The Home Alone series proves that kids should never be left at home for Christmas, so take them with you next time

You know how sometimes a sequel to a great movie may fail to measure up to the expectations of its predecessors? Even if, on its own, it may be a fine movie itself? I thought Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull was fun enough on its own but it simply didn't measure up to the originals. The third "Terminator" movie was kind of that way for me too.

So if a movie series that starts off as great and wonderful as the "Terminator" series simply can't keep up that quality, what can we expect from a movie franchise that goes four movies after starting as Home Alone?

I bet many of you weren't aware there even was a fourth "Home Alone" movie. For those of you who never heard of it, you're not missing anything. For those of you who've seen it, you have my condolences.

The "Home Alone" franchise starts rather simply.

In Home Alone, Macaulay Culkin plays the defining character of his young career: Kevin McCallister. After a frustrating night with his extended family, he wishes he were all alone. The next day, in a mad dash to the airport, his family forgets about him and leaves him ... as the title says ... by himself in the house. He learns to take care of himself, handily fends off a pair of bumbling burglars (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) and makes friends with Marley (Roberts Blossom), the neighborhood creepy old man (because no self respecting neighborhood is complete without one.) Then on Christmas day, he gets his family back despite them not being wrapped.

In Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, Kevin has another terrible night with the family and he makes the same wish. And in movies, that kind of coincidence never ever leads to predictable results, right? Yeah, I didn't think so either. Kevin ends up in, you guessed it, New York. Even though it's not his home, apparently it still counts as "home alone" as long as you're alone. Kevin uses his brain-itude to get himself a hotel room despite the prying and suspicious Mr. Hector (Tim Curry). And more importantly, without any kind of coincidental irony, he runs into the very same team of bandits from the previous movie.

He stops a toy store robbery and makes friends with the Bird Lady (Brenda Fricker) who is apparently under Central Park arrest and unable to leave. Then, once again, he gets the wonderful Christmas present of his family all over again, despite being the same present he'd gotten last year.

Home Alone 3 is set during the week just after Christmas, abandons Kevin and his antics and instead follows young Alex Pruitt (Alex D. Linz) who ends up with a stolen military guidance chip in his possession and a four person team of international thieves after it. (He also has an older sister played by a very young Scarlett Johansson.) But it doesn't matter how experienced and high-tech and trained you are. Bad guys never stand a chance against a kid with a screwdriver. What a great Christmas-y message to send to kids!

Home Alone 4, however, is another thing entirely. They go back to Kevin and his family, though all parts have been recast, including a fairly bland new Kevin (Mike Weinberg). His parents (Clare Carey and Jason Beghe) are separated and his dad is preparing to marry a pretty, rich woman who seems a bit indifferent toward kids at times. Kevin spends the days leading up to Christmas at her house and finds out that Marv (previously Daniel Stern, now re-cast as French Stewart) and his wife, Vera (Missi Pyle), are planning to kidnap a young prince that is supposed to come and visit for Christmas. Clearly nobody believes Kevin so he has to take matters into his own hands.

Home Alone 4 was made for TV and, as I understand it, was originally intended to be used to launch a TV series. Now there's a great idea for a series! Every week, his family leaves him at home all by himself and he fights off robbers and kid-nappers and extortionists and jay walkers and loiterers and ... then they get cancelled half way through the first season.

Say what you want about Macaulay Culkin's acting abilities at that young age—sometimes his lines sounded a bit too memorized—but he was still much more endearing than Mike Weinberg who simply annoys me most of the time.

It's not like the first Home Alone was all that great in the first place, so why do we need three freaking sequels? I don't dislike it. It's just not the kind of movie that really lends itself to much in the way of sequel-izing.

They beat the odds in making Home Alone 2: Lost in New York just about as enjoyable for me as the first, but after that, the premise just gets more tenuous and ridiculous. A little kid beating international thieves? I'm sorry, it's a bit too much for me. At least Harry and Marv (especially Marv) were shown as a bit ridiculous and not that bright.

I know this kind of "precocious kids take down evil adults" story line is popular in kids' movies, but even when I was a kid, I couldn't watch them a whole lot because so many of the kids' plans revolve around the bad guys standing in very specific spots, acting very stupidly, never ducking, and pressing onward despite having a fractured skull, two broken feet and third degree burns on the top of their head.

It can be fun for a laugh, but it gets old quick.

Personally, I rank them as follows:

Home Alone7 / 10.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York7 / 10.
Home Alone 36 / 10.
Home Alone 42 / 10.

Home Alone, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York and Home Alone 3 are rated PG for mild, silly action violence, stupid adults, and a little bit of language. Home Alone 4 is rated TV-G for being goofy and gol-dern-stupid.

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