Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
One Liner Review:
Not nearly as good or original as the first movie, this sequel still has its merits and makes for an entertaining trip, even if the jokes don’t alway work.
This movie is fun on some very basic levels. You see, the plot may call for a change of location from the original movie, but other than that they are pretty much trying to copy the jokes of the first movie, and story elements beat for beat. For everything that happened in the first movie, there is this movie’s version of that joke. And there are really two ways to look at that. One way is that the movie is lazy and just doing the same thing all over again. The other way, is looking to spot the connections and see how they tried to vary each joke ever so slightly as to be a different version of the same idea. Either way, we do have the Wet Bandits back again, pursuing Kevin, this time through the streets of the Big Apple. We also have a new set of antagonists in the form of hotel employees who are suspicious of Kevin. What could have made for some new plot ideas, with this hotel storyline, ends up serving as just a means to get in more of the same jokes as the original movie had (the audio on the gangster tape being used to scare people away, the chase that leads to Kevin sliding right through someone’s legs.) Home Alone 2 might try to up the ante (the traps are much more lethal this time,) but in the end it’s nothing more than a decent sequel. And the main reason we don’t complain, despite all of the similarities and repetition, is because we love seeing this cast in these roles, even if they are just rehashing the same overall jokes and ideas.
Home Alone 2 is an okay sequel. It’s one of those sequels that tries to copy the first movie as much as it can, which is usually a pretty sign (The Hangover 2, for example.) But somehow because of all of the charm and goodwill associated with the first movie, we’re willing to watch this cast, playing these characters, do just about anything. So when they take their story to New York, we’re all on board. And New York City definitely works as the backdrop for the second film, The original movie, took a very simple idea and created a much larger story out of it, where the robbers were only a part of it. A kid gets left home alone while his entire family (and boy does Kevin McCalister, played by Macauly Culkin, have a huge family,) flies off to vacation. But how do you create an idea similar to that again? Well, you definitely don’t leave him home again. That would lead to the exact same movie. Instead, you change the location. The concept here, of having Kevin go to another city and be out on the city streets is perfect for a sequel.
And like the first movie, of course, Kevin will have a run-in with the Wet Bandits, the two criminals who are now going by the name “The Sticky Bandits,” according to Marv (Daniel Stern.) This is a two man team. There’s Harry (Joe Pesci,) the brains of the operation, and Marv, his idiotic sidekick. The change in name from the Wet Bandits to the Sticky Bandits is representative of the difference between these movies. Sure, they’re both comedies, but the first movie was something that we were able to take a little more seriously. The traps were realistic. The ideas had heart and feeling behind them. In the sequel, it often seems like the characters are just going through the motions, or that the ultimate goal is just to make us laugh with ridiculous, over-the-top slapstick. Notice how much more lethal and crazy the traps are this time around. And why are they called The Sticky Bandits? Because Marv has a velcro glove that he walks around with that objects stick to when he touches them. So in a very funny scene, he is at the Wollman Ice Skating Rink in Central Park, talking to Harry and every time a skater goes by him, Marv grabs an item of Winter clothing from the skater. A hat, scarves, ear muffs. He just grabs one item at a time and continues to put them on. Does it make aense? Of course not. Why would this criminal risk getting caught just to steal a hat? But it’s funny as hell, and in a movie like this, that’s what really counts.
New York City is unfortunately not used to its full potential here. Kevin doesn’t attend too many of the attractions (for example, how in the world did they leave out Times Square?) The city is used mostly as background or for a quick montage of Kevin going around doing different things, set to the song “All Along On Christmas,” which was actually written for this movie. The two locations that get the most use are The Plaza Hotel and Central Park. Other than that, there’s a quick scene at Carnegie Hall, and then all the rest just appears in that montage, (the Twin Towers, The Empire Diner.) It’s a shame that this movie didn’t do more. For example, the toy store, Duncan’s Toy Chest, which is a major part of this movie, is clearly based on FAO Schwartz. But this movie didn’t use FAO Schwartz for some reason (to see that store, check out the Tom Hanks movie Big.) Even the brownstones where Kevin fights off the sticky bandits aren’t a real location (they were filmed on a soundstage in Calfornia,) but at least the movie tells us a real location (the nineties on the upper west side,) and some of the street scenes and Central Park scenes really were filmed right around that area.
As far as the story goes, we all know that the highlight and point of these movies is to watch Kevin square off against the robbers And considering that this is always saved for the second half of these movies, (and late in the second half, the climax,) it means they have to spend about three quarters of the movie building up to it. That’s a lot of filler time. The way this movie does it is by mostly copying ideas from the first movie, and trying to put a new spin on as many of them as they can. That means same idea, new setting, or new circumstances that lead up to it. The opening has Kevin getting into trouble after he pushes Buzz, his older and much bigger bully of a brother. The first movie had Kevin push Buzz and cause a carton of milk to spill. In this sequel, Buzz humiliates Kevin at a singing performance, and Kevin pushes Buzz again, this time leading to the destruction of the entire stage.. It certainly goes bigger, but it doesn’t quite feel right, not being in the house with this family. Luckily the next scene puts them back in the house, for Buzz and Kevin to each sort of stand trial in front of their family, and state their case.
