Roughly two months after my 9th birthday, in 1992, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York opened in theaters, with Macaulay Culkin reprising the role that made him a kid star. In this classic tale of child abandonment reframed as a family-friendly holiday classic, Culkin plays Kevin McAllister, a resourceful 8-year-old who’s accidentally left behind while his family jets off to Paris, of all places, for Christmas. In the process of rushing to catch their flight, the fam completely forgets their youngest at their home in Chicago. Thus the madness begins. Kevin is fine at first (in fact, he’s fine throughout the whole movie) and proceeds to have a blast without his negligent parents and annoying siblings—he also manages to fend off two of the stupidest burglars alive, played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. By the time his family returns, everything is all good, he’s still alive, the house is fine, and the moral of the story is that family is sometimes nice to have around.
Since this plot worked out well the first time, the Home Alone sequel is much the same. Kevin is left alone yet again, but this time winds up in Manhattan, able to scam his way into a luxury hotel, and the exact same burglars return. All this strange logic makes for a classic film full of joy, mischief, and the magic of Christmas. Because I’d seen Home Alone 2 multiple times over the past 26 years—and Ashley Reese had not—we decided to watch it and discuss. Do we even need to say Merry Christmas, you filthy animals?
CLOVER: I can’t remember if you’ve seen the first Home Alone, but the reason we’re doing the second one is because it is superior. People, including myself, delight in watching it every year multiple times as a holiday tradition, whether it’s the whole movie, both movies, or just certain scenes.
The main idea is that this is kid is not only the ultimate scammer; he’s a tech prodigy who’s able to outwit stupid adult criminals using clever booby traps. As far as his being home alone, I remember watching the movie as a kid and wondering, What’s the problem...? Because I was left home alone all the time. This is also one of those old movies with a plot that would never work in 2018 because people have cell phones. Now, Kevin can just tell Alexa to call his mom and say, “You forgot me.”
I’ve seen Home Alone and Home Alone 2 at least a thousand times, if not more, as I’m sure many people have, except you. How?
ASHLEY: So I was convinced that I saw the first Home Alone because, I mean, I figured everyone in my generation has seen it. I’m 28-years-old—why should I be an exception? But as soon as I started watching Home Alone 2, I realized that none of the characters were familiar to me. I’d remember a family that irritating. I’ve been coasting on pop culture references for decades now, I guess. And GIFs, definitely GIFs.
If I saw Home Alone, I certainly didn’t retain much. But I can say with certainty that I’ve never seen Home Alone 2. I’ve only seen that GIF of Kevin eating pizza in the limo. That’s all.
CLOVER: I feel as though you would remember seeing the first one, but it’s hard for me to even imagine a world without Home Alone references. So you watched the second one. What did you think of the premise and was it enjoyable? I will say, I’m not sure what I would’ve thought if I first watched it as an adult, though I probably would’ve liked it either way.
ASHLEY: Clover, I have so many mixed feelings about this movie! I think I would definitely have enjoyed it more if I watched it as a kid, a conclusion I mostly came to toward the end when Kevin was violently sabotaging the burglars whose lives he already ruined in the first movie (I connected the dots). I’m not really squeamish, but I was checked out by the time a second brick fell on Marv’s (the tall, dimwitted one’s) head. Falling through the floors, getting hit in the face with pipes, the explosions… I don’t know, it was a lot.
But here’s what I will say: I went into this movie thinking I was going to hate Kevin and think he was an annoying little brat. I ended up rooting for him from the jump because I felt like he deserved to enact revenge against his awful family and ball out around NYC. The kid is brilliant. I just wish he was a better tipper.
Can we please talk about Kevin’s family? I HATED THEM!
CLOVER: I am laughing at the thought of you traumatized by Kevin’s booby traps, sorry. I guess it is a lot of physical comedy that appeals to kids. Like, haha he got hit in the face with a brick! Or, look at those dummies! The movie hinges heavily on the fact that you’ll laugh at the burglars’ misfortunes, and you have to suspend disbelief that two people (even men) could possibly be that stupid twice in a row and be outmatched by a child. It’s a lot of stupid humor. You’re supposed to root for Kevin since we’re watching the movie from his perspective, as if we are him. Not to get all film school, but I do think it’s rare to see a good movie that’s shot that well from the child’s perspective. You also have to suspend disbelief that the parents could be that careless. What did you hate about them?
ASHLEY: Yeah, I’ve never seen a live-action movie that felt so much like watching an old, violent Looney Tunes cartoon. The physical comedy was very good; it just became a lot very quickly. I cannot believe these dudes fell for it again.
And okay, I took a lot of notes when I was watching the movie and looking back on them, perhaps I was a little too aggressive. These notes included the following: “This family fucking sucks”; “These parents are deeply irresponsible” ; “WTF is that the kid from The Adventures of Pete and Pete?” ; “I’m so happy the family is having a miserable time [on their rainy, Florida vacation], it’s what they deserve.” I was just not able to suspend my disbelief adequately because I was so frustrated by the benign neglect of the parents. I ended up being okay with the mom toward the end, but that family is wack, man. Especially Kevin’s older brother Buzz. When he played that little prank on Kevin in the middle of Kevin’s Christmas pageant solo, I couldn’t believe that the entire audience busted out laughing. It wasn’t funny!!!!!!!!! Leave Kevin alone!!!!!!!!!!
This movie was successful in making me, an adult, feel full of righteous indignation on Kevin’s behalf. I’m glad he stood up for himself when he got into trouble for punching Buzz in retaliation. Fight the power, lil dude.
