Well, it looks like Home Sweet Home Alone is officially a thing. You know what? I’ll just put my quick review of the other two direct-to-DVD Home Alone sequels here before we get into Home Alone 3. Home Alone 4, or Taking Back The House, is not a movie that’s necessarily painful to watch. More like it’s just sad, that the movie reeks of not ever being able to live up to the original movie and yet still trying to copy it with 10 of the original family of 14 retconned. Plus even the easiest things to get right just end up not making sense. They just shouldn’t have gone for what they couldn’t accomplish. Home Alone: The Holiday Heist was not as bad but implausible even for a Home Alone film and with none of the heart or charm of the entries that made it into theatres. The first Home Alone has been regarded as a classic since its release in 1990. Yet with such a concept of kids booby trapping their houses that so many filmmakers would love to get their hands on, the result has become completely clear that making a Home Alone movie without the budget or commitment to get it into theatres has become reality but just doesn’t work for the masses at all. So now, here are my thoughts on Home Alone 3, the last of said movies to have a wide release, and in my opinion a delicious, smart, underrated and inventive way to show how, if you’re going to deviate from the original setting, to go in a new direction the right way. (So, this review is going to have some spoilers. I’m writing it on the assumption you’ve seen it already.)
We open to a quartet of thieves picking up a smuggled missile chip from a rogue Air Force worker. This chip, from what I gather, can prevent air defences from tracking any missile that goes into it, thereby preventing anyone from seeing it on their radar stopping it. That sort of missile could probably assassinate world leaders. I’ve seen the chip and it’s big, but I don’t know if these sort of chips have proper sizing for certain bazookas. The missile it would go into could be miniature. One way or another, it’s worth 10 million black market dollars.
Well, these thieves, Peter Beaupre (Olek Krupa), Alice Ribbons (Rya Kihlstedt), Berton Jernigan (Lenny Von Dohlen) and Earl Unger (David Thornton) I love these names by the way, both screw up and get screwed over when they sneak the chip through customs and the bag is carelessly taken by a woman with the same carrying bag, Mrs. Hess (Marian Seldes). They can’t alert anyone they have the wrong bag. If looked into too carefully, the chip will be found out about. They hid it in a toy car. Why would four adults in black care so much about a children’s six-inch four wheeler? Well, Mrs. Hess, whom the criminals intercept as living in North Devon Park, Chicago, ends up giving the toy car out of an alternative to payment for the eight-year old across the street Alex (Alex D. Linz) shovelling her driveway. Alex also ends up with a case of the chicken pox, forcing him to stay home while everyone is at school or work, including his mother (Haviland Morris) who has too demanding of a boss to let her stay and watch him. No one believes him when he reveals he knows a group of people are breaking into houses on his street, and when they zero in on his house and the chip and no one still believes him, it’s up to him to catch them himself. Alongside his chatter box of a parrot and wise companion of a rat.
Butch Hartman once said that a way to keep an entertainment product fresh through the years, even if some would disagree with this, is to keep branching out, to find new ways to give reasoning for existing and to not feel like new products are rehashing old ones. You could argue that’s just what they did here, and you could also argue when you hear the production story, that this was one of the best ways to make a third Home Alone. 20th Century Fox wanted to film two Home Alone movies back to back after the megasmash first one, but the plans fell through. By the time a third Home Alone movie was to be made, Macaulay Culkin (temporarily but grandly) retired from acting, also saying he had gotten tired of the part, and the other actors additionally wanted to move on. Kieran Culkin was supposed to be the new kid with the smarts as Fuller McCallister, but he felt he wouldn’t be able to measure up to his older brother. So the direction they decided to go with Home Alone 3 was to change the kid (but not the city), change the bad guys (but not what happens to them, technically) and have a storyline leading up to the climax which is almost completely backwards from the others.
Home Alone 2 used to be my favourite of the movies because it had the suspense of an action movie (which I guess it was) and a lot of laughs whether we’re at a slow or fast point. It felt like Home Alone on a mission. But over time, the first movie, and this movie, overtook it, because I began to feel a lot of the violence was just unwarranted. You can read my review for more information. Today, the first Home Alone is my favourite, but this is very, very close behind, to the point where I really just get annoyed when I hear anger, disgust or even denial of existence about this entry.
The action might take a little while to get going. But before that we see Alex get ridiculed and told the bill for the broken doors is on his family thanks to him and he must have, as an eight year old, been experiencing hallucinations, after he sees the bad guys in houses, calls the police, and they escape, twice. I can see this happening. “I guess you have to be 18 before anybody around here listens to you,” Alex once says defiantly. Kids who feel disregarded will be looking in a mirror when they hear him say this. The concept of police not willing to take him seriously completely erases any chance of backup, but if Alex does nothing, the bad guys could get away with a very dangerous device and they might do something to him to avoid him telling any stories afterward. When you really think about how screwed up that makes his situation, you realize it’s a smart way to craft a Home Alone film, as why he must set traps and why he isn’t alerting police.
I additionally loved the logic Alex comes up with in the halfway point about why the toy car must have some significance with the ones sneaking into houses, and how the phone call he hears his mom taking has to be the female of the group inquiring about the chip. What I loved even more was the different take on the bad guys, with their gadgetry and connections to probably some way more dangerous people than those the previous bad guys must’ve had encounters with. The soundtrack and the villains oftentimes sound and look like they’d be more appropriate for a James Bond movie. You hear their secret-agent tunes and chuckle at the fact the movie this music is associated with is Home Alone 3. Opening up in some kind of Godfather-like kingpin business in Hong Kong with a giant goldfish tank, to the tunes of four bad guys who have enough caliber (in some departments) to sneak past governments and law enforcement agencies? So different from the cheery and kind of careless Wet/Sticky Bandits who only focus on burglarizing suburban houses and toy stores. And four bad guys instead of two, and a smaller house than the others at that? Quite a gamble, but it works.
The bonks to the head and groins they feel is definitely painful and some of the traps involving electrocution, freezing, a weed eater to the head and falling a few stories are probably more glossed over than reality, but I wouldn’t want them otherwise. The traps are just flat-out funny without feeling like the bad guys are going to have this pain for a long time, so like the first Home Alone we’re completely just along for the ride. And the actors seem to be having a fun time getting hoodwinked and fooled by the little kid genius. We see early on he has a little knowledge of gadgetry himself.
Sometimes the talking parrot gets a little annoying, and I do have a mixed feeling about Alex deciding not to take a gun with him when he has the chance. It probably would’ve been too dark for him to take it and use it to get away when he ends up cornered, and maybe there was a rule with the MPAA against him using it and being rated only PG. But I feel logically he should’ve taken it. The first Home Alone also just has a freshness about a kid being completely on his own for the first time and regretting the things he said to the family he misses. But you know what? There’s also something fresh about the parents finding out and giving credit (without not making sense like the fourth movie) and Mrs. Hess turning from the grouchy distrustful lady across the street to a close friend and companion. Home Alone 3 is good natured, a lot of fun, different, and intelligent, while still giving plenty of painful pratfalls. What I most of all respect about Home Alone 3 is how it doesn’t forget another reason kids love these movies is it knows kids are smarter than adults give them credit for.
If you like this, I’d try the first two Home Alone’s, and Max Keeble’s Big Move, a movie which Alex D. Linz also helms (and also coincidentally involves him going against a total of four bad guys). Oh, and Big Fat Liar.