Home Sweet Home Alone

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Home Alone is endlessly re-watchable. For many families, viewing it is an annual holiday tradition. It barely matters that they know the dialogue by heart, or that they've seen burglars Harry and Marv go through little Kevin McAllister's booby traps a million times. They take pleasure in the perfectly-executed slapstick comedy, the irresistible charm of Macaulay Culkin's performance, and the warm heart at the center of the story.

But what if you're in the mood for a pale retread of Home Alone, one that focuses more on the domestic problems of the adult characters than on the child, and has none of the original's wit? Well, if that's the case, allow me to steer you toward Home Sweet Home Alone, the pointless new reboot on Disney+.

The kid left home this time is Max Mercer (Jojo Rabbit's Archie Yates). He takes a nap in the garage while the rest of his extended family leaves for a holiday vacation to Hong Kong. For reasons too stupid to get into, a couple across town named Jeff and Pam Fritzovski (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper) believe that Max has stolen a rare, valuable doll from their home. With Jeff unable to find a job, they're in danger of losing their home and putting their children through a trauma, so they decide to break into Max's house, grab the doll, and leave. Once they have it, they can sell it for a large sum.

The first hour of Home Sweet Home Alone is relentlessly stupid. You get far more of Jeff and Pam than you do of Max, which means you also get more scenes of them worrying about their finances than you do of the kid dealing with the lack of supervision. Young viewers, at whom this movie is aimed, will hardly become invested in that plot thread. Even when the movie does shift focus to Max, the result is silly. We're supposed to believe he's a smart kid, yet he's under the bizarre impression that the Fritzovskis want to literally sell him to a group of elderly women. The screenplay by Saturday Night Live writer Streeter Seidell and writer/cast member Mikey Day comes up short in the logic department.

Then comes the final half hour, the point where the movie makes such a monumental mistake that it completely falls apart. Here's the section everyone's been waiting for – the traps. But the people who go through those traps are Jeff and Pam. Despite the detour into breaking and entering, they're good people, desperate to avoid losing their house. In no way do they deserve to be lit on fire, shot in the face with billiard balls, or pushed down a flight of stairs. Why Home Sweet Home Alone thinks we'll laugh at its story's protagonists being physically abused is a mystery. Watching Harry and Marv get it is hilarious because they're criminals who want to hurt Kevin. The Fritzovskis have no malice. Consequently, what's intended to be the big comedic payoff becomes sad instead.

To compensate for this idiotic plot, the movie tosses in a bunch of references to the original Home Alone, as though this constitutes cleverness. It does not. We do not need to see characters watching an “Angels with Filthy Souls” reboot, even if someone is ironically commenting on how “you shouldn't remake the classics.” A familiar actor – not Macaulay Culkin – is on board for a small supporting role. Since Disney has requested his presence not be spoiled in reviews, I'll just say that he's here simply to allow the picture to throw in more dumb callbacks.

Archie Yates is an appealing young actor, and Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney can always finagle a chuckle with a line reading or a facial expression. Nothing else about Home Sweet Home Alone works. Director Dan Mazur (Dirty Grandpa) doesn't even stage basic slapstick well. You know what is a good movie? Home Alone. No matter how many times you've seen it, that picture is far more entertaining than this pathetic knockoff.

out of four

Home Sweet Home Alone is rated PG for rude humor, mild language, and slapstick violence. The running time is 1 hour and 36 minutes.