Analysing Bone Alone: the Home Alone knock-off with dogs
Bone Alone is a low budget movie 'inspired' by Home Alone. We've taken a look at what treats it has in store...
WARNING: This article contains spoilers for Bone Alone and Home Alone.
FURTHER WARNING: Bone Alone is not an adult film.
Just a few short weeks ago, this site - along with a few others - received a letter from lawyers purportedly acting for 20th Century Fox, claiming that we'd infringed copyright by posting a what-had-been-debunked synopsis for the upcoming Fantastic Four movie.
At the time, I thought that its legal hounds had been a bit over the top. But then I was casually browsing through W H Smith (Halesowen branch) a week or two back, and I saw this...
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Bone Alone. For the purpose of comparison, here is the DVD cover of Bone Alone, set alongside the DVD cover of Home Alone, a film that you'd win no points at a pub quiz for suggesting had inspired the former.
Just to say it again: we got a legal letter for talking about a debunked synopsis from the studio behind Home Alone. That's just worth reiterating.
Still, Bone Alone was £2.99 when I found it, and I thought I should do my duty and see whether it was possible to replicate the mayhem of Home Alone with dogs. If you're one of those tl;dr kind of people: it isn't. But if you like the detail, I figure I sat through Bone Alone, and I should share the experience with you.
The People Behind The Bone
As it turns out, Bone Alone is the work of The Asylum. The Asylum, if you've not had the pleasure, is the company that makes low budget movies such as Atlantic Rim (which we looked at here, and was released around the time of Pacific Rim), Jack The Giant Killer (released around the time of Jack The Giant Slayer), and the incoming Apocalypse Pompeii (whose release is coincidentally up against Paul W S Anderson's $100m blockbuster, Pompeii).
You also have The Asylum to thank for Sharknado. Moving on.
It's easy to sniff at the firm, but actually, for low budget movies, it makes its films look pretty good. There's a decent special effects operation at work, and there's a bit of the spirit of Roger Corman at play. It is not inconceivable that in 20 or 30 years, The Asylum will have given a break to two or three directors who go on to win Oscars. Just not for The Asylum films.
In the case of Bone Alone, the man tasked with directing a winning marriage of dogs-replacing-Macaulay-Culkin-and-different-burglars-to-Joe-Pesci-and-Daniel-Stern is Joseph J Lawson. Lawson worked on the visual effects for the likes of Star Trek: Enterprise and The Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King before landing at The Asylum. He's since directed four features for the firm, including this one (he also directed lots of episodes of the Dan Dare CG TV series). Incidentally, we should point out that Bone Alone was actually known as Alone For Christmas in the US. We're sure Fox's lawyers had nothing to do with that.
Lawson has several tricks to deploy. He goes for the occasional Alien 3-esque point of view shot. He brings out shakey-cam to get across the feeling that you are a dog looking for intruders in your home. And when he has something illogical or impossible to try - such as a dog throwing a piece of steak on the end of a fishing hook so that it lands in the undergarments of a burglar sitting on the toilet...
... he just cheats. He cuts away from the throw itself, we see the steak sailing through the air and landing perfectly where it needs to. There are several moments where things like this happen, but I'd feel guilty if I spoiled them all.
Lawson does have his moments though, and he also weaves in a special effects sequence involving lots of water. My memory of Home Alone is a bit hazy in truth, but I don't recall either Daniel Stern or Joe Pesci breaking into Kevin's house, and taking a shower. My mind drew a further blank when it tried to recall the moment when Kevin then trapped one of the burglars in the shower cubicle, and filled it with water (in a moment that Doctor Who fans will surely appreciate as a nod to the Sylvester McCoy adventure, Battlefield. It can be nothing else).
In Home Alone 2, Macaulay Culkin's Kevin was reduced to throwing bricks from the top of a building. But he never tried to drown someone, betraying science as he did so. That's just what the hero of Bone Alone tries to do though. All with CG water, which inevitably then floods a bit of the house, only to magically dry up within a shot or two. That's the advantage of CG water right there, friends. It might not look too convincing, but it leaves your laminate flooring in a far healthier state.
In fact, it's worth going back to the hero of Bone Alone while we're here. Remember that DVD box? In particular the dog at the centre of it? That's not Bone. Nor is he alone at any point. That is in fact Columbus. Bone is a far older, wiser dog, but in a damning indictment of the daily discrimination that dogs face over their looks, he barely gets a look in on the back cover either, whilst the younger, apparently more attractive mutt gets the limelight. Tsk.
