‘Home Alone 2: Lost in New York’ – ’92 Cinema Revue

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York – #1 in the U.S. (Nov. 20-22)

All-Time Domestic $173,585,516 | All-Time International $185,409,334
All-Time Worldwide $358,994,850

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is a simplistic cut-and-paste Christmas staple with seldom fun moments.

Home Alone was a smash hit in 1990, despite being a modest-budget family film. Macaulay Culkin was a household name overnight with a major movie on his hands. Culkin was a kid tasked with leading a film on his own as Kevin McCallister up against two idiotic robbers played effortlessly by Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci. Luckily, Kevin McCallister has a quick wit and more traps than Predator. It was such an unexpected success that it launched Macaulay Culkin into superstar status. Who else is going to host SNL with musical guest Tin Machine? How does one top the success of the first film, now a modern Christmas classic? How do you make sure Kevin is alone again? Easy, up the budget, up the traps, make sure Pesci gets his nine holes of golf, and send Kevin McCallister to the Big Apple. Thus, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York was greenlit for 1992 and ready to take down some big names in the wake of the release. See ya later, Bram Stoker’s Dracula

Kevin McCallister (Culkin) has upset the McCallister family again after punching Buzz (Devin Ratray) and ruining a Christmas recital because Buzz embarrassed him. The next day, the McCallisters rush to head to Florida for Christmas, but Kevin gets lost in the airport, mixing up his tickets, and instead ends up in New York. Kate (Catherine O’Hara) freaks out while Kevin lives it up at The Plaza Hotel on his dad’s credit card. Kevin thought villainous concierge Mr. Hector (Tim Curry) would be his only problem until former foes the Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern), shows up in town because the plot calls for it. With plans to rob a toy store, Kevin must defeat the Wet Bandits again.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is a retread of the first film, getting lost in remembrance of the first film while never coming into its own. While it does have delightful moments here and there, it never becomes more than Home Alone 1.5. It can be hard to judge films one has grown up with, taking away the nostalgia goggles to review. In this instance, it’s not. I know this film does not have the same heart as the first outing, but it hits most beats for better or worse.

Cedric (Rob Schneider), Mr. Hector (Tim Curry), and Hestor Stone (Dana Ivey) all try to reason with Kevin McCallister. It doesn’t end well for them. Source: 20th Century Studios

One of the film’s standouts is the involvement of The Plaza Hotel. This sets up for us, the audience, that the hotel is about to be turned into Kevin’s playground with a new location for traps and setups. Tim Curry makes a fantastic foil for Kevin, who knows how to handle the humor and makes Mr. Hector as pompous ass we love to see taken down a peg. Even his co-workers (including Rob Schneider in prime SNL mode) are primed for an excellent old takedown from Kevin. Culkin is still great, as Kevin is a bit more snarky about himself this time. Unfortunately, this promise is only fulfilled in some ways. Yet, when it decides to head into prank mode, it ups the ante of the jokes, including an improved version of a joke from the first film. 

The shower scene to fool Mr. Hector is perfect, with Curry snooping only to be greeted by audio of Uncle Frank singing and yelling at him. He recoils in horror, and it is hilarious. Using the gangster movie to thwart the hotel workers is funny, even implying Mr. Hector gets around. The “Cliff” line will always make me laugh. It’s a retread but a more amusing take. All of them crawling on the floor at the sound of a Tommy gun makes me laugh every time, helped by Curry shouting, “There’s a madman with a gun! Go back to your rooms!” Curry, in his scenes, is fantastic but is given little to do thanks to the return of Pesci and Stern.

Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) sneak up on Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) once again. It also doesn’t end well them. Source: 20th Century Studios

Pesci and Stern are as fine as ever, with Stern staling the scenes again. Pesci seems to be going through the motion but has one hell of a run in 1992. This is the third Pesci role we’ve covered in this series, and his part of Harry holds a special place in my heart. This was the introduction to Pesci as a kid, as for many kids of the 90s. I mean, it’s not Tommy Devito in Goodfellas, but he still delivers. He and Stern play well against one another and have great comedic timing. It feels like they’ve been friends forever. Stern is the highlight, screaming in pain, ad-libbing when given a chance, and playing the humor. Their chemistry helps ease the pain of the traps they must endure.

The traps in this would kill an average person, but in Home Alone, the skies are the limit. Either Harry and Marv are godlike beings or something because, dear lord, they should be dead. Now, I’m not going to go into a rant about these traps like the dearly departed Roger Ebert, who hated the violence in the movie, writing, “The problem is, cartoon violence is only funny in cartoons.” The cartoon violence works for me personally because I don’t think anybody is going into Home Alone 2 expecting there to be anything but. Ebert writes, “Most of the live-action attempts to duplicate animation have failed because when flesh-and-blood figures hit the pavement, we can almost hear bone crunch and it isn’t funny.” I’d argue against this because, despite how extreme and far it goes in the violence, it’s closer to slapstick humor than anything on this side of Funny Games or Straw Dogs.

Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) realizes he is in New York with his dad’s credit card, ready to take on the Big Apple. Source: 20th Century Studios

Yet, the worst part of the movie is anything similar to the first film. Oh, hey, Kevin did something wrong. Fuller is drinking Coke now instead of Pepsi. Oh, the same old paint can gag. The same old villains and, hey, even an older scary figure that turns out to be sweet. Brand Fricker does a fine job, but it’s just the old man from the first movie. It’s a Wonderful Life is shown in Spanish instead of French. It’s a constant reminder of a much better film. It is a similar problem with Back to the Future Part II, which is nostalgic for the first Back to the Future. This is nostalgic for a film that came out only two years ago, repeating the same beat except for one part. There’s no John Candy replacement, though, but the producers might have had the restraint to hold back from doing that. It’s funny because both Lost in New York and its predecessor are played back-to-back on television all the time, which makes the comparisons even more apparent in a double feature form. Unfortunately, it lacks the sincerity and charm of the original. It’s still a fun watch, but definitely a step down into the “same thing, different day” premise of sequels.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York is a simplistic cut-and-paste sequel with seldom fun moments. It’s still a Christmas staple 30 years later, inseparable from the first installment. I get a kick out of it, even recognizing the flaws. 

Revue Rating: 3 out of 5

Next time, Spike Lee teams with cinematographer Ernest R. Dickerson for the last time to craft a masterwork with Denzel Washington in the powerful Spike Lee Joint Malcolm X.

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