It’s okay, I can probably guess what you’re thinking.
‘Home Alone 2? But what about the first one?!‘
Honestly, I accept that it isn’t the best film in the world, but frankly I just don’t care about the ratings; as far as I’m concerned, Rotten Tomatoes and Roger Ebert can criticise it all they like, but I’m still going to watch it year after year.
Equally, having recently refreshed my memory of Home Alone, I accept that the sequel has probably been written off by so many people because it’s essentially a shameless copy of the first film, just shot in a different location. So why do I love it so much?
My fondness for it comes from watching the advert-infested, slightly fuzzy version of it with mum that she had taped for me on VHS when it was first shown on UK television. I inherited her fascination with New York, and every time I watch the film I still feel a flutter in my stomach as Kevin arrives in the city and marvels at its buildings and streets.
I don’t just love it because of the nostalgia though. I know Home Alone 2 isn’t particularly clever – but Kevin McCallister is. For a kid that comes from an obviously affluent and privileged background where the only real challenge he faces is his irritating older brother Buzz, he does very well to survive ‘alone in New York’ (although I admit that being armed with his dad’s credit card does help). I found his character genuinely inspirational and admired his sense of empathy and ability to be independent. Equally, it’s difficult not to enjoy the fact that he’s still ‘just a kid’ who wants to eat enormous pizzas all to himself and bask undisturbed on a kingsize bed watching violent films and shovelling down ice cream.
Given Kevin’s background, it would be all too easy to view this film through a lens totally preoccupied with class and wealth, but Kevin’s character just doesn’t live up to the ‘poor little rich kid’ stereotype. His irresponsible spending isn’t surprising; he’s only ten years old after all. His confidence never strays into arrogance, and he goes to extreme lengths to expose the Christmas Eve break-in at Duncan’s Toy Chest, finally ensuring that the reproachable ‘Sticky Bandits’ are caught and arrested.
Most of all though, I love the interactions Kevin has with other people throughout the film. In my opinion, whilst his mischief messing with the minds of the staff in the Plaza Hotel is highly amusing, his brief friendship with the ‘pigeon lady’ is what gives the film its lasting poignancy and memorability. The film provides an insightful and timeless treatment of homelessness which is as a relevant now as it was in 1992 when it was released.
Initially wary of the pigeon lady due to her unusual appearance and demeanour, Kevin realises that although she leads a very different life to anyone he’s ever encountered, she is a warm, loving person whose emotional circumstances once caused her to fall out of step with ‘normal’ life and society. The most touching scene takes place in the loft above Carnegie Hall, when she admits to Kevin that it has been ‘a couple of years’ since she’s spoken to anybody, and the lonely reality of living on the streets becomes clear. Kevin’s innocent honesty and straight talking encourages the pigeon lady to see herself the way others see her, and through Kevin’s eyes we are forced to acknowledge homelessness and its victims rather than conveniently forgetting they exist.
The final scene is equally brilliant. Successfully avoiding a cringeworthy fairytale ending where the pigeon lady suddenly wins the lottery or is invited to move in with Kevin’s family, it satisfies viewers with a moment where a ten year old child donates a turtle dove and a promise of friendship to a fellow human being who has been lost, left behind and ignored for years. It’s the perfect example of empathy and kindness, demonstrating how a few interactions between totally different people can mutually enhance their lives and alter their perspectives.
Home Alone 2 is excellent fun, serious when it needs to be and hilarious when it doesn’t. That said, what I love about it the most is that lurking beneath the exaggerated violence and dramatic shots of New York are themes of love, friendship and bravery. It sends that overused and ancient message that ‘Christmas is a time to do good deeds and reach out to others’, but it does so with such sincerity that it doesn’t make you wince.
Dir: Chris Columbus
Scr: John Hughes
Cast: Macauley Culkin, Tim Curry, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O’Hara, Tim Curry, John Heard, Brenda Fricker
Prd: John Hughes
DOP: Julio Macat
Music: John Williams
Runtime: 120 minutes