The copying ideas from the first movie continues as Kevin once again gets sent to sleep in the attic, all by himself. There’s the oversleeping and emergency run through the house and then run through the airport, all just like the first movie. And here’s the crazy part… the parents don’t stop to make sure all of their kids get on board. Obviously, they can’t, or else there would be no movie, and they try to explain out how all of this could happen again, with Kevin being in the van with them on the way to the airport, and then Kevin seeing a man who he thinks is his father, on his plane. But still, the premise is just a little ridiculous. They say that not all of the family members could sit together on the plane, but at some point, wouldn’t one the parents go back to the section with the kids to do a count?
The first movie featured an old man who walked around the neighborhood shoveling the streets. Kevin was terrified of this man until he got to know him, and the two of them became friends. Kevin even gave the old man life advise. All of this happens again in the sequel with a Pigeon Lady who lives in Central Park. Kevin is terrified of her. Then he get to know her. Then they become friends. Then he gives her life advice. And finally, just like the old man in the first movie, she ends up saving the day and helping him out with the Sticky Bandits. The similarities to the first film don’t end there. There’s the bad hotel with TVs that have no channels in English, that the family ends up in when they arrive at their destination. There’s the clown balloon in the shower scene which is meant to be a riff on Kevin with the mannequins and his fake party in the first movie – in both cases Kevin is literally pulling the strings like a puppeteer. There’s even another riff on the using of that black and white gangster movie to play the dialogue and have other characters think there’s a real gunfight going on.
In fact, the hotel, where these last two sequences happen, is one of the only real new storylines in the movie. Kevin goes into the Plaza hotel and meets with suspicious front desk clerks and concierges. There’s Cedrick, the bellboy who likes to count his tips in public, (Rob Schneider,) and then Tim Curry as the brains, and a woman clerk who is also suspicious. Curry plays the most evil of the bunch, as he actually sneaks into Kevin’s hotel room to snoop around and try to get some information about the kid. When he finds out that Kevin is using a credit card that has been reported stolen, later on, the match up between Curry’s face and that of the Grinch is just perfect. But the scenes that happen with this new set of antagonists still end up being copies of scenes from the first movie. There’s not just the scene that uses the audio of that gangster movie, but also another scene where Kevin gets chased through the hotel and ends up sliding through the woman’s legs, and into the elevator. That scene is right out of the first movie with the people who work at a general store getting suspicious of Kevin, leading to a chase on the ice, where Kevin again goes sliding through someone’s legs.
And then we get to the Sticky Bandits. They are sprinkled throughout this movie, just like they were in the first film, and once again, they have different small run-ins with Kevin until we finally get to the big one. Here, the run-ins are mostly confrontational. There’s the one where they grab him and then Kevin runs away a grabs a pearl necklace. He uses this to drop the pearls on the ground and make the robbers fall (like the Micro Machines scene in the first movie,) Then there’s another scene where Kevin pinches a woman standing in front of them, and when she turns around, he tells her the two crooks did it. This causes each of them to get a punch in the face, which comically takes them both to the ground. But the highlight of these conflicts is of course the robbery scene turned house of traps scene.
For that, this time around, Kevin is actually the aggressor and the attacker, not the defender. Kevin learns of the Wet Bandit’s plan to rob Duncan’s Toy Chest, and he actually goes after them, showing up to their robbery job and interfering. The movie does a nice job of giving reasons why Kevin would do this, explaining that the money Duncan makes from Christmas toys sales is being donated to a Children’s Hospital, and then having go by the window of that hospital to wave at a kid. And then the traps sequence starts, complete with a montage of Kevin setting up the traps, then getting the robbers to follow him, and then going to town on them.
These traps are insanely more painful than they were in the first movie. In that first film, the worst things that happened were getting hit in the face by a paint can or slamming into a brick wall. Okay the nail in the foot and the flame thrower to the head were pretty bad. But this sequel takes everything to the next level, starting with Marv getting pummeled outside of the brownstone with a ton of bricks. When Harry dips his head in an exploding toilet, and Marv gets electrocuted to the point of seeing his skeleton, one has to wonder how these robbers aren’t actually dying. But that’s part of the comedy – how over the top these traps are, and how the robbers still continue to get up and chase after Kevin. The movie as a whole is okay. It’s good in the sense that its fun spending another adventure following these characters. And it’s somewhat enjoyable watching the way the movie tries to put new spins on old ideas. But boy does it sure copy that first movie, beat for beat, every step of the way. The fact that the movie is such a carbon copy and yet still comes out on top, as an enjoyable experience, is a pretty solid testament to its natural charm.