By the time most franchises hit their sixth installment, it becomes pretty apparent that they’ve run out of steam, and one could argue that the Home Alone series has been coasting on fumes since at least the third entry (which was also the last to be released in theaters). Since the general premise of the first movie means that any sequels would have little choice but to effectively rehash the same basic plot over and over again, it would go some way towards explaining the declining quality and makes it seem like a prime candidate for one of Hollywood’s favorite recent trends, the reboot-quel. Though the very tenuous link between this film and the original means it leans far more towards the reboot than the sequel part of that portmanteau.
The movie once again features a young boy, Max (Archie Yates), who is supposed to head overseas with his very, very wealthy family for Christmas. As they all congregate at his parents’ house before leaving, he hides away to get some peace and quiet and in all the chaos of wrangling such a large group winds up being left behind. In the meantime, Jeff and Pam McKenzie (Rob Delaney and Ellie Kemper) are facing the reality that they will have to sell their home, since Jeff has been unable to find work since losing his job and Pam’s teacher’s salary alone is not enough to support their family. Jeff realizes that an ugly, old doll he inherited from his mother is actually worth upwards of $200,000 and goes to find it only to discover it is missing from where he last saw it. He then remembers an unpleasant encounter he had with Max earlier when his mother (Aisling Bea) brought him to their open house to use the bathroom, and immediately suspects that he stole it. As such, he tracks the family down, thinks he sees the doll inside Max’s discarded coat, realizes that they are all away, and decides to break in to retrieve it. Of course, we all know that Max is home, and having even so much as seen a commercial for one of these movies can pretty much guess where things go from there.
Having a better pedigree than usual for this franchise’s later entries, both in front of and behind the camera, should add up to at least a passably amusing way to kill some time, but instead we wind up with this remarkably unfunny and somewhat tone-deaf mess. From the onset these movies have struggled to fill the time leading up to the cartoonish slapstick sequences in the final third, and this one does at least attempt to insert more jokes than usual, though most of them land like a paint can to the forehead. The bigger problem however is that the set-up this time around makes even the payoff fall flat. For some reason, the writers (SNL‘s Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell) have opted to make Max come off as more than a little bit spoiled and rather than have the villains be genuine bad guys like the “Wet Bandits” of the original, we instead get a struggling middle class couple who are certainly making some questionable decisions, but whose situation is ultimately very sympathetic. It makes it really hard to laugh at Max setting one of them on fire when you kind of feel like he might the bad guy in this situation, and it really makes the attempt at a sweet, Christmas-ready resolution feel especially ludicrous. I suppose kids might find this mildly diverting for an hour and a half, but it is very unlikely to become a surprise Holiday classic like the original. ★
Rated PG for slapstick violence, rude material, and some language.
★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor