On the Bonus Day of Die Hard, My True Love Gave To Me...

The Most Obnoxious Child

Home Sweet Home Alone

I don't want to have to debate the relative continuity of franchises. It's nice when a series is internally consistent and keeps its rules, and its continuity, in check. If you go to see an MCU movie, for example, you know what you need to watch going in (which, admittedly, is way too much at this point) and everything ties together and makes sense. The longer a franchise goes on, the more you have to keep up with the entries, and it only gets worse when it feels like a series picks and chooses its entries as it likes. No one wants to go into a cute little family franchise having to dig through the continuity as if we were in yet another dog end of the Terminator universe. Except that's exactly what's happened with the Home Alone series and I hate it.

Which movies in this series are official and which aren't? If the world were kind and just I wouldn't have to ask that question, and yet here we are, looking at a sixth film in the series, Home Sweet Home Alone, and now I'm having to wonder which entries actually count. Is there one cohesive Home Alone franchise, and does that include all the entries or not. Do Home Alone 3 and Home Alone 5 take place in the same continuity as the rest of them? Does Home Alone 4? Should I have to ask that about a direct-to-Disney+ film no one liked? On that last count, no, I shouldn't have to ask that and yet I am because, damn it, this franchise is coming apart at the seams.

The issue I ran up against was that this sixth film features the return of Devin Ratray's Buzz McCallister, now a police officer dealing with Home Alone-style shenanigans, and suddenly we're in the deep end of continuity with self-referential remarks and knowing winks. This film is obviously a sequel to the first two films. But so was the fourth entry and there's no way that film takes place in the same continuity as this movie. Except… maybe it does? And that leads me to think all these films exist in the same world, and there are just whole fleets of burglars out there, attempting crimes around the holidays only to get defeated, time and again, by kids. And if that's the case, then I'm going to have to sit and really think about all the other questions this raises? Like why? Just why?

Of course, that's only an issue if you actually care about Home Sweet Home Alone which, well, no one really does. This film came and went in 2021 as a premiere film for Disney+ and, even at the time, no one liked it. It's a cruel, mean-spirited twist on the Home Alone formula, with the single most unlikable child lead the franchise has yet spawned. If the goal of this film were to give us a story where we said, "you know what? Let the kid die. He deserves it," this would be that movie. I've never wanted the robbers to succeed and the child to fail so much in any of the Home Alone movies before. This film just completely bungles its own concept, ruining any fun that could be had from the traditional Home Alone scenario.

The film stars Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper as Jeff and Pam McKenzie. Pam is a teacher and Jeff is unemployed, having lost his job the previous year, and the two of them are underwater, unable to afford the mortgage on their home. They've kept this from their kids even though they've been forced to put their home on the market. If only there was some way to pay off their debts without having to get rid of the home their kids have grown up in.

As luck would have it, there is. Jeff's mother collected ugly porcelain dolls and one of those dolls was a mis-manufactured ugly little boy. That doll just so happened to be worth over two hundred thousand dollars, and if Jeff and Pam sold it they could pay off everything. Only issue is that the dolls went missing. Thinking that one of the kids that came through their open house, Max Mercer (Archie Yates), stole the doll. That sends Jeff and Pam over to the Mercer house to track the figuring down. What they find, though, is Max home alone. They want the doll, while Max thinks Jeff and Pam are there to kidnap him so he does, of course, what's expected: he turns his house into a death trap to foil two criminals. It's kid versus adults for the fate of the holiday.

Look, I appreciate any sequel that is able to stay in the vein of the previous entries without just rehashing the same old material over and over again. The reason why Home Alone 2 is one of the worst entries in the series is because it has absolutely no new ideas, remaining a thin carbon copy of the original. Most of the sequels have found one story or another to pursue that have been different from the first film even if the basics of the story eventually devolves into "kid fights bad guys with a house lined with traps." This film finds a new story, a new twist on the basics, and does it in such a way that, for once, we actually care about the "criminals". If the story were any better in certain regards I'd actually hold this up as one of the best entries in the franchise. Instead, it's one of the worst.

The big issue is that the film is just mean and cruel to Jeff and Pam. Unlike the robbers in the other films. These two are actually good people. They aren't there to rob the joint and make off with a solid haul. They just want what's rightfully theirs and, for good reason, they think that Max has it. And then they get punished over and over again because the film thinks it's funny to abuse people in need at their most desperate hour. It's like the producers saw the original film and thought, "yeah, the rich people are always right." It's a story about the have-nots being tortured by one of the haves, and it is just hard to watch.

It doesn't help that the film goes out of its way to make Jeff and Pam into good people. They're the real heroes of the film, not Max. He's the antagonistic little shit that, frankly, deserves all kinds of comeuppance. It's a weird look for the movie since, you know, these are supposed to be films where we laugh and delight at the criminals getting punished while the kid proves himself to be smarter and better than they are. It's hard to get into that mindset, or enjoy any of the cartoonish antics while Max is a little shit while Pam and Jim are actually decent people just trying to save their family. The poor getting screwed over by the rich is the message, and it doesn't play.

And as for the actual pranks, they're a weird mix. The film, being direct-to-steaming, doesn't have the budget to do a lot of massive traps and tricks. So there won't be any massive explosions, or people being electrocuted. That actually works well here as we don't want to see our heroic criminals get murdered before our eyes. There is a bit of fire, a few larger dominoes of traps, but nothing with the scale or budget of the first three films. With that said, there's at least one device, a gas-powered shirt gun firing pool balls, that would clearly murder someone. I'm sure Jeff would have died at least twice if this movie were reality, and it's all due to that pool ball gun.

With all of that being said, the film does have some charms. Delaney and Kemper are an amiable couple here, and their chemistry works really well. Delving into their story does make them compelling as leads, and from a certain perspective it's actually neat to see the criminals be the main characters of the film, an inversion of everything we expect. If only the film didn't delight so much in torturing them. Max being a little shit doesn't help, and Yates doesn't have any of the natural charisma needed to make his character palatable. A Culkin in this role might have actually made Max interesting and compelling, but he's not here. Not in this form. There are times I found myself enjoying this film well enough, but those parts didn't involve Max and, certainly, didn't involve any of the standard Home Alone trappings that, of course, drive this film.

This film is a weird, mangled mess. There's no way to argue otherwise. The leads are great, and their story is interesting. But once the film has to settle in and actually be a Home Alone, that's when it all falls apart. The producers tried to do something different, and that's commendable. But it doesn't make for a movie that's actually enjoyable to watch, start to finish, and because of that, Home Sweet Home Alone fails to delight like any of its predecessors.

  • Asteroid G >
  • Articles >
  • January 5, 2023: On the Bonus Day of Die Hard, My True Love Gave To Me...