Anyway, back to the film. You may have already realised that Bone Alone isn't a shot for shot remake of Home Alone, albeit with dogs, and it does have an identity and ideas of its own. The central premise remains the same. In this case, a family of people you'd like to go around in turn and individually hit (not least the boy who continually spouts out the line "worst Christmas ever" in a way that dislodges Sylvester Stallone's "I knew you'd say that" in Judge Dredd from the top of the list of the worst movie catchphrases of all time) put up their Christmas decorations, leave the lights turned on, and then go away for a week. They decide that the dogs can't go, and helpfully tell a low budget Chris O'Dowd (Jeremy Mascia), the purported postman, that they're going away.
But what's this? He's not a postman really, and wants to burgle the house? It's a shocker friends, I have to tell you.
Incidentally, the first dog farting joke arrives on 22 minutes. Another one lands on 57 minutes. By the time of the third, on 76 minutes, Adam Sandler has been on the phone after the remake rights.
To individually go through the various bizarre moments of Bone Alone from this point on would be less like shooting fish in a barrel, more like the fish arriving pre-packed and asking to be eaten. Even throwing in a free fork. But consider some of these highlights.
The burglars do pretty much everything but burgle the house for the first 65 minutes of the film: This is true. One of them takes a bit of jewellery, but it takes over an hour until they realise what they're there for.
Things that the burglars do instead of burgling: Take a shower, call in a dog catcher, answer the door to carol singers, eat the food from the full fridge (remember, they were off for a week: best to stock up on fresh food), go to the toilet, eat a chimichanga, decide to break in during the day.
There is a doll of a baby girl that manages to pee vertically: I wouldn't want to entirely rule out that peeing vertically unaided is purely a skill exclusive to the male of the species, but I got a C in GCSE Biology so think I know my stuff here.
Bone The Dog has a particular set of skills: He can skateboard. He can hit people on the head repeatedly with a frying pan. He can talk while simultaneously holding an object in his mouth. In fact, he can talk (courtesy of some quite good effects work, that looks a bit weird, but not enough to warrant switching off the film).
No matter where the family are driving, there is nothing outside their window: Exterior shots establish that it's daytime and not foggy, and yet for the scenes inside the car being driven by the hittable family, it's just whiteness outside their windows. As my wife sagely commented, "it's like they've gone for a drive in Heaven". Proof? Okay...
Just to go a bit deeper on a couple of moments for you. At one stage, Columbus the Dog needs to escape from an SUV. To do so, he manages to reverse it...
.... and then as soon as it hits a wall (very slowly), the entire back window comes out. Well, with a bit of CG.
At one stage, there's a high-ish speed car chase in the film, with two vehicles going along a busy road. With windows wound up, one driver attempts to shout to the other one some half a mile down the road, before turning to his wife and admitting "they can't hear us".
Still, Home Alone itself is a movie with problems, that comes alive with the Spy Vs Spy-esque setting of traps. Here, it turns out that Bone has a few plans of his own. So then...
Here is Bone scraping at the floorboards in front of the main door to the house.
Within three seconds of scraping, he has done this...
... which leads to this.
Then, Bone opens a cupboard to find this...
... which he applies to this....
... which leads to this.
But my favourite? It's when he jumps on a bed with lots of soft toys...
... and applies the smallest dab of glue (although it, er, doesn't look much like glue. That's my GCSE at work again)...
... which bizarrely is strong enough to lead to this.
Also, at one stage, a man is electrocuted by a toy train line. Presumably, this is a toy train that failed rigorous Eastern European safety standards.
If you've not got the idea yet, Bone Alone is a bit of a bizarre film. It feels like it occasionally remembers the film that it's supposed to be, er, 'paying canine homage' to, but the rest of the time, who knows what's going on.
In fairness, it's not dull either. Heck, we've sat through expensive blockbusters that have bored us to tears. Bone Alone simply made us stare at the television and be sort-of-thankful that in a movie world increasingly dominated by boardroom decisions, and studio interference, that we were watching something that very, very clearly had never been near a focus group in its life.
Should you watch it? Well, I wouldn't go that far. Life is precious, after all. That said, approach it in the right spirit, and you'll get something in the way of entertainment from it. Furthermore, The Asylum clearly cares more about Bone Alone than Fox does about the Home Alone series, as demonstrated by the existence of this 2012 epic...
(Sample Amazon review: "Nobody wants more 4th rate Home Alone movies... NOBODY!")
Finally, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't intrigued as to where The Asylum will take a low budget knock-off of Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Bone Alone 2: Lost In Bridlington might yet stretch the budget too far. But whether it opts to make more of not depends on a) the popularity of Bone Alone and b) the competence of Fox's legal eagles. 50/50 chance, then...
Bone Alone is available on DVD now.
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