Home Sweet Home Alone (2021)

“I’m not good at this.”

More painful than a blow torch to the head, a can of paint to the skull, or a nail to the heel of the foot, Home Sweet Home Alone basically remakes the 1990 holiday classic but is missing key ingredients. The kindness, the joy, the sweetness, that John Hughes effect.  And while I’m not sure I can call it the worst film of the year, it’s still so dreadful to sit through, and it goes to show that having likable characters who are capable of doing bad things is more important than having flat out mean characters who do awful things. I didn’t like a single soul in this wan and lazy attempt at a revival.

It’s the holidays, and Max Mercer (Archie Yates) is fed up with all the relatives running around the mansion. Dad is nowhere to be found, Mom (Aisling Bea, delivering the film’s only real performance) is on the phone with airlines, and everybody else just serves as another aggravation to Max. To the car with the iPad he goes, trying to drown out the noise in the massive garage. Home Sweet Home Alone follows the exact same story beats as the original film, but it never has those memorable moments either, and despite all of its attempts to rationalize the events, the movie never really feels believable. This dated story doesn’t translate to the internet era at any turn. They tried and failed.

The worst part of the film unsurprisingly revolves around the worst people in this picture. Jeff (Rob Delaney) and his wife Pam (Ellie Kemper) are desperate. They need to sell their house because he’s laid off, they’re too afraid to admit that to their children, and to make things worse, Jeff’s wealthy brother Hunter (Timothy Simons) and family come to crash the holidays, in what seems to be all to obviously inspired by Christmas Vacation. This is where the film truly goes off the rails. I’ve heard so many great things about his show Catastrophe, probably because of its relatability to his own experience, but Rob Delaney delivers the worst performance I’ve seen this year with a character who works in tech yet proclaims he doesn’t know how to clear his search history either. It feels like a poor Will Ferrell imitation being submitted as an SNL audition tape, and every moment is as cringeworthy as that sounds. His acting is painfully bad, as is Simons’ as the brother, and the cherry on top is the high pitched and always yelling Pete Holmes as Uncle Blake. I’ve seen them all act well before, including the youngster Yates. But this is brutally bad on all accounts.

What I found so off-putting is that the movie is meaner than it needs to be, that it makes little to no sense in terms of plotting and execution, and feels fraudulent in the way it tries to do a U-turn towards kindness in the final act. The writing is clumsy and so very shortsighted, the direction misguided, and the acting is an example of what not to do at nearly every turn. People were upset to not see Macaulay Culkin play a role in this one – I’ll bet Disney tried to reach out with a blank check – and if that was the case, I applaud him for not caving in and signing on. They might make another film to really honor and modernize his movies someday. But this sure as hell ain’t it.

“Maybe the Universe is trying to tell us something.”

Rating: 1 out of 5

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