’s no Home Alone sweeter than the originals.
Home Sweet Home Alone is streaming now on Disney+.