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Movie of the Day: Home Alone 3 (1997)

01 Mar

HomeAlone3

The problem with turning out sequels to Home Alone is that that the original concept is not exactly something that you can build on.  Here you have a premise of a kid left home alone who has to use physical stunts and painful booby traps to defend the house from adults who want to do him harm.  That’s not exactly an epic idea.  It wasn’t a thoroughly ingenious concept for the first one and the sequels only make it worse.

Home Alone 3 reeks of desperation.  Every element that made the other two films endearing to kids is gone and has been replaced by insufficient copies.  Gone are the entire original cast, Macaulay Culkin is now an adult and wisely turned down an offer to make this movie.  Gone are Joe Peschi and Daniel Stern who obviously have better things to do.  What remains is a name-only sequel – a remake really – that offers no hints of what turned Home Alone into the best-selling comedy of all time.

Culkin has been replaced by a new kid, Alex D. Linz, a cute little mop-top who probably has screen presence but, for me, is nothing more than your standard Hollywood acting kid.  Linz plays Alex Pruitt, a different kid who lives in the same kind of suburban Chicago neighborhood with a smaller family (mom, dad, a brother and a sister, who is played by Scarlett Johannson), and an even smaller house.  As the movie opens, he gets the chicken pox, which never seems to spread beyond a few small red dots on his neck.  He’s one of those kids fused with ingenuity and a room loaded with every toy imaginable, including his own telescope and a large pet mouse named Doris.

The outside forces that invade Alex’s space come from four all-star professional criminals who are tracking a computer chip that they have stolen from a North Korean terrorist group.  In an effort to get it past airport security, they hide it inside a remote controlled car and put it inside a shopping bag.  At the metal detector, the bag is mistakenly picked up by an elderly woman who takes it home.  The crooks track her to her neighborhood but can’t locate the toy car.  That means they will have to search them all one by one.

Alex spots the crooks through his telescope and, unlike Culkin’s character, at least has the sense to call the cops right away.  The crooks make a break for it before the cops can show up, and that leads to two irritating scenes in which Alex is able to identify the perpetrators AND their car, but the adults are too stupid to do anything but warn him about making phony phone calls . . . twice!

As the crooks zero in on Alex, he decides that he has to take care of things himself and that leads to a long, very long, third act in which he sets up a large series of booby traps that include bricks to the head, shots to groin, electrocution, break-away floors, and even a runaway lawnmower.  Those scenes are sheer torture, they  go on and on and on and on until you just want to wave a white flag.  Much to my pain and suffering, as I sat through Home Alone 3, I could imagine that no movie this bad could possibly spawn a Home Alone 4.  We’ll see.

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