I’d rather watch “Jingle All the Way.”
Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Jeff (Rob Delaney) are a married couple facing some adversity during the Christmas season. Jeff is between jobs and it means they may have to sell their house, a home they both love. Their financial issues have a potential solution, though, as they have an antique which could sell for a lot of money.
However, during a chance encounter, they believe the antique fell into the hands of a kid named Max (Archie Yates). Around the same time, it turns out Max has been left home alone, with his family leaving for vacation. While it seems great at first, Max becomes worried when Pam and Jeff start snooping around, as the couple has hopes to get the antique back.
I can appreciate filmmakers creating a sequel with a spin on the original idea. It can be exciting when the creative team takes a new approach, and that direction has led to some of the best sequels in cinema.
“Home Sweet Home Alone” is definitely not in that category and the previous paragraph is about all the praise this thing earns. One thing undercutting a lot of the film is the very concept the filmmakers came up with to set this production apart from the classic.
Making the robbers a sympathetic married couple who’re trying to keep their home during Christmas did not work at all. Watching them get busted up by the traps never feels all too satisfying, and it’s frustrating when this whole situation could’ve been easily solved.
It’s fine to have some pratfall comedy with earnest, good people. “Christmas Vacation” is a perfect example, with Clark Griswold legitimately trying to do right by his family, and bumbling in the process. But there’s an actual heart to that movie, and in this one, that aspect is sorely missing.
The film simply has a mean spiritedness with a lot of the characters. There’s no one to really relate to, despite the filmmakers best attempts, especially in the final 15 minutes.
As a result, watching the married couple scheme and Max set up traps feels hollow, and a viewer can’t root for either side.
The build-up to the finale isn’t done all that well either. A montage with Max living home alone and enjoying it feels generic and dated. It ends with Max dressing like Tony Montana from “Scarface” and having too much candy, which not only feels out of place, but is never called back to when the kid’s home is being invaded.
We also don’t see Max having to deal with the actual difficulties of living at home, such as getting groceries. It’s as if the filmmakers only remembered Kevin partying by himself in the original film and forgot about the stuff that actually humanized the movie.
Meanwhile, Jeff and Pam have to make their plans while also dealing with the in-laws. Again, a lot of those moment with Jeff and Pam being annoyed by their family feels recycled.
The actors seem to do their best in this film, but their characters don’t do any favors. Yates, for example, who was superb in his acting debut with “Jojo Rabbit,” is limited in what he can do in the role of Max.
The character is so unlikable, going so far as to walk into a church and take a toy that had been donated to poor children. Pam and Jeff aren’t much better, with low grade material through most of the runtime.
Sequels or remakes can happen and be done with heart. While not great, “Ghostbusters: Afterlife” just proved this. But projects like these need the right creative team.
Director Dan Mazer, who’s mostly specialized in raunchy comedies, as well as writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, who have experience in sketch comedy, weren’t up to this task.
The original “Home Alone” was written by John Hughes and directed by Chris Columbus, a creative pair who know how to capture the whimsy and heart of youth and holidays. “Home Sweet Home Alone,” in comparison, is empty. 1 out of 5.