Home Alone 3, 4 and 5: Looking back at the forgotten sequels
James R | On 14, Nov 2021
It’s November. There are only a few weeks until it’s December and it’s socially acceptable to watch Christmas movies. Top of the list? Very possibly Home Alone, one of the greatest festive films of all time, thanks to its surprising blend of slapstick violence and sincere sentiment – a balance that makes it a winning, almost worryingly family-friendly delight.
What might not be top of your list, though, is Home Sweet Home Alone, the sequel released by Disney+ that sees Jojo Rabbit’s Archie Yates step into the shoes of Max Mercer, who fends off a home invasion from two struggling, middle-aged adults (Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney) looking to retrieve a family heirloom. The film’s reception, it’s fair to say, hasn’t been overwhelmingly positive, with some labelling it the worst Home Alone film ever made – but that’s likely because they haven’t seen the other Home Alone films. Because yes, Home Sweet Home Alone is actually Home Alone 6, with three other sequels made in the years since Macauley Culkin departed the franchise in Home Alone 2.
Are they really as bad as they sound? We pick up our crowbars, put down our pet spider and enter the booby-trapped maze of horrors of Home Alone 3, 4 and 5.
Home Alone 3 (1997)
It took 5 years after Kevin McCallister got Lost in New York for 20th Century Fox to decide to green-light another Home Alone outing – and, perhaps smartly, it makes the decision to stay as far away from the McCallisters as possible.
Home Alone 3 lacks helmer Chris Columbus and composer John Williams, but does provide the directorial debut for Raja Gosnell (Scooby-Doo, Never Been Kissed, The Smurfs), who edited the first two Home Alone films. That gives events a fairly familiar feel, as Alex D Linz plays Alex Pruitt, an eight-year-old who finds out that his remote control car has a microchip hidden in it that’s being chased by a North Korean terrorist group, after a mix-up with baggage at the airport.
Enter the ruthless Alice (Rya Kihlstedt), the clumsy Burton (Lenny Von Dohlen) and the stern Earl (David Thornton), three spies determined to find the toy car, only for Alex to try and stop them. Highlights include a spring-loaded boxing glove and an electrically-charged chair, but most of the traps are reworkings of earlier stunts and lack any surprise – although there is some inventive use of the toy car, with a video camera taped to it. Linz, meanwhile, lacks the charisma that Macaulay Culkin brought to the screen – although Scarlett Johansson does appear as Alex’s sister, Molly.
Incredibly, the script is by none other than John Hughes, but it feels dated and lazy, not least because of the inclusion of a pet parrot who makes strangely inappropriate jokes. The result is an attempt to do something a bit different, but that doesn’t mean it does it very well.
Disappointingly familiar, despite some toy car fun.
Unmemorable, but at least they’re international spies.
Three times the villains on screen doesn’t equal three times the laughs
It doesn’t even take place at Christmas: the whole film is set in January.
Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)
Taking Back the House from whom? That’s not the only question raised by this fourth Home Alone outing – others include “What?” “Huh?” “Seriously?” and “Why hasn’t it finished yet?”
Despite Beethoven’s 2nd director Rob Daniel at the helm, this is a horribly misjudged sequel that begins with the worst decision of all: to bring back Kevin and the McCallister family, and some other familiar names. It follows that with an even worse decision: to cast different people in every role. Mike Weinberg is Kevin, who is now a teenager living with his mother, Kate (Clare Carey), and his sister, Megan (Chelsea Russo), as well as his brother, Buzz (Gideon Jacobs). Kate, however, is now separated from their dad, Peter (Jason Beghe), who is off galavanting with new girlfriend Natalie (Joanna Going).
Natalie, inexplicably, is rich and lives in a high-tech mansion with Peter and their butler, Mr Prescott (The Mummy’s Erick Avari – the only good actor in the ensemble). That mansion, for equally inexplicable reasons to do with the royal family, is broken into by Marv (yes, that Marv) and Vera (Missi Pyle), Marv’s wife (no, we don’t know why either). Rather than bring back Daniel Stern, though, the film casts French Stewart in the role, a man who looks more like Joe Pesci’s Harry than the lanky fan favourite from the first two films. He sounds nothing like Marv, looks nothing like Marv, and no matter how many times “Kevin” says “Oh no, it’s Marv!” he’s not fooling anyone.
With cheap production design, pointless smart home gimmicks and a story that’s dull as well as derivative, Home Alone 4 is the crushingly painful low-point of the Home Alone franchise – that is, until you watch Home Alone 5.
Smart tech, dumb stunts.
That. Is. Not. Marv.
For Erick Avari completists only.
It takes place at Christmas, but there’s no heart here.
Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012)
Malcolm McDowell. Those are the two words that stick with you long after watching Home Alone: The Holiday Heist. The Golden Globe-nominated star of A Clockwork Orange has been visibly enjoying himself in recent years in roles in everything from Easy A to Mozart in the Jungle. As for Home Alone 5… well, he better have been paid a lot of money.
He plays Sinclair, the leader of a group of thieves who are hoping to break into a house and steal a long-lost painting by Edvard Munch (whose iconic The Scream is jokingly compared to Kevin McCallister’s facial expression in the original films). The house, though, isn’t empty – it’s occupied by Finn and Alexis, the children of Curtis and Catherine Baxter. They stumble across the hidden safe where the painting is stored, but she ends up locked inside and he ends up spooked by the arrival of the burglars looking to complete the titular holiday heist.
Things go downhill from there, as Finn spends his time playing games online with a university student called Simon. What starts as a joke about stranger danger turns into a story of not judging a gamer by their gamertag, only for Simon to end up sort of saving the day… by watching events on his TV with the police. Are we meant to laugh at online gaming or cheer it on? Writers Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre don’t seem to know. They’re equally undecided about whether to take a running joke about the house being haunted seriously or not. From trapping someone inside a snowman (yes, really) to someone drinking a glass of glue, the result is an awkwardly unfunny affair that barely feels like a coherent film, let alone a Home Alone film. As for Malcolm McDowell, it’s almost worth tuning in to see him splattered with eggnog – except that would involve you actually watching the thing.
Gingerbread men with chilli in them? These booby-traps are boring as well as cruel.
Malcolm McDowell hopefully got to buy a big Christmas tree with his paycheck.
Home Alone 3, 4 and 5 are available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.