CLOVER: It is very much like the conceit of Bugs Bunny or the Road Runner. Your read of the parents seems very 2018, though. I think their negligence was something that was, like, on my mind while watching it but not a hindrance to enjoying it. People are thinking a little too practically about this.
ASHLEY: Yeah I’m loathe to admit that I’m basically those tweets the Daily Mail highlighted. I definitely think it’s the result of watching it as an adult. Because it wasn’t a cartoon (or some kind of fantasy/action movie), I kept getting nervous about the burglars getting maimed. And I was also like, “How are these cops not giving these parents a hard time for losing their kid twice? Damn, white people really got it good.”
CLOVER: Let’s go through the plot: Kevin stays in a luxury hotel where Donald Trump makes a cameo. He implausibly gets away with using his parents’ credit card to charge to the room. The burglars find him again. My favorite character, the bird lady, saves the day.
ASHLEY: I loved that Kevin did a little credit card fraud during his stay at the Plaza hotel.
CLOVER: Lock him up.
ASHLEY: The scene with Kevin eating the pizza in the limo is so iconic, but his room service game is really under-appreciated. I got so hungry watching him eat that ice cream sundae. He really was living a kid’s dream, and I loved it. When you’re little, getting room service at a hotel seems like the most luxurious, amazing thing on the fucking planet. As an adult, it’s just like, “$25 for the continental breakfast? Nah, we’re getting a McMuffin.”
I was a little surprised that this movie had Kevin dealing with two groups of antagonists: the burglars and Plaza Hotel staff, most notably Tim Curry as Mr. Hector. Curry was brilliant and honestly scared me more than the dudes with the guns. LOOK AT HIM.
CLOVER: A true Cheshire-cat villain.
ASHLEY: Can I just say that the Trump cameo, naturally, repulsed me. I heard that Trump basically bullied his way into cameos, telling producers that if they wanted to use one of his buildings, he had to have a part written for him.
I really didn’t like the random pigeon lady at first because I thought she was just another stand in for The Big City Is So Big And Bad And Dirty. I mean, the movie did a lot of that in the scene in which she was introduced (some prostitutes jeer at Kevin at some point, which, LOL, such a throwback to Old Bad New York I guess).
But the movie once again defied my expectations and I ended up thinking she was rad. My heart swelled when Kevin gave her the other half of his pair of turtle doves. And she sic’d the pigeons on the bad guys at the end! Wow. My Irish bird queen. I still think that having that many pigeons on your person is gross, but hey.
Clover, what was it about this movie that you liked so much when you were younger? Are there things about it that you’ve only started to appreciate as an adult?
CLOVER: I think it was mainly the idea of Christmas in New York and how magical that can be for a child. It’s like the city of lights gets even more lit around this time of year, plus you get to go ham in toy stores, and there really is a certain joyous spirit—at least back then when I was young and innocent—in a city that usually seems cold and cruel. This kid gets to experience that joy on his own and live it up, and he makes it through, so maybe it’s inspiring? Because if you can make it here…
I also just really enjoy a good cheesy Christmas classic. I recently watched The Christmas Chronicles on Netflix, which features a scene with elves flossing and I liked it. The thing is, I don’t necessarily see Home Alone as cheesy. It manages to be timeless without being hokey and completely captures the charm of Christmas. I mean, look at this scene where he waves at a little boy sitting in the window and then says, “You can mess with a lot of things, but you can’t mess with kids on Christmas,” and then he goes about setting all those intricate traps!
He really was a little superhero for this made-up consumerist holiday.
What was your favorite scene? Will you watch this movie every Christmas from now on?
ASHLEY: That makes sense. The film does a good job of capturing a little New York magic. I can definitely see that resonating, especially since you’re a New York native.
(Speaking of New York, though... I can’t get over him looking out the window at the airport and seeing the Manhattan skyline immediately in front of him afhieowhpfiahwofiawf)
I think I enjoyed the moments when he was trolling the Plaza staff best. Those were the moments that I actually laughed out loud. Like when Kevin used the blow-up clown as a stand in for his father taking a shower and used the audio of his uncle to scare off Mr. Hector. And also the moment when Kevin used the audio from the Made-for-Home-Alone old-timey gangster movie as part of his grand escape from the Plaza Hotel. I died. The kid, he’s too good.
By the way, I only realized that this was a nod to the first movie, like, two seconds ago upon watching a video detailing all the plot points that don’t make sense in Home Alone. He used the same gangster movie audio to scare off a pizza boy in the first movie??? This kid is wild.
I’ve gotta say, I’m bereft of holiday movies I watch annually. Maybe it’s because I’m not crazy about most of them? I watched Love Actually for the first time a few years ago and was horrified.
I literally just watch It’s a Wonderful Life on NBC every Christmas Eve, cry, and call it a wrap. But I might be open to throwing this movie into the mix. Maybe just a supercut of my favorite parts though. I really do stan Kevin, the little snot.
CLOVER: And now Home Alone 2 is part of your holiday canon. It’s weird to write about it now, having experienced it when I was younger and before I was a journalist/critic/writer who couldn’t help but view movies critically. Certainly, it’s more nostalgia than cinema. This nugget from Roger Ebert, who gave the movie a 2-star review in 1992, is funny:
I didn’t much like the first film, and I don’t much like this one, with its sadistic little hero who mercilessly hammers a couple of slow-learning crooks. Nor did I enjoy the shameless attempt to leaven the mayhem by including a preachy subplot about the Pigeon Lady of Central Park. Call me hardhearted, call me cynical, but please don’t call me if they make “Home Alone 3.”
I’ve never thought of this franchise as anything more or less than a perfect Christmas movie.