Rating: PG (mild language and comic action)
Length: 120 minutes
Release Date: November 20, 1992
Directed by: Chris Columbus
Stars: 3 out of 5
“Home Alone 2” is the satisfying sequel to the smash hit 1990’s film “Home Alone.” Director Chris Columbus returns with most of the original cast to create another chapter in the Kevin McCallister saga. Even if the plot is a barely reworked copy of the original film, the charming antics of Macaulay Culkin make this movie worth seeing.
Ten-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) manages to board a plane to New York City instead of flying with the rest of his relatives to Miami for the holidays. Once he arrives, he uses the credit cards and cash in his father’s wallet to hail a taxi to the Plaza Hotel and books a room. Despite the reactions of a concierge (Tim Curry) and bellhop (Rob Schneider) who are suspicious when he checks in alone, Kevin manages to have a great time ordering room service and exploring New York City. Kevin also meets and bonds with a homeless lady (Brenda Fricker) and toyshop owner (Eddie Bracken). However, once Kevin spots his former burglar nemeses (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern), he fights to foil their new plot to rob a toy store.
Macaulay Culkin is a charming child star who can only be compared to Shirley Temple in terms of likability. Astute critics have compared Kevin McCallister to a modern day Dennis the Menace, which also seems apt. Many of Kevin’s actions in the film aren’t laudable, so it’s a credit to Culkin that the audience still celebrates when he unleashes his cartoonish, yet cruel, traps in the final act.
There’s a large cast of great supporting actors who manage to inject even more fun into this film. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern reprise their roles in the first film as the hapless Wet Bandits. Pesci and Stern are clearly the Wile E. Coyote to Culkin’s Road Runner, but they play the roles of cartoon villains with aplomb. Rob Schneider’s role as a bellhop, who seems destined to never get his rightful tip, also provides plenty of mild humor. Tim Curry shines in his brief cameo as the unctuous concierge.
Taking the place of Roberts Blossom’s Old Man Marley from the first film is Brenda Fricker. As the homeless pigeon lady, Fricker’s character never receives a name. Instead, she’s there to receive nuggets of Kevin’s wisdom and listen to his sometimes sanctimonious musings. For the adults in the room, it may be uncomfortable for upper-middle-class Kevin, who’s staying in a suite at the Plaza, to lecture Fricker’s character about her problems. Luckily, this plot point is quickly abandoned during the latter half of the film.
Eddie Bracken’s E.F. Duncan, owner of a toyshop clearly modeled after FAO Schwarz, also seems to be a mere recipient of this ten-year-old’s precocious thoughts. Although Culkin is a skilled enough actor to deliver these insights without becoming annoying, it’s clear that these minor subplots are simply a way of marking time between Kevin’s antics and the slapstick finale. Duncan also provides an altruistic reason for Kevin to battle the burglars; the Wet Bandits plan to steal Duncan’s donation to the children’s hospital.
Columbus and writer John Hughes get many things right in the second installment of the “Home Alone” series. Instead of trying to manufacture another reason for why Kevin is left at home, they move the action to New York City. This choice allows them to provide an even larger challenge for Kevin but also underscores how comfortable Kevin is in any environment. Changing the setting also allows Columbus to provide plenty of scenic views of New York City during Christmas, which amplifies the holiday atmosphere of the movie.
While there’s a lot to like about “Home Alone 2,” the movie’s cartoonish violence has received a lot of thoughtful criticism. It’s clear that Columbus is playing the injuries that the Wet Bandits sustain for laughs, but there’s an obvious difference between animated characters and live actors being hit with bricks. Some audience members will laugh when one of the bandits is electrocuted, while other audience members will cringe. Moral judgments aside, self-identified cringers should pick another movie to watch or suffer through the last half of the film.
“Home Alone 2” is the rare sequel that manages to be no better and no worse than its predecessor. Audiences who saw and enjoyed the first film will undoubtedly love this new outing with the most mischievous member of the McCallister clan. However, audience members who objected to the cartoonish violence of the first film will have the same objections to its successor.