Although I like John Hughes (he wrote the screenplays for both these movies while Chris Columbus directed them) I had avoided this series for a very long time. While these were meant to be family movies to appeal to children, even as a kid I thought they looked stupid. I these watched these movies around Christmas simply because they were Christmas movies I hadn't seen before as well as being huge box office hits that are still referenced in pop culture.
Home Alone (1990)
Coming into this movie I thought it would be an hour and a half of Malculay Culkin yelling while violently attacking intruders in insanely elaborate ways. While these things do happen, its not anywhere near what I was expecting. Most of the movie is about Kevin being on his own, home alone, and not fighting the robbers. There are some scenes setting up the "Wet Bandits" Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv but we only have a few short scenes of them with Kevin until the ending. And when Kevin sets his traps they weren't as violent as I had expected and therefore could actually be funny. For example, Kevin putting the pet tarantula on Marv was hilarious and features one of my favorite screams in all of cinema.
This movie does have a heart thanks to the scenes between Kevin and his older neighbor. Kevin is initially afraid of this old man who lives alone and is rumored to be a serial killer. The scenes where they interact are quite touching with a nice payoff at the end. I just wish the movie could have focused more on this part. The score by John Williams is well done as usual and fits the movie well.
I liked the scenes where Kevin played parts of the fictional movie Angels with Filthy Souls (which must be a parody of the 1938 James Cagney movie Angels with Dirty Faces) to mess with them. Although its unrealistic it was still funny and creative. Kevin would've had a blast with internet soundboards but I don't want to give them any ideas for Home Alone 5!
John Candy has a fun cameo as a band member giving Kevin's mother a ride to her house so she can check on Kevin. It was pretty funny how she arrives home at the same time as the rest of the family due to crazy Christmas travel delays despite leaving before them.
I'm not one to harp on a movie being unrealistic, but the movies goes out of its way to try to make this story seem plausible. The whole set-up for it is so complicated that its silly, which I guess is the point but if that's the case why not take the ball and run with it and have the family not even realize they forgot Kevin at all? You could say that would make them seem like bad parents but they already accomplished that.
Although I expected to not like it, I was pleasantly surprised. That said, I don't think I liked it quite as much as the general public.
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
Let's get this out of the way: Home Alone 2 is a cheap cash-in made to capitalize on the huge financial success of the first film which was the top grossing movie of 1990 ($286 million in the US alone) as well as the stardom of Macaulay Culkin. Plot-wise a sequel for Home Alone makes as much sense as a sequel to Donnie Darko. Oh wait, that movie got a sequel too... Anyway, Culkin was huge and this was just another attempt to make money off him (gotta sell those Tiger Electronics Talkboys!) before he hit puberty. I even remember he had an animated Saturday morning kids show called Wish Kid! But hey, at least they brought all of the main cast back for the sequel.
If you thought the premise of the first Home Alone was silly it is even more ridiculous this time around. I won't get into the details but yes, Kevin gets away from the watchful eye of his large family yet again thanks to a crazy set of circumstances that for some reason still try to keep a sense of realism. Oh and the same robbers from the first movie not only managed to escape from jail in Illinois to come to New York at the same time as Kevin, but actually bump into him several times in a city of eight million people!
There are several re-hashes from the first movie. My favorite is that instead of watching Angels with Filthy Souls, this time Kevin watches the sequel, Angels with Even Filthier Souls! The old man from the first movie is essentially replaced with an old homeless lady for Kevin to befriend. They really didn't try to change the formula except for being set in New York instead of his house in Chicago.
Despite all these issues, I couldn't really hate the movie. I don't like it and its clearly inferior to the original but there is some fun to be had here. All the scenes in the hotel were actually pretty funny. Tim Curry steals the show as a hotel clerk. Curry is great as usual and its too bad he couldn't have been the main villain.
We also have an early 90s SNL era Rob Schneider who is better than you would expect, especially given his recent movies. The buddy scenes between Harry and Marv are actually better than those in the original as the two are funnier than before. Daniel Stern (Marv) is a underrated comedic talent as he also stole the show in another kid's movie, Rookie of the Year, as a crazy pitching coach.
The last part of the movie with Kevin defending himself in his Uncle's house is shockingly violent. Not to mention the fact that the Wet Bandits actually try to kill Kevin before all this. In the first movie I only remember one or two traps that could be seriously dangerous but pretty much everything Kevin does this time would kill the two burglars. Throwing bricks at people heads from a tall building just isn't funny to me. I don't know why the traps are more sadistic this time around, I guess because they were going for the live action cartoon thing. For example there is a scene of Marv getting electrocuted and we see his skeleton which is something right out of Looney Tunes. But it doesn't really work here when we also have a heavy dose of seriousness and realism with the big Toy Shop donating its money to sick children and a homeless lady alone on Christmas.
Hey, at least its still better than Macaulay Culkin's Richie Rich movie...
I'm not going to bother with the sequels (Home Alone 3 and 4) as I didn't exactly love these two, the sequels don't seem to have much (if anything) to do with these, and are both said to suck. And yes, Home Alone 5 is happening... I just wish it would be like this!
My next three posts will be about movies with just one sequel each.