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‘Home Sweet Home Alone’: Devoid of sugar, spice or anything nice

| Thursday, November 18, 2021

Claire Kirner | The Observer

It is not often that I get mad at a film for merely existing, but this, dear reader, is an exception. Since I must review it, let’s dive in.

“Home Sweet Home Alone” is a sloppy rehash of the original “Home Alone,” but without any of the things that made “Home Alone” special. The film follows Max Mercer (Archie Yates), and gone are the days of the malicious yet goofy “Wet Bandits.” Instead, Harry and Marv are replaced with … Pam and Jeff (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper), a pair of suburban parents who are strapped for cash and think Max stole a doll from them that’s worth $200,000, which could save them from having to sell their house.

Max’s family accidentally leaves him home alone when they leave for Tokyo, and the film follows the “Home Alone” home invasion template from there. But instead of hitting the magical highs of “Home Alone,” the audience is forced to slog through a pointless exercise in cynical modernization that completely misses the point of the original film.

I can’t even classify “Home Sweet Home Alone” as mindless entertainment, as that would imply some amount of entertainment value, which this film is bafflingly devoid of. I’m not asking for a deep dive into the psyche of Kevin McAllister. I don’t want “Straw Dogs” for kids.  I just want a movie with a sense of self and a shred of dignity, but that seems like it’s too much to ask of Disney and director Dan Mazer, the genius behind such cinematic masterpieces as “Dirty Grandpa” and “The Dictator.” It can’t be too hard to write a film that includes an inventive kid, an empty house, two bumbling criminals and a heartwarming reunion, can it?

A rather large problem I have with this film is how it handles the “traps” — the slapstick comedy of “Home Alone” is nowhere to be found. It just feels mean-spirited. Case in point: the grotesque lump on Jeff’s head after being shot by a gun that fires pool balls using compressed air.

The sound effects don’t help, either. The pool ball scene — which in the original would have used a cartoonish sound effect — instead opts to use a cringe-inducing, realistic crunching sound. These traps aren’t fun or funny; they’re like “Saw” but for children. Don’t even get me started on the thumbtack scene.

Max is barely a character, and I’m not a fan of what we get from him. He’s rude, obnoxious and self-absorbed, yet has the gall to be annoyed with his rude, obnoxious family. I like Archie Yates; he’s a good actor and he was fantastic in “Jojo Rabbit,” so I’m going to go ahead and blame this on Mazer and the writers. “Home Alone” is predicated upon a rather simple rule that “Home Sweet Home Alone” seems to forget: The audience needs to like the kid and dislike the criminals.

Pam and Jeff are the most sympathetic characters in the film, which isn’t saying much. I don’t understand why the writer made Pam and Jeff the bad guys. It’s easy to root for Kevin McAllister as he mutilates the Wet Bandits, but it feels wrong to see Max Mercer use deadly force against two parents just trying to save Christmas for their children.

“Home Sweet Home Alone” is an empty husk of a film. A soulless reboot par excellence. A masterclass in how not to write a film. This film is utterly devoid of anything that would make it even remotely memorable or charming. Don’t waste your time or bandwidth on this. “Home Sweet Home Alone,” I award you zero shamrocks and may God have mercy on your soul.

 

Title: “Home Sweet Home Alone”

Starring: Archie Yates, Rob Delaney, Ellie Kemper

Director: Dan Mazer

If you like: “Home Alone,” “Better Watch Out,” “Elf”

Shamrocks: 0 out of 5

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