Should I Watch..? 'Home Alone 2: Lost In New York'
What's the big deal?
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York is a festive family comedy film released in 1992 and is the second film in the Home Alone series. Reuniting director Chris Columbus and writer John Hughes, the film sees Kevin McCallister separated from his family once again and placed on a flight to New York over the Christmas period where he must contend with suspicious hotel staff, a scary pigeon lady in Central Park and the return of incompetent thieves Harry & Marv. The film stars Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard and Catherine O'Hara all reprising their roles as well as featuring Tim Curry, Rob Schneider and Brenda Fricker. It was followed by Home Alone 3 in 1997 but that film featured an entirely new cast of characters and was nowhere near as successful.
What's it about?
Settling on Miami for their Christmas destination this year, the McCallister family once again prepare for the mad dash to the airport - without leaving young Kevin behind again. Sure enough, they all make to the airport but in the scramble to get to the right gate, Kevin accidentally follows another passenger who he mistakes for his father Peter. This means that as the McCallisters fly to Miami, Kevin finds himself en route to New York and in possession of his dad's wallet.
Once again enjoying his freedom, Kevin checks into the Plaza hotel using his dad's credit card and somehow dispelling the suspicions of the concierge, Mr Hector. But trouble has a habit of following Kevin around and he soon catches the attention of a scary homeless woman feeding the pigeons in Central Park as well as the recently escaped Wet Bandits. Harry and Marv, now calling themselves the Sticky Bandits, are plotting their next big heist when they spot Kevin wandering the streets and immediately begin seeking revenge against their pint-sized tormentor.
The Pigeon Lady
Cedric, hotel bellhop
E.F. Duncan, toy store owner
John Hughes *
Release Date (UK)
11th December, 1992
What's to like?
It comes as quite a shock to discover just how much of the script from Home Alone was recycled for this sequel. Yes, the circumstances of Kevin's isolation test the limits of plausibility once again but then, so does his ability to check himself into a swanky New York hotel with a credit card that clearly doesn't belong to him. But Home Alone 2: Lost In New York isn't bothered about being realistic or even plausible. It is, in essence, a 90 minute wait for a thirty minute cartoon where two bungling burglars are damn-near beaten to within an inch of their lives by a plucky little kid.
Everyone who sees this is only really interested in the climax, which proved so memorable in the first film. Sure enough, the battle between Kevin and his would-be killers is entertaining in a "Thank God that's not my kid!" kinda way. And it does distract from the rest of the film which spends a large amount of time showing Kevin unwitting adults wherever he finds them. Bringing in Curry and Schneider is a wise move, giving Kevin some foes to prank when he's not dodging the attentions of Pesci and Stern. The scenes in the toy store are also wonderful, underscoring the film's more overt festive feel compared to the first film but also making the point that New York at Christmas is just about the campest place you're ever likely to find in America outside of an Elton John concert in Las Vegas.
- Entertainment Weekly asked a doctor to analyse what injuries Harry and Marv might sustain during the movie. The bricks alone would have caused "at best, brain damage - at worst, death".
- This is the only Home Alone movie to feature real snow as a blizzard hit New York during the shoot. It was so cold, in fact, that several cameras froze.
- This was Ralph Foody's last appearance - he played the tommy-gun wielding gangster in the films Kevin watches. In this film, it's called "Angels With Even Filthier Souls" and is the sequel to the film Kevin watches in Home Alone.
What's not to like?
Like a lot of comedies, though, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York also makes the mistake of thinking that jokes are just as funny the second time you hear them. Except that they're wrong, of course - even the characters seem to acknowledge the lunacy of the script which brings nothing new to the table at all. The Old Man Marley neighbour from the first film is replaced with the Pigeon Lady and her scenes with Culkin are hideously over-written with Kevin dispensing relationship advice that he, as a kid, would never have acquired on-screen or off. Kevin himself has morphed from a desperate kid making it up as he went along to becoming a smart-ass know-it-all and Culkin's grating performance tests the patience of those who distrust child actors.
Not a single character feels like a person with the possible exception of O'Hara and frankly, she seems to have been written out of the film for the most part. There is no John Candy substitute either, meaning most of the comedy falls onto the unfortunate shoulders of Pesci and Stern. And such is the level of brutality wrought against them that compared to the first film, I actually felt sorry for them. There is a truly dark moment when one of them gets electrocuted and their skeleton is visible on screen, shrieking away like a prop on a ghost train. I can't imagine many kids laughing at that, somehow. Yes, the finale is the most entertaining part of the film but the reasons for that are the rest of the film is dreadfully slow and it still isn't as amusing as Home Alone. In the first film, you were laughing but in this, you're wincing instead. That's the difference.
Should I watch it?
In the grand scheme of things, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York barely registers a blip of interest. It's a simple remake of the first film with only the backdrop changed from suburban Chicago to bustling New York. It's lazy, laboured and lacks the freshness of the first film. Young kids may enjoy seeing one of their own facing off against dumb grown-ups but I wanted something more than simply seeing the same jokes over and over again. No wonder they all took off for the third one...
Great For: kids under 10, citizens of New York, amnesiac fans of the first film
Not So Great For: anyone paying for a ticket, anyone who saw the original film recently, adults, airline security procedures
What else should I watch?
In case you wondered just how close this film as to Home Alone, watch the original before this film. Not only is it more enjoyable but Culkin is far less annoying and Pesci and Stern have more fun during the much less violent conclusion. It also works better as a story with O'Hara having much more screen time and gives a heart-breaking performance as Kevin's stressed-out mum.
For most people, their interest in the Home Alone series ended in 1992 with this film. But Hollywood never says die and they churned out Home Alone 3 in 1997 without either Chris Columbus in the director's chair or Macaulay Culkin in the lead actor's trailer. This witless effort had Alex D. Linz as a completely different character who also has to fend off a bunch of criminals from his home by himself. Unfunny, unimaginative and not even remotely festive, it's a movie that has nothing whatsoever going for it. After this, it would be nothing but made-for-TV films which hopefully means we've seen the last of this rapidly decaying franchise. Stick with more reliable festive films like Elf, Miracle On 34th Street or It's A Wonderful Life instead.
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© 2015 Benjamin Cox