Directed by Chris Columbus
Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, John Heard & Catherine O’Hara
Christmas film review by Chris Olson
New York seems to be a popular setting for festive movies (see Elf, Miracle on 34th Street) and it’s no surprise: whilst we’d all like to believe the season is the celebration of a religious icon and goodwill to all men (and women), capitalism and gift-giving are far more prevalent, and The Big Apple is the ideal location to find these things. Chris Columbus’ sequel to the hugely popular family film, Home Alone (1990), whimsically scored by the legendary John Williams, is now as much part of cinematic Christmas as Scrooge or Bing Crosby.
When dissecting the plot of a film franchise like Home Alone, you could easily have turned the elements of their stories into horror films instead of beloved Christmas classics. Audiences seem to have found many of the themes of neglect, criminal threat and home invasion so hilarious that instead they were offered comedies and light-hearted adventure. The second film in the franchise, Lost in New York, regularly appears on top Christmas film lists, becoming one of the most popular movies of the genre.
Without really needing to explain such a title, the films centre around a rascally young boy named Kevin (Macaulay Culkin), who ends up being left by his family at Christmas by mistake. The first year, Home Alone, they left him in his actual home over Christmas, having overslept and miscounted during their rushed preparations to vacation somewhere else. This time, the huge McCallister clan plan on heading to Florida for the Yuletide season. Oversleeping again (I know, right?), this time they do manage to bring young Kev with them, but end up separating from him accidentally at the airport, and in classic pre-9/11 fashion, our 10-year-old Kevin is able to board the wrong plane without his family or a guardian.
As you can probably guess, that plane is headed for New York, an impressively festive, yet perilously dangerous city, where Kevin must use his intuitively devilish nature to ensure his safety and comfort. He manages to elude a very suspicious hotel manager (Tim Curry) using a variety of gags, some of which are throwbacks to the first movie, as well as using his dad’s (John Heard) credit card to buy plenty of room service, extravagant day trips and novelty toys. Along the way he meets some sketchy characters, including the two goons whom he squared off with in the first film, the Wet Bandits (now the Sticky Bandits), who have escaped jail and are looking for revenge against the little tyke who put them away.
Rarely do modern films lodge themselves so solidly in the popular mindset of Christmas culture than the Home Alone movies. They hark back to a forgotten era, before family films got so serious and animated, and captured some universal truth about the world: it’s a scary-ass place if you don’t have a few tricks up your sleeves. The Sticky Bandits represent a recurring evil which haunt Kevin, and only his painful, homemade booby-traps are what stand between his life and death. With all his family in another state, isolation and vulnerability swamp his existence, and yet this plucky rascal manages to have a spectacular time and becomes the master of his nemesis’ downfall.
Home Alone 2 also manages to challenge stereotypes, such as homelessness. Meeting a “crazy” bird-loving woman (Brenda Fricker) in Central Park, and being at first scared then intrigued by her, Kevin confronts fear quicker than most and is able to uncover another beautiful truth about humanity - the need for companionship, regardless of how much we distance ourselves from it.
It may be New York as a setting, or Culkin as the star, but for whatever reason Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is undeniably one of the greatest Christmas films of all time. It has a lot of meaning and depth whilst being wholly entertaining, capturing an era of childhood innocence which, sadly, will probably never return.