For Christmas Eve, I’m going to be uploading a fair bit of movie reviews of some Christmas cheer. This is the first.
This used to be one of my favourite films ever. And you know, I will often say someone else’s review shouldn’t impact your own, and what I mean by that is if a movie is universally acclaimed or generally hated, or has any overall public opinion whatsoever, you shouldn’t have to lower or heighten your grade to try to conform a little with the majority, and that you should give a personal, honest grade. Well, in spite of that, sometimes you grow up a bit and you read some other reviews and you actually see their points. Something new I will say is it’s also good as a critic to read a differing view and be willing to listen to it. People don’t like that often. Now, that said, this is still a positive review to the companion to the classic Home Alone.
So, it’s supposed to have been a year since the McCallister family attempted a trip to Paris on Christmas. Kevin later says to someone that he’s ten years old when he was eight in the last one, but it’s probably to amp up his IQ to the guy he’s conning a little. Now the family is attempting Florida, where Uncle Frank and Aunt Leslie spent their honeymoon. But it’s a tropical climate with palm trees instead of Christmas trees, and on Christmas, Kevin loathes both. During a Christmas pageant he and his family are a part of at his school, Buzz pulls a prank during Kevin’s solo, which is funnier as it goes on, as everyone’s laughing around him, from those beside him to the whole audience and he doesn’t notice what’s happening. Kevin shoves Buzz back upon realizing this, causing everyone to fall down, including the music teacher when she gets hit with a falling cardboard tree and tumbles a few feet off her chair.
Next thing we know, the family is late for their vacation again, and despite knowing Kevin is in the car with all of them to the airport, when they’re all at the terminal, relieved to have made the plane and everyone takes their separate seats, Kevin accidentally got on a different plane, through some coincidences and less airport security than there would be now. It’s also coincidentally where the Wet Bandits have arrived to after they broke out of jail during a prison riot and stowed away in a fish truck. With that we have another holiday with the family separated and the stranded kid surviving in the big leagues.
Now, for me this used to be an A+ movie. When I was 13. Here’s the deal with why I’m lowering it down to a B. Roger Ebert talked about this the best in my opinion; that the violence in this movie ends up getting to a point where you can almost hear the bones crunch of the victims of the traps, and that if Kevin believed half of what he says to the pigeon lady about the meaning of life, he’d cut the crooks a break. And you know? I found myself agreeing with him. I also agreed with him on how in this movie, the bandits weren’t really hurt, getting up after falling down, ready for the next adventure. Cause the way they recover it doesn’t make as much sense. You know what could’ve fixed this? It’s if we were more on Kevin’s side during the big battle than we end up being.
Yes, the crooks try to kill Kevin when they catch wind of him, and yes, Marv swipes the occasional hat, earmuffs and mittens and loose change from passersby, and Harry’s idea, of getting quick cash fresh out of jail is to rob the toy store where all the proceeds will go to sick children who could really benefit from that money, is pretty sick, but in the end, this is just not enough to justify the brutality they are put through. Could they start a new life in hiding with that money, enough to quit their scheming? Probably not, considering Marv’s excited new name for their two-man club, but they just weren’t unlikable enough. You actually wish Kevin ran off a little more scathed with the bandits in cuffs, and this wasn’t something I would’ve said way back when.
It’s still definitely entertaining (even with the infamous sour cameo I need not explain), and the adventure is terrific and every step of the way is inventive enough to not feel simply derivative of the first film, and Kevin’s generosity towards Mr. Duncan and the pigeon lady (even if it’s not really his money to spend) is gracious and should inspire kids to find the superior pleasure in giving rather than receiving. Also, so much more is essential to the plot the more we notice, from mentioning the inflatable clown to having the music from Frank’s cougar singing (despite the Talkboy not recording as much as is actually played when it gets to work) from Kevin taking his father’s bag and even the room service Kevin helps himself to with a funny little “Uh-oh” by the end.
There’s not a single bad performance here. Catherine o’Hara has that same look of self-hatred and parental fear upon losing her youngest son, Gerry Bamman is as stingy as before, making him even more fun to hate than Harry and Marv, whose actors seem to be enjoying themselves performing very unenjoyable times. Brenda Fricker as the Pigeon Lady was perfect; she has that terrific balance of seeming a little troubled and maybe a bit tipsy at first before we realize how lonely and loving she is. You can’t help but wish good things for her in her future. There’s so much here to bring Christmas cheer yet still staying exciting.
Basically, the film is perfect except for its approach to the violence in the final third act. But the simple truth that it was one of my favourite films ever years ago has to mean something.