Classic Intel: Home Alone & Home Alone 2: Lost In New York - DVD Review

'There are times where Kevin could be an eight-year-old Ferris Bueller, Hughes' script zinging with opportunities for Culkin to ably demonstrate just why he became the biggest child star for several generations'.

Considering both Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost In New York shamelessly follow fundamentally the same plot with the same beats, and in many cases the same characters, it makes sense to look at them at the same time. What writer John Hughes and director Chris Columbus get right in the first film, they invariably get right in the second, usually shaking things up enough in the sequel to get away with essentially following the same recipe twice in a row.

What Columbus certainly has on his side in both films is a strong and committed cast, something that too often gets overlooked beyond child megastar Macauley Culkin. Catherine O'Hara and John Heard as Kate and Peter McCallister respectively are consistently solid and authentic throughout both films, with O'Hara in particular impressively providing everything from touching sentiment to farcical comedy. The other key pairing is that of Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), the hapless crooks who find their nemesis in Kevin (Culkin). The chemistry between Pesci and Stern is wonderful, with Pesci in particular taking to the franchise's exaggerated style of humour - hard to believe that the actor's iconic F-bomb-laden turn in Goodfellas was released in the same year as Home Alone.

The charming performance from the prepubescent Culkin certainly shouldn't be taken for granted, however, especially in the first film. The part of the McCallister's youngest offspring was famously written for Culkin after his winning supporting turn in Uncle Buck, written and directed by Hughes a year earlier, but the actor's performance feels rooted further back in the iconic filmmaker's work than that. There are times, particularly during Home Alone, where Kevin could be an eight-year-old Ferris Bueller (think of the scenes where he talks to himself in front of the mirror), Hughes' script zinging with opportunities for Culkin to ably demonstrate just why he became the biggest child star for several generations.

The reasons for Home Alone 2's relative inferiority to the original aren't as simple as Hughes and Columbus retreading familiar ground. In fact, one area in which the sequel exceeds its predecessor is in its delivery of what the franchise came to be famous for: extreme knockabout comedy. Where Home Alone sets the precedent and undoubtedly generates considerable laughs, the second film raises the bar on every level. Together, Culkin, Pesci and Stern deliver an encore masterclass of brilliantly conceived, timed and executed slapstick during a final act of which Tex Avery would surely be proud.

Where Hughes and Columbus counteract this is in their inability to rein in the sugar coating dumped upon their second outing. At heart, Home Alone is a film about family and forgiveness, something which both writer and director manage to deliver whilst only tipping over into mawkishness once or twice. The same, unfortunately, cannot be said for Home Alone 2. Where the original film gave us a touching subplot of Kevin getting to know "Old Man" Marley (Roberts Blossom), a misunderstood elderly neighbour, the sequel ladles on the syrup with both Eddie Bracken's orphan-loving toy shop owner and Brenda Fricker's achingly tragic pigeon lady who doesn't want to get her heart broken again - and who receives condescending advice about this from Kevin through a cautionary tale involving, er, roller blades. It's a shame that Hughes and Columbus couldn't keep a lid on their overly sentimental tendencies during Home Alone 2, because without the saccharine flavour of several elements it could easily have ended up as strong as the original.

Home Alone

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

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