Home Alone 3 Review
An elite gang of international thieves (Olek Krupa, Rya Kihlstedt, Lenny von Dohlen and David Thornton) steal the computer chip for a nuclear missile from a US defence base with plans to smuggle it out of the country and place it in the hands of a North Korean terrorist organization. Hiding it inside a toy car, they reckon with out grumpy old Mrs. Hess (Marian Seldes) picking up the wrong luggage and carting the toy car, chip and all, back to Chicago. The four thieves give chase, but by the time they reach Mrs. Hess' neighbourhood she has already given the car to her neighbour, 6-year-old Alex (Alex D. Linz). While off school with chicken pox, Alex becomes aware of the villains and watches as they break into various households in their search for the toy car (think for a moment about how funny that image is). With the police and his family dismissing Alex's claims as prank calls and the bad guys homing in on him, he decides that if no-one will do anything about the problem, he'll deal with it himself.
Five years after the first sequel to Home Alone, someone had the bright idea of resurrecting the franchise and rolling out another installment and, somewhat surprisingly, secured the participation of John Hughes, writer and producer of the original two outings, along with Julio Macat, cinematographer of the previous two films. None of the original cast returned, however, and nor did Chris Columbus, with directing reins being handed over to Raja Gosnell (who edited the first two movies and has since directed, um, Big Momma's House and Scooby-Doo). Still, with the focus on new characters and the possibility for a welcome change of direction after Home Alone 2's slavish devotion to the formula of the original, there's room for hope, right? Think again. Imagine the sound of someone scraping their nails across a blackboard. Now imagine that sound being repeated for 98 minutes. That, gentle readers, is a pretty close approximation of the experience of watching Home Alone 3 from beginning to end.
To be fair, the film starts promisingly enough, hinting at a somewhat darker tone when compared to the previous two movies. The four antagonists are set up as a ruthless gang of international terrorists, smuggling a nuclear warhead from Hong Kong to the US and bypassing airport security with little more than the blink of an eye (I have to give Hughes and crew props for having terrorists as the villains of what appears to be a film aimed squarely at children). For as long as the opening credits are rolling, everything is played completely straight, and indeed when the odd bit of humour is injected by the least intelligent of the four thugs, Earl Unger (David Thornton), it doesn't really seem amiss. Then, ten minutes into the film, we are introduced to 6-year-old Alex Pruitt, who will unfortunately carry the rest of the film. Everything drops dead at this point, as the film takes on an overly cutesy feel, the bad guys turn into bumbling fools and whatever hope existed of an enjoyable experience evaporates much like a ripe fart. As long as the focus is not on Alex, the movie is passable. Unfortunately, however, he occupies by far the most screen time, and his influence can be felt even when he is not actively present. The simple problem is that Linz (who, by the way, looks a lot younger in the film than he does on the DVD cover) has "annoying little brat" syndrome with a vengeange, to the extent that I actually wanted to punch my TV screen every time he opened his mouth and flubbed yet another lame one-liner or gave one of his infuriating smirks or supposedly "cute" facial expressions. The bottom line is that I strongly dislike children in all shapes and forms, but it takes a particularly annoying child to make me want to damage my precious home entertainment system.
The traps are terrible, too. Whereas those in the previous films had some sting to them, all we get here are a series of vaguely slapstick-oriented gags, most of which merely involve getting the villains covered in sticky substances rather than actually injuring them. Whereas Home Alone had blowtorched heads and feet being penetrated by large rusty nails, the best Home Alone 3 can muster up is a grown man careening around a house with his feet glued to Mega Bloks containers. Now, I haven't seen Home Alone 4, a direct to video sequel featuring the original characters but different actors - and nor do I particularly want to - but I would hazard a guess that what we have in Home Alone 3 is not exactly a world away from this fourth installment. There is something quite embarrassing about watching adults getting covered in goo and toilet water and generally acting like idiots, particularly when one of them is Olek Krupa, a fairly talented Polish actor who manages to be quite menacing when he isn't getting covered from head to toe in gelatine. Scarlett Johansson is in the film too, although I imagine that this would be the last thing she had on her mind while she was winning the Venice International Film Festival's award of Best Actress for her performance in Lost in Translation.
Credit where credit's due, however, Hughes has clearly learned his lesson since Home Alone 2 and on this occasion does provide a script with some new ideas. The fact that the bad guys are making use of high-tech equipment to achieve their goals adds some much-needed tension to Alex's plight (even if you never really believe that any harm will come to him... more's the pity), and a number of gimmicks from the first two films, including the Gangster Movies, have been eliminated (although the nearest replacement, involving Alex fiddling with the channels on Mrs. Hess' TV, comes across as idiotic rather than amusing). The idea of thieves who actually know what they are doing is also a good one in theory, although in practice their supposed skill goes out the window as soon as they encounter one of Alex's booby-traps. Home Alone 3 is simply not the same kind of film as its predecessors, substituting genuine humour and emotion with unimaginative squirts and splats and some embarrassing schmalz. Since the story itself has absolutely nothing to do with those of the first two films (not a single character is carried over), I would recommend giving this one a miss.
Fox's 1.85:1 anamorphic transfer is not a pretty sight at all, although its only real problem is that it looks incredibly soft. A fairly good if unremarkable Dolby Digital 5.1 track is provided, along with subtitles in a multitude of languages. Bonus features are comprised of, once again, trailers for all three Home Alone movies, but this time round biographies for the film's cast and crew are also served up.
Home Alone 3 is not so much a painfully bad piece of work as it is a disappointingly embarrassing one. While some films that turned out to be poor obviously had a lot of effort put into them, this particular turkey seems to have been the result of a by-the-numbers script farmed out to please the kids. As such, those under the age of 10 might find something to appreciate here, but adults should really give this one a miss. The DVD presentation is pretty weak, but will probably be acceptable for the film's target audience.