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Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)

by on 2011/12/28

“So what else is new?”

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Although he’s most strongly associated with his hometown of Chicago, John Hughes set a surprising number of his stories in New York, and just about as many at Christmastime. The (ahem) driving force behind the Vacation series added Home Alone 2: Lost in New York to a small pool of holiday favourites between Planes, Trains and Automobiles in 1987 and Miracle on 34th Street in 1994.

The first Home Alone did not take place in the Big Apple. The hero’s family left him at home for France. This time, ten year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) goes along with them, but boards the plane for New York instead of Miami. Self-indulgence and sadism ensues. The good times eventually give their ground to foiling a certain pair of bandits (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) before his parents track him through credit card use.

Despite my own painful memories of crisscrossing Manhattan’s streets, the movie’s landmarks made this seasonal favourite more familiar and fun. The city is practically a character itself, with Hughes jumping the narrative around unique locations which don’t just serve as backdrops. Central Park, Rockefeller Center, and Times Square all play vital parts, as do the toy stores, concert halls, and roadside tables.

Another novel wrinkle on the otherwise carried-on template is the introduction of a hotel staff, adding Eloise-like predicaments. (In fact, the hotel is same in both, The Plaza.) A receptionist (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ Dana Ivey), a bell boy (50 First Dates’ Rob Schneider), and a concierge (Rocky Horror Picture Show’s Tim Curry), join a cast whose other new faces essentially fill similar previous roles

(Speaking of which, if you’re fond of cameos, see if you can spot Ally Sheedy.)

If you know the series well, you might find small variations, some successful, some less so, but none of them overwhelming one way or the other.

For instance, I noticed an interesting tendency to linger on victim “preactions”. When Pesci or Stern are about to get hurt, brief instants of dreadful quietude are inserted ahead of moments of impact. The villains are clearly aware they’ll be terribly hurt. Stern frantically watches a brick’s descent, and Pesci puzzles through an underfoot see-saw, or pathetically whimpers “No!” before struck by cast iron. Whether noticed by viewers consciously or not, I can imagine this choice being divisive.

Another decision — one I don’t agree with — was the talk between Kevin and the Roberts-Blossom-surrogate pigeon lady (So I Married an Axe Murderer’s Brenda Fricker). The actors themselves performed beyond reproach, but neither side of their conversation really had much to do with the other. They’re written as if delivering unrelated soliloquies. Then, in stark contrast to the rest of her bearing, she winds down by advising him to “follow the star in your heart”. Barf.

However, I can only nitpick by forcing myself. I genuinely like this piece, and it makes me a bit sad to think of how it was originally met with hostility. To this day, Home Alone 2 has won too few supporters. I wish it had found an appreciative audience while John Hughes was still around. His death in Manhattan only makes the regret more ironic.

To enjoy Home Alone but fault Lost in New York strikes me as unfair and churlish. Yes, it will all seem very familiar, and yet you’re likely to be the audience, unless you didn’t want more of the same. Nearly every beat is echoed: the players, the plot, and production. And what worked before — more often than not — works again.

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Rated G (Canada) / PG (United States)

120 minutes

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