PG for Home Alone violence. There are things that are definitely murder heavy in this one. Like, the electrocution seems to get a laugh from the ten-year-olds, but in both Home Alone 2 and 3, I keep thinking about how those guys would be dead. The language is probably less in this movie compared to the first Home Alone movies. It helps that Alex is probably better behaved than Kevin for the most part. So, PG just for attempted murder and torture.
DIRECTOR: Raja Gosnell
This is one of those "Be careful what you wish for" situations. Last night, when I was writing Silence, I thought that it would be really nice to write about a Christmas movie on Christmas Eve. When I looked at my Notes folder, sure enough there was a Christmas movie: Home Alone 3. This was a rough one. I mean, this might be the worst movie I watched this year, by a lot. It might be the worst movie I watched for the past five years, and I watch a lot of kids' movies. There were so many moments when I looked over at my wife and groaned. I mean, I knew this movie was going to be awful, despite the fact that Roger Ebert weirdly loved this movie. It's just that...this movie hurt to watch.
The craziest thing about this film isn't that it exists. The Home Alone movies were cash cows. Macaulay Culkin had started to spiral by this point. (I completely respect you, Mr. Culkin. Your youth was very difficult and maybe we should revisit child actors as a social disease.) I knew that they were going to try to make another movie. I mean, it's not like post-Home Alone, there was any attempt to generate something new and original. But the craziest thing about this movie is that John Hughes wrote this.
See, in my head, this was a product of the team behind the original movie distancing themselves as far as they could from the film. I know that Home Alone 3 was released in theaters, but it really has the direct-to-VHS vibe about it. None of the original cast is back. They decided to up the game with spies and terrorism. Everything about this screams Inspector Gadget 2. (Which is a movie I have yet to see. But the way parenthood is going, it's probably going to happen.) But knowing that John Hughes came up with this idea and then wrote a script for it is mind-blowing. I complained a lot about Home Alone 2: Lost in New York because it offered nothing new to the story. But at least it was kind of funny. The first Home Alone is still a really funny movie. I've seen it a bunch of times and it makes me laugh beyond the nostalgia that I associate with the film. See, I wanted to like Home Alone 3. After all, I agreed to it on family movie night. But there wasn't one moment that made me laugh.
And that's what I discovered about the formula to Home Alone. What we as audiences thought the movies were all about was about was a kid setting traps for bad guys. The guys go through the house and they get completely wrecked. But the reason that those jokes really worked in the first movie and completely failed in the other movies is that the movie should make you work for that ending. It's a funny movie, and THEN we add the bad guys getting wrecked by stuff. Instead, the movie was so focused on this spy drama that was fundamentally dumb that the attack on the bad guys just plays really flat. Part of it is that we get the joke. People getting destroyed by household odds and ends is old hat. Maybe it was Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci that sold it better than the relative unknowns that were in this sequel. But I can tell you, the house invasion really falls flat in this one.
Maybe it also comes down to the fact that Alex is...perfect? As a parent, it kind of scares me that Kevin is such a bad kid. Like, I don't want my kids to be like Kevin McCallister. He's rude to his parents. He has a bad rap for things that aren't his fault, but he handles everything extremely poorly. He's got anger issues. I don't want my kids emulating that. But it also gives the protagonist a journey that Home Alone 3 doesn't offer at all. Sure, he repeats that journey in Home Alone 2, but that's almost how it stresses how important it is that it is about becoming a good person through self-discovery. Alex has nothing to discover. He's so morally right in every situation that he's fundamentally the same person he was from the beginning of the movie. The people who learn lessons are the parents, who borderline aren't characters in the movie.
Think about it. The movie series is called Home Alone. I know that in all the films, we see chunks of the film from the parents' perspectives, most the moms' perspectives. But they really are relegated to secondary characters. But let's look at Catherine O'Hara's Kate McCallister v. Haviland Morris's Karen (an unfortunate name in 2020). Kate McCallister deals with her failure as a mother to take care of her child. It becomes about introspection and the devotion to her child. She has a quest to return home to her kid. Karen, however, sees that her bored kid is misbehaving more than normal. He's such a good boy often that she has to deal with the possibility that he isn't perfect. We get that one has a more noble journey than the other. So Karen becomes this absolutely boring character who is mostly concerned with going to work. That's not a compelling movie.
What this ultimately leads to is just the home invasion. So much of this movie is devoted to the concept of the home invasion. Everything points to it. A major component of the first two movies is about learning responsibility and growing up. This is entirely about getting these spies caught. That's not a lesson that anyone can relate to. Heck, as much as I was preaching that this was a Christmas movie, there's technically nothing officially Christmas in the movie. I can't even really get the perk of claiming it was a Christmas movie, like my first paragraph asserted. It's a real bummer.
This movie...sucked. I'm so sorry that I'm being so rough on it. There's nothing redeeming about this movie. It screams lazy. There's something I read that said this plot was supposed to be used on an older Kevin McCallister assuming that Culkin was mentally healthy. But this movie should not have been used, like ever. It's so bad. I think we'd be open to a quality Home Alone reboot (which I hear is in the works for Disney+) if there wasn't a history of cash grabbing. This movie should be avoided at all costs. It is rough.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.