REVIEW: Home Alone 3
Produced by: John Hughes, Hilton Green
Written by: John Hughes
Edited by: Bruce Green, Malcolm Campbell
Cinematography by: Julio Macat
Music by: Nick Glennie-Smith
Starring: Alex D. Linz, Olek Krupa, Haviland Morris, Rya Kihlstedt, Lenny Von Dohlen, David Thornton, Kevin Kilner, Marian Seldes, Seth Smith, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Curry, Baxter Harris, Neil Flynn, Darren T. Knauss
I wanted something simple to watch and review tonight, mostly because I was very tired this week, and I needed it. Skimming through the movies I had available to stream at my leisure, I saw Home Alone 3 and thought to myself, “Eh. Might as well complete the trilogy.” And, like that, this is why you are now getting a review of Home Alone 3 instead of at Christmastime.
So… yeah, enjoy!
I remember seeing this back when it first hit theatres. I believe I saw it with my friend and possibly my sister at the theatre on the military base we lived on. Not a very nice theatre, but not terrible, either. At the time, I do remember liking this movie, and I recall telling my mom that a lot of that had to do with the fact that the new kid in this movie, Alex, was a lot more likable than the bratty Kevin McCallister played in the first two movies and also because the villains in the film weren’t cartoonish thieves out to get a payday but rather international villains out to take a highly advanced computer chip. Looking back now, though, with an adult’s sensibilities, it’s pretty much these two points exactly that I have the most problem with, at least regarding the film’s setup.
Yes, this film does dump the McCallister family and all their wacky, dysfunctional relatives for the far more loving Pruitt family, who seem to live in the same Chicago suburb as… well, pretty much any of writer/producer John Hughes’ other characters. The reason for this switch up was due to the fact that Macaulay Culkin was taking a break from acting, not to mention the fact that, by 1997, he’d probably grown up a little too much for Kevin’s homicidal slapstick antics to be as cute as they were the first two times around. Gone, also, are the Wet/Sticky Bandits, Harry and Marv, replaced by the aforementioned quartet of international thieves, who are, for the most part, shown to be highly capable in their field of work, having evaded the FBI for quite some time.
Alex Pruitt, like Kevin, is the youngest of his family, and his older siblings, Stanley and Molly (the latter played by a teenage Scarlett Johansson, you might notice), also take great pleasure in getting on his case. However, unlike Kevin, Alex is far more angelic and respectful of his restless parents’ authority, and, apart from the cruel older siblings’ tormenting, the Pruitts sure seem like one big happy family. This happiness, of course, is threatened when Alex is given an RC car that, unbeknownst to anyone but the thieves, contains that highly advanced chip, thanks to a luggage mix up at the airport. Somehow determining which neighborhood the chip is in, but not which house, the thieves set about lurking within each house, searching for the car, which in turn allows for the filmmakers to play out a children’s version of Rear Window, with a chickenpox-ridden Alex witnessing their nefarious deeds and figuring out the whole plot through a telescope. As the thieves get closer to his home and with all possible authority figures thoroughly disbelieving anything he says, Alex takes matters into his own hands and, yes, booby traps his house for comedic effect.
I’ll give credit where credit’s due and commend the filmmakers for not exactly retreading the first two films’ formula so blatantly to the point where I basically felt no need to review those two separately. Sure, the usual Home Alone tropes are there, including the Christmastime setting (barely) and the presence of a misunderstood elder (Mrs. Hess, a cold, cranky curmudgeon who, unlike the previous two elders, actually does need to cool it with her mistreatment of… well, everyone), but there are enough twists to make it feel juuuuust ever so slightly different enough to not feel like this was completely unnecessary. That being said, the film is incredibly inconsistent in tone, with the thieves at first coming off as promisingly menacing at times (they even use guns and, in one instance, even attempt to kill someone), but then devolving into incompetent idiots whose actions are accompanied by zany sound effects when they come come up against an improbably clever child and… sigh… his pet companions that apparently can comprehend and, in the case of the parrot, speak back like a person would. There were also several times when I felt like the filmmakers tried to balance out the serious villains with a needlessly cute sensibility elsewhere.
This extends to the climactic booby-traps, many of which are repeats from the previous two films, though some are admittedly still kinda funny. Heck, I even laughed a bit when a character bent over and their pants split, if only because you don’t expect that kind of humor when the victim is a cold blooded woman who has no qualms about killing. At times, I even started thinking about the lessons I learned from The Simpsons and Sideshow Bob, who carried himself with such poise and who regarded himself with such high esteem, you couldn’t help but laugh at the simple pleasure of seeing him clumsily get hit in the face by a rake repeatedly, one after another – but then again, there aren’t a lot of things I can’t compare to The Simpsons. Still, had the movie held to that amusing contrast, this probably could’ve been better than the last two. Sadly, again, that pesky habit of their confrontations with Alex rendering them into bumbling buffoons, aside from that somewhat cleverly timed and built up pants splitting early on (it involves some coordinated blows on a dog whistle and a leash) robs the film of a lot of its comedic potential.
As for Alex? Well, he’s a cute enough kid, I guess. I liked him, for the most part, but since he’s such an angelic reputational martyr (nobody believes that what he’s saying about robbers is real, naturally, so he’s gotta prove it himself) and his relationship with his parents begins on such good terms with his parents, and there’s no accidental separation or happy reunion angle going on, there’s consequently little to no character growth for the character to go through. Instead, he just achieves their appreciation more by the end, and thus fulfills every kid’s dream of being the center of attention and appreciation. Compare that to Kevin, who frequently instigated fights and even (gasp!) swore at people he didn’t like and who had to learn to appreciate his family through his ordeal away from them. Home Alone 2 lost a little bit of that, as well, but it made up for it with the superior comedic timing and its outlandishly sadistic booby-traps. (Tim Curry and the rest of the hotel staff also helped.)
Home Alone 3 isn’t terrible, but it isn’t very good, either. I wouldn’t even recommend folding it into your regular holiday viewing alongside the first two, as its barely referenced Christmastime setting may as well just be “unspecified wintertime,” since you don’t even see a Christmas tree in any of the homes – at least none that I can recall. Younger kids may enjoy it enough, though, and apart from that freaking talking bird, it’s not likely going to drive their older relatives nuts, either. There are a few good gags here and there, and the film moves at a fairly quick pace, too. As with all middling family films, you could do far worse (like the two TV movie sequels that followed this one – I haven’t seen them, but, trust me, I know they’re awful), but you could also do faaaar better.
The Viewer’s Commentary Rating: 2 / 5