Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) / Comedy-Thriller
MPAA Rated: PG for violence and mild language
Running Time: 120 min.
Cast: Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Rob Schneider, Tim Curry, Brenda Fricker, Eddie Bracken, Dana Ivey, Devin Ratray, Bob Eubanks (cameo), Donald Trump (cameo), Ally Sheedy (cameo), Chris Columbus (cameo)
Director: Chris Columbus
Screenplay: John Hughes
The gang is back, and once again, the youngest of the McCallister family, Kevin (Culkin, Uncle Buck), is separated when his family goes on vacation in Miami (how does one lose the only member of the family with a clearly discernible personality?). Kevin boards the wrong plane, heading to New York City, all alone. Luckily, he has his father's wallet, which means credit cards, which he uses to see the sights and book a room in the ritziest hotel in the city, enjoying the high life and freedom to the fullest. Kevin later stumbles into a fancy toy store that is being cased by the "Wet Bandits", the burglars who terrorized Kevin in the first film, who happen to be in New York trying to get one big score after breaking out of prison in order to leave the country. Kevin, after learning that the store's proceeds during Christmas go to needy children, determines to do a good deed for others by stopping the bandits before they can get away with the loot, placing as many of the booby traps that got them the first time out.
Higher production values are the only asset in this sequel that plays out more like a rehash of the first film. At a lumbering 120 minutes, the film is padded to the breaking point with cloying scenes of Culkin cuteness, saccharine Christmas-spirit references, and product placement galore. Not to mention the serious contrivances involved, not only in Kevin being left alone once again (the permutations involved in how this happens breaks even the most liberal disbelief), but also the fact that he would later meet the same two burglars from Chicago in the dense expanse of New York City, and they would both frequent the same toy store on the same days. The implausibility pill would be hard to swallow, but luckily there are plenty of Coke products on display to wash it down with (replacing the Pepsi products of the first film).
It's apparent that John Hughes' (Christmas Vacation, Ferris Bueller's Day Off) creativity had been running on empty in coming up with a reason to come back for another film, but given the surprise smash that the first film was (it would go on to become the #1 comedy of all time), the sequel had been inevitable. The different scenery is a welcome change of pace, though, and while Kevin is enjoying his freedom and trying to hide the fact that he has no real adult supervision, the jokes are mild but pleasant enough to garner a few smiles. Sadly, Hughes eventually does find a way to work in the burglars and put Kevin in a position to thwart them, leading up to a prolonged finale that is marred by even more of the gratuitous cartoon violence that detracted from the good will message of the first film. It doeasn't appear that Kevin is just trying to stop them -- he's actually trying to kill them! They smash into cars, get hit in the face with bricks, have giant staples shot into their keisters, get electrocuted, caught on fire, and other potentially-deadly mishaps, all in the guise of adorable family entertainment, mind you.
As someone who didn't enjoy the first film, my negative review for Home Alone 2 should come as no surprise -- apparently, the bandits weren't the only ones stupid enough to return for more torture at Culkin's hands. While I enjoyed the John Williams (Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Temple of Doom) score and the sumptuous New York scenery and landmarks, ultimately, Home Alone 2 is merely a rehash of the first film, giving us little more than the same situation resolved in the same ways, and takes a great deal of time in doing it. I guess this is the sort of sequel that is made when the first film provided nothing deep or profound. I would gather that the producers were equally at a loss as to what made the first film a phenomenal success, so to make sure this second film captured the essence of the first, no box was left unchecked in trying to recapture the "magic".
They say, nothing ventured, nothing gained, but in this recycled venture, the only thing gained was more bucket loads of money for the studio and stars, while the fans were left out in the cold of a New York Christmas.
-- Followed by the in-name-only sequels, Home Alone 3 and Home Alone 4.
©2007 Vince Leo