Spoilers lie ahead.
If any film needed a sequel, it was Home Alone. I don’t mean needed in the sense that it was culturally necessary, but financially? You’d have to be an idiot not to have rushed it into production. Made for $18 million, the first Home Alone made almost half a billion dollars. Even a fraction of that success would mean a fresh yacht for everyone involved.
This follow-up to the original movie was the only one to bring back Macaulay Culkin, and dropped right in the middle of Culkamania. His childhood movie career would be over just two years later, but when Lost In New York came out it was the pre-teen equivalent of a new Star Wars movie. In the second of our series of retrospectives, we ask: was that excitement justified?
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)
The first in a long line of sequels, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York is the only one to involve both the original writer and director. It isn’t long before it becomes apparent that they must have both needed a new roof at the same time, because this is a sequel in all of the worst ways: repetitive, unimaginative, and repetitive.
Let’s back up a little. When Kevin McCallister boards the wrong plane, he ends up alone in New York while his family are in Florida. After checking into a hotel using his Dad’s credit card, Kevin runs into Marv and Harry who have escaped from prison and are planning to do over a children’s toy store on Christmas Eve. Kevin draws them into his Uncle’s house in New York, which is mid-renovation, and – oh, whatever, you can figure out the rest.
I don’t want to use the word ‘weak’ to describe Home Alone 2, mainly because that leaves me with nowhere to go for the next couple of sequels. But let’s be fair: this is not a great movie. It’s largely the same movie as the first, but with the broader themes sucked out and a few new location-specific jokes. So we see the major beats from the first reprised, and then some stock footage of New York where the long shots have a suspicious lack of snow, and then a few more beats from the first movie reprised.
And it’s not just the same structure, it’s many of the same jokes as well. Did you like any joke from the first movie? Well good news, because they’re all here again! Almost entirely un-revised and often without requisite context! Kevin orders an entire cheese pizza! He scares someone off using the audio from a movie! And so on! The weirdest thing is that the running joke of Fuller wetting the bed is followed up several times but never explained. It means everyone in the movie is slightly scared of him for no apparent reason, like he might send them to the cornfield with his mind.
The only thing they do more of – and they do a lot more of them – are Kevin’s one-liners. With so many in the film it’s inevitable that the quality would drop, but no-one lets that get in the way of doing about six a minute. And if he’s not doing them, Marv and Harry are. It’s like a script full of placeholders for better dialogue that accidentally got filmed, edited and released.
Transplanting the action to New York adds the barest minimum of originality to the story, though it also gives the action a weird dreamlike quality. In the first film he was largely dealing with disinterested small-town shopkeepers and service professionals. Here he’s staying at a huge hotel in a major metropolitan city and tricking the concierge staff into doing his bidding. Credibility has never been the franchise’s primary concern, but this movie stretches it much further than the first. Too far, really.
Still, Tim Curry is good for a few facial expressions, and this was the movie that taught me what a prostitute was (well, technically my cousin taught me, but only because two turn up in this movie) so I can’t say it has absolutely no value. If nothing else, it meets the level of quality that you’d expect from its cast and creative team. It just doesn’t go any further than that. I’m not surprised about 95% of participants threw in the towel after this one. I only wish I’d had the same opportunity.
First kill: Marv takes four consecutive bricks to the forehead as thrown from the roof of a three-storey building. Maybe he’d survive after one. MAYBE. But four? No chance.
Gratuitous references to previous movies: In addition to all the re-used jokes, we get a very clear shot of Harry’s palm, branded with the “M” from the blisteringly hot doorknob of the first film. It’s an odd detail, especially since the Home Alone Cinematic Universe seems to resist any other attempt at showing the real consequence of injuries.
Schmaltz level: Moderate to high. Kevin donates money to a children’s hospital charity campaign and his family gets given a roomful of presents at the end of the film as a result. He shares his dove charms with a weird pigeon lady. But despite all this, it never quite tugs on the heart strings like Home Alone because of the general craziness of the setting and the constant, emotion-puncturing wisecracks.
Tree decoration scene: One the one hand, they don’t have one. But on the other, there’s a conversation about the importance of Christmas trees which culminates in a touching moment at Rockefeller Center. So I think it gets a pass.
Number of times anyone is home alone in this movie: Well, they’re only at home at all for about the first ten minutes of the running time, so that’s a big fat [Family Fortunes wrong answer noise] for this movie. The only place he’s properly alone is his Uncle’s renovated house, but Uncle’s House Alone sounds like a different movie.
Genital injury motif: Marv gets staple-gunned in the testicles. I think. It’s hard to tell exactly because he’s wearing a thick coat. But he certainly reacts like I would if I’d been staple-gunned in the testicles. Well not exactly because he doesn’t go to hospital, but that’s US healthcare for you.
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