VOD film review: Home Sweet Home Alone
James R | On 12, Nov 2021
Director: Dan Mazer
Cast: Ellie Kemper, Rob Delaney, Archie Yates, Aisling Bea, Kenan Thompson
Where to watch Home Sweet Home Alone online in the UK: Disney+ UK
“I made my family disappear…” Those were the immortal words uttered by Kevin McCallister in Home Alone, the most brutally violent family Christmas movie ever made. A veritable festive hamper of schadenfreude, it’s a disturbingly entertaining classic that warms the heart as much as it tickles the funny bone. Home Sweet Home Alone, the sixth film in the franchise, is another violent entry in the canon – but where the first two films in the series were endearing as well as disturbing, this seasonal sequel doesn’t quite know how to pull off that balancing act.
At once a reimagining, reboot and revival, it joins cinema’s growing, nostalgia-fuelled universe of legacy-quels, with a nifty cameo from Devin Ratray (Home Alone’s original Buzz McCallister) that gives us an idea of what he and his brother Kevin’s relationship is like 30 years later. But every other decision feels like a green triangle in a tin of Quality Streets – just slightly out of place.
JoJo Rabbit’s Archie Yates stars as Max Mercer, a boy who finds himself accidentally left behind when his family head to Japan for the holidays. But where you might expect him to be defending his house from villainous thieves, Home Sweet Home Alone makes the bizarre choice to follow event from another perspective: that of the people trying to break into his home.
They are Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Jeff (Rob Delaney) McKenzie, a struggling married couple who are facing little choice but to sell their home over the Christmas period because they can’t afford it. But when they discover that an old childhood doll is worth a small fortune, and that Max has taken it, they set about planning to get it back by any means necessary.
Sympathy for burglars breaking into a small boy’s empty house? It sounds odd because it is – not only are we asked to side with the bad guys, but by doing so, it also makes Yates’ pint-sized hero out to be a cruel, sadistic kid: a moment where he stands over one of them with a homemade gun that fires American pool balls is actually quite threatening, disproportionately so. The fact that the stunts aren’t as inventive, and Yates’ dialogue feels too forced, also takes the humour out of some of the climactic chaos.
The surprising upside of this upside-down pudding, though, is that it means more screen time for Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper, and the duo are genuinely entertaining to watch, whether the tired spouses are bickering sarcastically or wryly commenting on how their medical bills will be sky high after experiencing Max’s booby traps. They even get support from the always-brilliant Kenan Thompson as the real estate agent pushing them to part ways with their home (the script is by SNL veterans Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell).
But all the time spent with them is time we don’t spend with Max’s mum (a wasted Aisling Bea), which leaves the final act feeling distinctly hollow. John Debney’s energetic score playfully toys with John Williams’ iconic themes and there are moments that will make you chuckle, but Home Sweet Home Alone is a family film that, while mostly harmless, unfortunately makes that family feeling disappear.
Home Sweet Home Alone is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.