The years is 1990 and one of the biggest holiday movies ever just made its debut. The name of the film is Home Alone and it made a young Macaulay Culkin a household name. The plot centers on Kevin McCallister – a young lad who was accidentally left home alone over the Christmas holidays by the worst family ever. Hilarity ensues as Kevin must defend himself and his home from The Wet Bandits – two really nasty thieves, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern – using booby-traps straight out of The Three Stooges and Tom and Jerry. Audiences of the time were enchanted by the slapstick comedy and a sequel was ordered immediately.
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York was released on November 20, 1992 to largely negative reviews. Most critics complained that the movie was a complete rehash of the original, with a New York travelogue added to the mix. This did not stop audiences from flocking to the theaters to make Home Alone 2 one of the highest grossing films of 1992. 25 years later, we have to ask if this movie can still charm us in spite of its flaws. Does it stand The Test Of Time?
As the movie opens, an airport mix-up sees Kevin McCallister accidentally placed on a flight to New York City while the rest of his family flies to Miami. This leaves Kevin all alone in the big city. Inventive as ever, Kevin manages to book a room for himself at Donald Trump’s Plaza Hotel, where he proceeds to have the ultimate dream vacation, free of his family. The hotel staff, led by stuffy concierge, Mr. Hector, try to investigate the validity of Kevin’s story, requiring him to outwit them at every turn.
Unbeknownst to Kevin, The Wet Bandits have escaped prison and are coincidentally in New York City as well. The thieves see Kevin and decided not only to continue with their scheme to steal a giant toy store’s charity bucket on Christmas Eve but to get revenge on Kevin. It falls to Kevin, with the help of a homeless bird-loving lady he befriends in Central Park, to stop the thieves while dodging Mr. Hector and his team of angry hotel employees.
As in the first film, the escapist elements of the plot date this movie. While it is possible for a child in a large extended family to be overlooked and left at home alone, there is no way in this day and age that a child would have been allowed to board a plane the way Kevin does without having his ticket confirmed. Even allowing for pre-9/11 flight rules, I would like to think that they had some mechanism in place to prevent a lone child as young as Kevin from being sent across the country unattended in 1992.
The abusive nature of Kevin’s family is another element that hasn’t aged well. Kevin’s parents and siblings put him down every chance they get. They are so into themselves that they do not realize he is missing until it is too late and don’t show any signs of caring about him until they lose him. Given how badly his family treats him, the fan theory that Kevin McCalister grew up to be Jigsaw in the Saw series of horror movies makes a lot of sense. At the very least Kevin would need a lot of therapy, especially if he never got put into a good foster home.
To enjoy this film requires a lot of suspension of disbelief on the part of the audience. Manage that, turn your brain off and you can just enjoy the silliness of the whole thing. Miraculously, despite the logic problems in the story, the horrible family and the fact that the film rehashes all the best jokes from the first film, it is still as charming as all get out.
Why? A lot of it comes down to Tim Curry’s scene-stealing performance as the Plaza Hotel’s concierge, Mr. Hector. The scenes with the hotel staff dealing with Kevin offer some of the few original moments of comedy in this film. Curry’s presence and masterful sense of comedic timing only serves to make those moments seem all the fresher for it.
While the film offers nothing new apart from that, it still proves entertaining. Culkin is still in his adorable phase here as Kevin and it’s still fun to watch famed gangster-actor Joe Pesci cartoon-swear his way through a family film. Add to this heartfelt performances from Oscar-winner Brenda Fricker as the homeless bird lady who helps Kevin maneuver and Eddie Bracken as the toy-store owner and you have a film that will tickle your funny bone and melt your heart despite its flaws.
Is Home Alone 2 fine art? No, but it doesn’t try to be. It’s an amusing little film that makes you forget your worries for two hours and also offers up the ultimate love letter to New York at the Holiday season.