I was wary the moment I opened the package from Den of Geek and saw the words Home And Alone For Christmas staring back at me. I’m a big fan of the original Home Alone films, the ones starring Macaulay Culkin, but it’s a franchise that took a heck of a nosedive after he left, with a series of increasingly obnoxious-looking child actors being asked to recreate Culkin’s head-in-hands pose for the DVD box. So if Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist was bad, how bad was the film piggybacking on the franchise’s success going to be?
Despite promising some festive magic with its doesn’t-quite-work tagline ‘When all elf breaks loose’, Home And Alone For Christmas (original title 3 Day Test, new title World’s Rubbishest Dad) is the wholly non-fantastical tale of an obnoxious family led by father Martin (played by George Newbern after the budget wouldn’t stretch to Ed Helms). Martin is a busy number-cruncher feeling out of touch with his wife and three children.
At the end of a day in which a toilet falls on his car for reasons that are neither relevant nor important, Martin receives a present from his brother Sam (Kevin Crowley): a DVD and instruction booklet for the ‘three-day test’, a programme designed to bring families closer together by isolating them from technology and all man-made luxuries for three days.
Rather than consult his family, Martin spends the night stealing all of their phones, laptops and televisions, turning off the water and electricity and for some reason spray painting the house windows black. He then puts up signs outside the house with slogans such as ‘Desperate family on board’ and ‘Honk if you’ve had it’. In short, Home And Alone For Christmas is about a man who decides to hold his family hostage after suffering a complete nervous breakdown.
Martin’s family decide to go along with his ridiculous plan, but things go from bad to worse when Sam turns up at the house in military gear, wielding a paintball gun and threatening to steal Martin’s wife and daughters in order to teach them some kind of lesson. When he returns the next day and kidnaps the family dog, one of Martin’s children reminds their parents (and the audience) that Home Alone exists and is a much better Christmas movie, and the last half-hour of the film is devoted to a watered-down version of that movie’s climax.
Home And Alone For Christmas is the brainchild of actor Corbin Bernsen, who wrote, directed and produced the film. He also stars in the film, as one of two news reporters who decides to camp out outside the Taylor household in order to get a quote from Martin about the toilet that fell on his car. Bernsen does his best to tell a story, but his direction leaves much to be desired at times, with confusing angles and cutaway shots struggling to represent important plot points.
The film comes to us courtesy of ‘faith-based film company’ EchoLight Studios, run by Republican politician Rick Santorum. As such, the film conveys its message with all the subtlety of a brick through the window. However, the message is a pertinent one; you only have to see a group of friends sat in the pub checking their phones to realise there might be something in the idea that our gadgets are, to a certain extent, taking away a degree of closeness between people. In fact, for a Christian film company there’s very little religion in the film – it’s only the youngest daughter, who watches late-night preachers on TV, who brings up the subject at all.
The message is, in many ways, the least of the film’s problems. The main problem with the film is that it’s just so boring. The Taylor family aren’t particularly likeable to begin with, and as time passes you find yourself not really caring whether Martin – himself particularly dull and detestable – manages to reconnect with them or not. There’s some attempt at conflict involving the two older children getting involved with things they shouldn’t (A DVD-copying scheme and an inappropriate boyfriend), but it’s all disregarded as casually as it’s introduced.
And then there’s the Home Alone stuff. It’s literally signposted with ‘Let’s do what he did in Home Alone‘, but it’s as if the film were written by someone with a lack of wit and imagination. Partly because it’s a nice family friendly film, and partly because the antagonist is a member of the family (Who seems to have come in from a completely different film, overacting and being cartoonishly psychotic), the ‘traps’ are all rather tame and uninspired, and usually involve something being spread on the floor to keep the burglars in place or make them fall over. We already have Home Alone, and it’s great. Why not do something original instead?
In short, Home And Alone For Christmas isn’t a very good film. It’s not even a very bad one – that would have been more interesting. It’s also not a very Christmassy film – despite taking part at some ambiguous time near Christmas, and despite there being references to Christmas shopping, it feels more like a cynical attempt to get the film marketed towards a Christmas audience than any actual through-line.
Home And Alone For Christmas is exactly the sort of film that will probably be shown on one of the Freeview film channels during the daytime this December. And if it’s a choice between that and another repeat of Homes Under The Hammer, then go for it. But have a look around on the EPG – if you’re lucky, you’ll come across a new episode of Judge Judy or something.
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