On November 12, 2021, the Home Alone reboot, Home Sweet Home Alone, was released on the streaming service Disney Plus – much to my dismay. After watching the film, I decided to examine my hatred for it to make sure my feelings weren’t biased or that I wasn’t blinded by my nostalgia for the original ‘90s movie. Luckily I wasn’t – in fact, I managed to find five solid things that I can confidently say the Home Alone reboot gets wrong.
Directed by Dan Mazer, Home Sweet Home Alone is the reboot of the beloved 1990 family movie Home Alone starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister. Kevin must protect his home from two burglars in the original movie after his family accidentally forget him for their trip to France. Home Sweet Home Alone follows almost exactly the same narrative, only with a few twists. The new flick centres around Max, a young boy who is also left alone during his family’s rush to the airport one holiday morning. However, unlike Kevin’s burglar problem, Max ‘protects’ his house from a lovely couple who are desperate to retrieve a priceless family heirloom that they think he stole.
Disliking this reboot is pretty standard; currently, it holds only 16% on Rotten Tomatoes. But let’s be clear these ratings aren’t just fuelled by blind love for the original movie. Here I go through five very valid things that the Home Alone reboot gets wrong, in my opinion. Yes, it may be a bit petty but let’s be honest; every family needs a Scrooge come December, and this year at The Digital Fix, that title falls to me (you’re welcome).
The villains in the Home Alone reboot Pam and Jeff McKenzie
Ok, here is the main issue that I have with the Home Alone reboot – the fact that the people getting hurt by booby traps are just a good couple desperate to save their home. The Wet Bandits were seasoned criminals who actively threatened Kevin in the original Home Alone. Kevin was very much in real danger. However, in Home Sweet Home Alone, the two ‘burglars’ aren’t threatening at all or bad people in the slightest. Instead, they are a well-meaning couple who just want to retrieve their family heirloom so they don’t have to sell their house.
They try to reason with Max, but Max starts targeting the two due to a frankly idiotic misunderstanding involving selling children to old grandmas. Seeing the caring parents get pulverised by the kid’s dangerous traps just isn’t funny. In this way, the reboot completely sidesteps all the charm and point of its ’90s predecessor.
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In the 1990 film, it was hilarious seeing Harry Lime and Marv Murchins get justice because they really were bad people – as an audience, we had permission to laugh at their downfall. However, in the case of Pam and Jeff, the main selling point of a Home Alone movie, the scenes where the hero protects his house with hilarious slapstick pranks just feels upsetting and like bullying – knocking two people down who are already hard on their luck.
What makes this problem more prominent is that Pam and Jeff are played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney – who are some of the most likeable actors you can find, period. So yeah, it is a huge miss all around.
The main character of the Home Alone reboot, Max
So you have likeable ‘villains’ and, let’s be honest, an obnoxious main character, the British scallywag Max…What could go wrong? Well, a lot. Unfortunately, Home Sweet Home Alone’s main protagonist lacks all of Kevin’s charm.
In the original film, Kevin may have been annoyed at his family, but that is because all his relatives are ignoring him. When his family does leave him, he is genuinely devastated after the first day of blissful solitude and is terrified of the furnace in his basement. Kevin perfectly captures a kid’s mindset while maintaining likability and sympathy throughout the movie as he learns the value of family.
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In comparison, Home Sweet Home Alone misses the point of this. The reboot of Home Alone sees our main character annoyed that his family are playing his videogames and that his pampered lifestyle as a child to wealthy parents is being interrupted. It should also be noted that his extended family isn’t doing anything mean to him at all – so he comes across as spoiled and unlikeable from the get-go.
His ‘blight’ and wish to be alone feels selfish and unrelatable compared to Kevin, and him missing his mother doesn’t feel as heart-wrenching (as bad as that sounds) as a result.
The shiny eyes and lighting in the Home Alone reboot
Any fans of old Disney movies may notice that characters’ eyes are sometimes lit up for emphasis, making it seem like they have a bit of sparkle. This method can be seen in The Sound of Music, Mary Poppins and basically every live-action family-friendly movie. The original Home Alone also used perfect lighting to enhance the character’s eyes, and the reboot tries to do the same. However, subtlety is thrown out the window. The glints from weird lighting in the eyes of all the actors in Home Sweet Home Alone add not so much as a whimsical touch but instead makes the characters look almost soulless.
Let’s get this straight. I’m not exaggerating when I tell you that the shiny eyes in Home Sweet Home Alone are genuinely unsettling, and once you notice them ( and it is impossible not to notice them), they are all you can see in scenes. Thanks to this strange lighting choice, in many ways, you may feel like you are watching a horror movie instead of a family-friendly flick as the now non-human eyes are straight out of the uncanny valley.
There is nothing wrong with a British accent. In fact, most of us here at The Digital Fix has one. However, hearing that distinctive and stark accent with strange cliché dialogue among only American characters in a loud family movie is a bit strange, to say the least.
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It also draws attention to all of Max’s lines, who, as we established, is already pretty unlikeable and, in many ways, is the annoying villain of the whole story. You may say that I am nit-picking here, but trust me, 20 minutes of hearing Max’s accent compared to his co-stars will, unfortunately, leave your hair on end as you, dare I say, cringe.
The booby traps in the Home Alone reboot
Don’t get me wrong, in the original Home Alone, Kevin’s booby traps were dangerous too. Back in the ’90s, we saw the young kid set fire to the Wet Bandits, and even knock Joe Pesci’s golden tooth straight out of his mouth. However, somehow Home Sweet Home Alone makes all these antics in its predecessor look tame.
Some examples of the dangerous pranks are: deadly icicles raining down on the two intruders, forcing them to step on LEGO (the purest form of torture), and coke bottle grenades being hurled at them at a dangerous height – hitting Pam square in the face, gut, and no doubt causing a concussion and broken bones. Remember how we said that it sucks to see the likeable people/ villains get hurt in the first place?
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Well, it sucks, even more to see them get so seriously injured and put in life-threatening danger by a spoiled rich kid who at this point just seems a bit sadistic. All in all, the booby traps – which are the cornerstone of any Home Alone film – are too complex for a child to make, too dangerous to be funny, and worst, targeted at friendly people, so they just feel mean. Not a very Christmassy feel-good film, I am afraid.
As you can tell, my mind is made up on the Home Alone reboot and shocker; it just wasn’t my cup of tea. However, as we all know, the film is subjective, so if Home Sweet Home Alone has become a festive fav of yours, that is fine too – but I’ll still recommend you watch the original Home Alone and try to change your mind ( wink, wink).