Home Sweet Home Alone review: Disney Plus reboot is the worst Christmas gift
Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney headline this new Christmas content dreamed up by the streaming algorithm.
Richard TrenholmFormer Movie and TV Senior Editor
Richard Trenholm was CNET's film and TV editor, covering the big screen, small screen and streaming. A member of the Film Critic's Circle, he's covered technology and culture from London's tech scene to Europe's refugee camps to the Sundance film festival.
If you learn anything from Home Sweet Home Alone, it's that children are evil. Not because the kid in this 2021 reboot is a giggling sociopath torturing grownups with an array of horrifyingly vicious traps. No, children are to be feared because of their insatiable hunger for content.
It's not enough for streaming service Disney Plus to serve up the original Home Alone or Home Alone 2 for you to watch this Christmas. There must be a new Home Alone! Children aren't interested in old movies or wooden toys, granddad. Kids must consume existing IP. New content, mommy! We must have new content!
Which brings us to Home Sweet Home Alone, streaming now on Disney Plus. It's a reboot of the much-loved 1990s slapstick comedies about a wiseass 8-year-old left to fend off bumbling burglars. Replacing original star Macauley Culkin is Archie Yates (the funniest child Nazi in the funny child Nazi movie). He plays mischievous Max Mercer, a resourceful 10-year-old forced to defend his family home from a pair of robbers attempting to snaffle a priceless heirloom.
And look, it's fine. If you've seen Home Alone a million times, well, now there's a new one. Have at it. Who knows, you might love it. Your kids may be entranced. I don't know your life, lady!
So yeah, enjoy Home Sweet Home Alone, aka Home Alone 6. Yes, you read that right -- everybody's seen 1990's Home Alone and 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, obviously. But there's also a third movie involving North Korean terrorists (1992); a fourth in which Kevin is played by another kid and his parents have divorced (2002); and a fifth involving ghosts, or something (2012). No doubt Disney Plus has you covered for your marathon rewatch of the McCallister Cinematic Universe (McCU).
Shoveling more IP into the content funnel, Home Sweet Home Alone was obviously engineered to feed the streaming algorithm. But that doesn't explain who it's actually for. Written by Saturday Night Live's Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, this new film is peppered with jokes about OJ, real estate and clearing your search history. There's a Scarface reference and a running gag about data migration. Kids love that stuff!
Home Sweet Home Alone takes its sweet time, filling its first hour with an endless round of "Oh it's him from SNL / that HBO sitcom," as we meet multiple families and multiple kids who absolutely do not matter at all. Aisling Bea is great, but Chris Parnell shouts most of his part from behind a door, the gangly guy from Veep just keeps saying things, and I'm still not sure which comedian who I vaguely recognize is supposed to be the main kid's dad.
The COVID pandemic disrupted filming, so it may be a miracle this film exists at all. It's updated for the modern age with the inclusion of a voice-controlled home assistant, although it feels like the writers wrote that on a Post-it note and stuck it on a whiteboard then forgot to come back and write any jokes. Still, Kevin's brother Buzz is in it. He says "Home alone" (y'know, like the title of the movie). What else do you want?
The filmmakers do at least try to flesh out the characters of the bad guys, even if that's a terrible idea. The new twist on the original film's bumbling burglars is, wait for it, you'll love this: a married couple trying to save their house after the husband struggles to find work. Booo! Hiss! Let's light them on fire and drive pins into their faces! Hi-larious!
Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney provide the film's biggest bright spot as the put-upon couple victimized by a child who lives in a much nicer house than they do. But unlike the clear-cut good-versus-evil pleasure of the first film's righteous violence meted upon nasty criminals, it's not clear who's meant to enjoy seeing decent, economically squeezed people being tortured. Some of the chaos is funny as Kemper and Delaney do their best with the physical comedy, but apart from a delightfully surreal gag about a VR helmet, the pratfalls lack the cartoonishly demented imagination of the original films.
So Home Sweet Home Alone exists, you already paid for Disney Plus, who cares. Merry Christmas, ya filthy animals.
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