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Home Alone 4 (2002)

(aka: Home Alone: Taking Back the House)



Reviews and Comments

Plot formulas become formulas because, when done right, they work. Home Alone 4, however, is a prime example of how completely they fail in the absence of thought and sound character development. It cycles forcibly through a clumsy hybrid of the Other Woman formula and the formula established by the first three films in the series (never mind that this time, the kid is technically not ever left at home alone).

Strangely, this fourth film features the McCallister family and one of the two villains from the first two Home Alone films, despite that none of the original actors reprise their roles. Home Alone 3 did nicely with a new set of characters -- why force the old ones upon us when it means accepting new faces? It's a useless distraction.

The Other Woman part of the story goes like this: Kevin McCallister's parents are getting divorced; his father has just gotten engaged to a socialite who lives in a "smart house," where everything is automated. No longer need one fuss with the inconvenience of door knobs -- all you do is say, "Door Open!" or "Door Close!" into an electronic device, and the door swings automatically. The idea of an automated house has interesting, if not quite intriguing, possibilities for the series, but it's an idea criminally underexplored.

But back to the Other Woman subplot. This is the worst recycling of this plot formula I've ever seen. You know how it goes. Because the new woman enjoys social events and doesn't enjoy decorating her own Christmas tree, she'll inevitably be unmasked (to Kevin and the audience first, and her betrothed last) as a heartless, shallow snob who hates children. The man, meanwhile, will become disillusioned and suddenly remember that he loves his ex-wife and a modest lifestyle after all.

It's all done so ineptly, first and foremost because, actually, the Other Woman really isn't all that bad after all. She has a vicious little speech with Kevin, but in a way it's understandable, and she never does anything else that's really bad. Yet the film assumes the audience shares its delight at humiliating her in the end with one grievous loss after another, not the least being Kevin's father dumping her and getting back with his wife, despite that not one thing has happened (from his perspective) to trigger such an abrupt change of perspective. These characters are undisguised slaves to a plot they just weren't made for.

You might think I'm spending a little too much time dwelling on the film's handling of divorce when, after all, it's a kid's movie whose primary focus is on slapstick comedy. Well, the film itself dwells on it overmuch, and when it does so in such a lamebrained way, how can I let it slide?

If only the slapstick did make amends! But this is the least funny of all the Home Alone movies. As I mentioned before, the possibilities presented by the automated house are relatively untapped. What few gags there are with the various mechanical toys are just plain dumb. One involves a shower where water sprays from the walls out into the room with firehose force, flooding the entire floor with six inches of water in a matter of seconds. Another involves a bookcase that spins around and becomes a fully stocked bar on the command "open sesame" and spins around and around and around and around ridiculously fast on the command "maximum speed sesame," because, after all, if you're going to install a revolving bookcase bar, might as well throw in centrifuge functionality.

So, yeah, the badguys get beat up in various stupid ways, up to and including a reenactment of the famous chandelier scene from The War of the Roses (you know, to amuse all those The War of the Roses fans that would be watching Home Alone 4), and it all ends happily, primarily because said ending comes a scant 83 minutes after the opening credits.

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