Should I Watch..? Home Alone 3
What's the big deal?
Home Alone 3 is a family comedy film released in 1997 and is the third instalment of the Home Alone franchise. It is the first film not to feature previous star Macaulay Culkin as young Kevin McCallister but instead stars Alex D. Linz, a gifted young boy stuck at home with chicken pox who must contend with four professional criminals attempting to recover a stolen microchip Alex unwittingly has in his possession. It is also the first film in the series not to be directed by Chris Columbus or scored by John Williams - directing duties are taken up by the editor of the first two films, Raja Gosnell, for his first directing job. Critical reaction to the film was largely negative and the global takings of just over $79 million was considerably less than the first two films. It was eventually followed by a made-for-TV film in 2002, so far the final entry in the series.
What's it about?
Four professional criminals - ringleader Peter Beaupre, Alice Ribbons, Earl Unger and Burton Jernigan - have stolen a US computer chip capable to cloaking missile launches. In an attempt to smuggle the chip past security at San Francisco airport, they hide the chip inside a remote controlled car toy but unfortunately, their baggage is collected by mistake by little old Mrs Hess as she makes her way to Chicago. Realising their error, the crooks follow her to Chicago and begin searching her neighbourhood for the chip.
Meanwhile, Mrs Hess gifts the car to young Alex after he helps her out shovelling snow. Sadly, Alex is struck down with chicken pox which keeps him from going to school. Left to his own devices, Alex discovers the crooks rummaging nearby and soon discovers the stolen chip. But as the crooks also discover where the chip is, it falls to Alex to defend himself and with a mischievous mind, it's a task that Alex is more than capable of...
Alex D. Linz
Lenny Von Dohlen
Release Date (UK)
19th December, 1997
Razzie Award Nomination
Worst Remake or Sequel
What's to like?
By now, even the youngest of viewers would understand the formula of a Home Alone movie - an hour or so of build-up before a hilarious confrontation between kid and dumb adults. Sure enough, that's exactly what you get here. Despite the change in lead actor, Linz proves to be a little less annoying than Culkin whose smug demeanour was spiralling out of control during Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Linz is more charming and actually funnier, even though his lines never sound right coming from an eight-year-old child. It's like he's been possessed by Mel Brooks or something
When the chaos eventually does start up, it's the usual routine of slapstick pratfalls and mildly serious injuries - definitely a step back from the attempted murder of Harry and Marv in the second film. It feels much more suitable for younger children - it even injects a talking animal into proceedings with the parrot belonging to his older brother. What I found most impressive was that there didn't seem much recycling of old booby traps like there was in the second film. I'm staggered that there are so many ways to hurt oneself in your own home, providing you have a child who can not only conjure up such ideas but implement them and also install a CCTV network in a matter of hours. Gotta love Hollywood logic, haven't you?
- The original concept for the film involved Kevin McCallister returning as a teenager but the plan was scrapped after Macaulay Culkin refused to reprise a third time, having grown tired of the role.
- A rare positive review for the film came from Roger Ebert, who declared that this was funnier than the first two films. His on-screen partner, Gene Siskel, nearly fell off his chair in disbelief at this statement.
- The film is completely independent of the first two films. The only links are the film taking place in Chicago, a portion of John Williams' score being used in the opening credits and one of the baddies getting hit with a crowbar.
What's not to like?
Sadly, the film feels about as much fun as falling for one of Alex's little pranks. For starters, it's not even Christmas in the film which doesn't feel right - and also robs the movie of any heart-warming sentiment it may have generated. The four crooks have also been dumbed down considerably and lack any of the humour that Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern provided as Harry and Marv. Even Linz struggles to maintain any sort of plausibility because his lines are so atypical of what you'd expect of the character.
You often fear the worst watching something like Home Alone 3 because you know, deep down, that the series should have already finished. There was only so much story you could tell or only so much you could do with the characters or premise. When a film like this is completely devoid of any references to the predecessors, you just know that the only thing that demanded this movie being made was a producer looking for a quick buck. The film feels like a cynical cash-in on a previously successful brand which doesn't particularly care if it kills it or not. Since this picture, the series has been demoted to straight-to-TV efforts and frankly, I can't say I blame them. This is suitable only for the youngest of kids - anyone with fond memories of the first two films would be wise to stay away.
Should I watch it?
If you have children aged eight or younger then this might distract them for a while but generally speaking, this is a wretched family comedy. Without the heart and soul of the series involved, the whole film feels as lifeless as roadkill and about half as appealing to digest. There's little here to suggest that the series had more to give but frankly, you could say the same about Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Unless you enjoy slapstick violence of any kind, my advice is to avoid this at all costs.
Great For: very young children, sullying fond memories
Not So Great For: anyone who enjoyed the first two movies, grown-ups, Scarlett Johansson's A-list credentials
What else should I watch?
Even if you've already seen it a dozen times, the odds are that you'll still enjoy watching Home Alone which has just about shaken off the annoying aspects of its lead actor to become a Christmas classic. Daft and undemanding, the film remains a well-written and very funny family comedy that everyone will get a kick out of. Home Alone 2: Lost In New York isn't much different in that Macaulay Culkin is once again pursued by two incompetent burglars but the film pushes the comic violence into much darker territory, so much so that I began to feel sorry for the bad guys.
There are no shortage of proper Christmas movies, though, many of which are obviously family orientated. Elf is a great movie full of fun and festivities which sees Will Ferrell play a human raised as an elf return to New York to try and find his father. The Polar Express is a technically impressive animation which has also developed into a festive favourite while the daddy of them all, It's A Wonderful Life, continues to enchant viewers young and old today.
© 2016 Benjamin Cox