What a pile of junk. Spoilers ahead.
Home Sweet Home Alone is the sequel nobody asked for from a series nobody wanted built on the hard work of a dead man, and pilfered by a company dead set on owning just about every piece of intellectual property they can get their hands on. Directed by Dan Mazer and written by Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, Home Sweet Home Alone is another example of a company putting out a new iteration of an IP simply because they own it. Disney of course acquired the rights for Home Alone in its buyout of 20th Century Studios.
Now if you’re a movie buff you might have had some tiny kindling of interest in this film thanks to its lead actor Archie Yates, aka Yorki from the film Jojo Rabbit. Yates is probably the first and last time I will ever say that I liked that kid better when he was part of the Hitler Youth. Yorki was the naïve friend of Jojo in Jojo Rabbit, both children in Germany who enthusiastically become part of the Hitler Youth out of their desperation to be accepted into a group. It’s pretty bad when the Hitler Youth edition of an actor is a more well-intentioned and sympathetic character.
The standard plot shouldn’t require any introduction, so let me introduce it. Obviously the overarching structure involves child Max Mercer (Archie Yates) being left home alone when his parents Carol (Aisling Bea) and Mike (Andy Daly) forget him when leaving for their trip to Japan with the massive family. Where this film gets its twist is that Jeff (Rob Delaney) and Pam (Ellie Kemper) McKenzie are the thief couple trying to break into Max’s house. The difference here is that Pam and Jeff aren’t criminals, they believe (and so does the audience) that Max stole a very expensive doll from their house and are trying to get it back.
Knowing that Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell wrote the screenplay for this movie puts many of the film’s characters into perspective. Mikey Day’s writing credits include the David Blaine parody, while Seidell got his start at College Humor and then made the MTV show Pranked, and both have been working at Saturday Night Live as it’s essentially a homeless shelter for comedians whose careers didn’t get them to good Hollywood films. The next step of course is direct-to-streaming films with no standards of quality (like this one) with the ceiling being a steady paycheck selling your dignity to Happy Madison. At some point the idea ingrained itself that all you have to do is write your characters to be abrasive assholes with a nearly fourth wall breaking level of awareness about their existence, and audiences will lap them up. It also explains the film’s nearly sociopathic portrayal of who the good and bad guys are.
I was kind of shocked to see how awful of a person the film presents Max, he’s a self-centered bastard child who whines too much, complains about being denied McDonald’s, insults adults for absolutely no reason, and spends the bulk of the film putting the McKenzie parents through sheer physical torture. We’re led to believe in the opening moments that he steals a doll from the McKenzie family evidently just to be an asshole about it, and then to put the cherry on top we learn that the McKenzie family is basically poor as shit. Jeff lost his job and they’re in the process of selling the house they can no longer afford, and this doll may be their chance at being able to stay in their home. Jeff’s rich brother even suddenly appears for Christmas with his family and a truckload of presents, spending lavish amounts of money on Jeff’s kids and making the couple look even more sympathetic.
In a world where Seidell and Day weren’t constrained by Disney+ age rating, I imagine this film would fully project the internet meme that Kevin McAllister was a child psychopath. Instead of losing the house, I’m sure the McKenzie family would be trying to get the doll so they could sell it and get their child Leukemia treatment or something like that. When it comes to writing good characters, Seidell might be a talentless hack fraud. But what he does know is memes. Remember stepping on Legos? Remember Mentos in diet soda? When not recycling internet jokes, Seidell and Day and merely happy perusing memories from the original film to ruin.
As is standard practice for films like this, the nuances of the original stories are lost on its unskilled writing team. Kevin McCallister was a kid people could relate to despite his family obviously being rich. He was bullied incessantly by his siblings and even the adults, was clearly the product of neglect and abandonment, which made him a sympathetic character. Kevin got into fights with his family, but you understood why he felt the way he did living in such a massive household. We also see Kevin’s mom go through character development, spending much of the film doing everything she can including selling her jewelry to buy a plane ticket back, because holy crap her kid is home alone on Christmas. Real characters with real flaws who act like we’d expect real people to.
Meanwhile the wet/sticky bandits were exaggerated to the point of cartoonish, being greasy and ugly and just enjoying their roles as villains. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are fantastic actors who are never set up to be sympathetic characters. We see how meticulously Marv is in casing the neighborhood to determine which houses are best to steal from, and we see Harry being just a greasy thief who really enjoys his job. You never feel bad when the two get hurt primarily because they get up and shrug it off, but because they instigated everything out of their own criminal greed and could leave at any time. Over the course of the movie their motivations get even worse as Harry and Marv care less about robbing the house and more about just hurting Kevin in revenge.
And both Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper are great actors, perhaps the only actors worth a damn in this film. This works against the plot horribly. The McKenzie’s come off as such sympathetic characters that it doesn’t feel satisfying watching them get injured. It only portrays Max and thus the writers reveling in being mean spirited assholes. This isn’t a film about a vulnerable kid protecting his home from criminals who want to rob the house and hurt him, it’s a film about a rich spoiled bastard (evidently) stealing from a desperate family about to lose their home on Christmas. It all culminates in a shitty twist to make everyone sympathetic as it turns out Max didn’t steal the doll and the whole film was just a misunderstanding.
It’s also rather insulting to watch because Home Sweet Home Alone’s plot could have been fixed with just a couple of small amendments to the script. Let’s keep the plot of the doll intact for good measure and consider the following. Max and his mom stop off at the open house to use their bathroom, and rather than the doll being owned by Jeff, it’s owned by Max who carries it around everywhere to the dismay of his parents. This would be subtle imagery for Max’s feelings of neglect from his parents as we’re shown Max trusts the doll for companionship more than he does his mom or dad who are busy rich business people too focused on their business to raise a child. And you could also set up a subplot about how the doll was given to Max by his grandmother, the only adult in his life who truly showed him love who is also now dead. Some real Matchstick Girl shit. This would also explain Max’s abrasiveness toward his parents and just parental figures altogether.
The McKenzie family is at risk of losing their home because Jeff lost his job as an investment banker because he was caught swindling clients but was smart enough to do it in a way to avoid criminal prosecution, and maybe his wife is oblivious to this and thinks he just got laid off. Jeff recognizes the doll as an expensive collector’s item, and tries to swindle Max by offering him $100 for it. Max denies the offer because the doll is important to him, leaving with his mom. Jeff cases the house after seeing the family leaving for their vacation and sees the doll on the living room coffee table. He brings on his similar criminal friend to break into the house, not realizing that Max is also inside. Cue the rest of the film.
Home Alone should be a film about a pair of cartoon thieves getting their Looney Tune-ish comeuppance from a mostly innocent yet intelligent and prone to comedic violence child. As far as movies go, this recipe is like scrambled eggs. It should be really hard to screw up, but by god did they somehow manage to screw it up to the point where its mere existence is almost offensive to the sensibilities. It also unwittingly shows Disney’s vision as a company where a rich kid tortures a family desperate for money and we’re supposed to take the rich kid’s side. Are we sure Jeff Bezos didn’t write this?