Review by Brian Lowry, CNN
“Home Sweet Home Alone” is a very odd duck — a movie that basically replicates the three-decades-old “Home Alone” template, but in a way that feels slightly weird and ill-conceived. Dropping on Disney+ in connection with the streaming service’s two-year anniversary, it’s a reminder that not all well-known intellectual property ought to be let out of the house.
Marking the sixth movie spun out of the premise since Macauley Culkin first defended his home from “bad guys” back in 1990, the movie tweaks the concept slightly by casting the invaders as an ordinary couple, played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney. Grudgingly forced to sell their house for financial reasons, they discover that an inherited doll could be extremely valuable, which might spare them from having to move.
Yet when young Max (“Jojo Rabbit” standout Archie Yates) makes a bathroom-break-inspired visit to their open house, the couple concludes that the boy has stolen the precious item. And before they track him down, his parents prove every bit as scattered and inept as the McCallisters once were, inadvertently leaving the sleeping kid at home when they jet off to Tokyo.
So yes, Max is left to fulfill every child’s fantasy by fending off adults with all of his self-generated gadgets and gizmos. This time, though, the victims of all those pratfalls, bumps and bruises are a seemingly ordinary couple, other than their extraordinarily bad judgment and ability to weather a lot of physical punishment.
At its core, naturally, the movie is about exalting the importance of family, and teaching all concerned to appreciate those near and dear to them.
The casting, however, mostly squanders some very funny people, which in addition to the leads include supporting players Kenan Thompson as the couple’s realtor, Pete Holmes and Tim Simons.
As for Yates, his British accent reflects the international flavor behind the production, but writers Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell (“Saturday Night Live”) and director Dan Mazer (a frequent Sacha Baron Cohen collaborator, including the “Borat” movies) have made the kid more irritating than he really needs to be, while earning style points for a clever callback to the earlier movies.
“Home Alone,” notably, came into the Disney fold through its 2019 acquisition of Fox’s entertainment assets, and despite its cartoonish qualities, the slightly sadistic nature of the original John Hughes-scripted story isn’t exactly a perfect fit with the Disney+ brand.
Just because something features kids, in other words, doesn’t necessarily make it ideal Disney fare. And just because “Home Sweet Home Alone” finally seeks to sweetly remind us about the importance of family during the holidays doesn’t mean it’s a slam-dunk choice when seeking an option to kill roughly 90 minutes with yours.
“Home Sweet Home Alone” premieres Nov. 12 on Disney+.
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