Welcome to The Twelve Ways of Christmas, where we discuss holiday films you’ve already seen or never plan on watching.
Why not, right? Every other damn movie site’s doing it, and since when is giving in to peer pressure a bad thing? With little rhyme or reason, check in every day from now until The Day That Must Not Be Named for a new entry. And Happy Kwanzaa.
Two in one? This isn’t a cop out. Like this feature’s poorly riffed on namesake, Home Alone II actually features a prominent reference to TWO TURTLE DOVES as an emotional anchor. As in from the 12 Days of Christmas? Damn, I’m good.
Say what you will about the weird uberviolence of John Hughes’ script. Pick on Daniel Stern or Joe Pesci for hamming up their performances. Or if you’re that heartless, you could even rip Macaulay’s less than okay acting skills. But I will be damned if Home Alone isn’t a fantastic Christmas movie. Whether it’s Kevin MacAllister’s ingenius trap-setting skills, or his uncanny ability to top burglar pursuers with snarkier, quotable comebacks. Maybe it’s simply that same gift-wrapped sociopathy found in Bad Santa or director Chris Columbus’s knack for handling the maudlin mother-son moments. Or maybe it’s John Williams’ haunting yet soothing main theme. Honestly, with the Christmas music market as tired and overstuffed as it is, Williams deserves credit for finding a recognizable melody that sounds as old and time-honored as it was in 1990.
Home Alone, if it excels at nothing else, does a damn good job of juggling horrible, death-defying booby traps and suburban America’s naivete toward traditional family values. (Seriously, is anyone else getting sick of this recurring theme? Annoying.)
Still, something’s… off in the original Home Alone, where “Have Yourself a Merry Little Chritsmas” plays over a young boy at a window, as the two burglars he’s just finished beating are towed off in squad cars. By the time Catherine O’Hara shows up for the big hug and bigger musical swell, the whole experience feels endearing and funny and well, jarring, Its tone is all over the place — perfect for a “family comedy without the family,” but problematic in its aftertaste.
Lost in New York fixes all that, by going louder, funnier, and bigger.
Kevin, now a year older and removed from his abandonment in Chicago, gets mixed up at the airport and misses his family’s flight to Florida, instead getting on a plane to the Big Apple. Ah well. It’s not like Florida has Christmas trees anyway.
Kevin’s disgust at the idea of decorating a palm tree actually makes Lost in New York more of a Christmas movie. Just as the original became a family film in the absence of one, Lost in New York holds a fondness for holiday essentials: Christmas trees and cold weather go hand in hand, right? Not to mention Kevin’s weird adult mentor triangle between Mr. Duncan and Brenda Fricker’s “Bird Lady” really lays on the yuletide schmaltz. Fricker satisfies the now required discussion of FAMBLY, and Duncan’s Toy Chest just so happens to be the same store Marv and Harry are holding up at midnight. Perfect.
Lost in New York does for children on the holidays what The Goonies did for nerds: gives them a patron saint that kicks ass. Kevin MacAllister is the brick-throwing avenger who dares you to mess with kids on Christmas. And the dickish opportunism of Pesci’s vendetta against Kevin, for nabbing the
Wet Sticky Bandits the year prior, makes us want them to suffer all the more.
Well, they do suffer. Lost in New York is every much the pillar of heightened sequeldom it gets ripped for, but that’s not a weakness. It’s a strength. The tonal problems of the original are gone because Kevin’s a year older, a year wiser and even more of a smart ass. (As a child who was repeatedly reprimanded for shouting “I’m down here ya big horse’s ass!” I stand by this.) The traps Kevin sets even seem bigger, as a renovated New York apartment building offers far more destructive opportunities than the MacAllister’s Chicago palace.
Lost in New York’s shining gold star moment happens when Kevin lures his two favorite burglars to his house of horrors. The simple negotiation of Kevin’s camera, which holds incriminating photos of their Toy Chest break-in, is executed without any elaborate staple gun rig or tool chest set-up. All it takes is bricks and a little bullshit to execute the strongest scene in the film, in the series really. Kevin’s… tumultuous relationship with Marv and Harry plays out in smart-mouthed, quick-witted fashion. That fact that Marv should’ve been dead twice over from the head trauma is besides the point. It’s a rare moment devoid of elaborate flash, one that bothers to tease the familiarity between two idiot convicts and the kid who put them away.
There’s a micro-sized version of epicness in the original Home Alone, when Kevin dashes home for the trap-settin’ as Williams’ Carol of the Bells rendition booms over it. In its sequel, Christmas becomes more than a great musical cue; New York is a gigantic playground for a kid you just don’t want to mess with. Christmas Eve doesn’t get much more legendary than a punk boy, armed with a camera and a 2×4, who’s ready to stop two morons from robbing a toy store at the stroke of midnight. Lost in New York doesn’t go too far. It goes as far as the original premise needs to. It’s a snot-nosed packaged of kerosene-soaked goodness, placed under the tree, in a spot reserved for only the most hardened of troutsniffers. Game on.
Way #1: Christmas Carol: The Movie
Way #2: The Santa Clause
Way #3: Die Hard
Way #4: Bad Santa
Way #5: The Family Man