Film: Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)
Director: Rod Daniel
Starring: French Stewart, Erick Avari, Michael Weinberg
Written by: Debra Frank, Steve L. Hayes
So there’s a story between me and this film that took place years before I actually watched it, and this may be my best display of customer service, ever. It happened on Christmas Eve, appropriately enough, and I was mopping up the last minute shoppers at my retail environment. The store phone rang, and the customer had one of the weirdest requests I’ve ever fielded. She was looking for Home Alone 4, and she had to have it. Her entire spiritual well-being, apparently, depended on it. Well, it was an ordeal tacking down the cultural artifact, a time in which she grew more and more frantic, but I found it at last – and when I did, she screamed, screamed, in delight.
I never expected anyone to be that excited about Home Alone 4.
Having finally watched this rapture-inducing film years later, I still don’t quite get it. Alongside a contrived divorce plot and a contrived royal kidnapping plot, a lot of the responsibility for this falls upon the shoulders of the child actor hired to battle the burglars. To his credit, young Michael Weinberg steps into the Kevin McCallister role and makes it his own, but the problem is that, while he’s by no means horrible, he’s no Macauley Culkin. What made the first two films in the Home Alone series work was Culkin’s wry and reluctant heroism. As unfair as this may be to say – especially concerning a movie that takes place on Christmas – Weinberg rushes through almost every scene as wide-eyed as a kid on Christmas.
Still, a few factors keep this from becoming a disaster sequel. Squinty-eyed French Stewart is a great fill-in as old Kevin Arnold Joe Pesci’s former henchman, whose latest bumbling caper involves his snarly new wife riding shotgun. Chief among the newcomers is the fussy and potentially sinister old butler of dad’s new girlfriend. As she descends from would-be stepmom to exasperated socialite, the butler, played by Erick Avari, becomes the film’s most realized character. Figuring out his agenda becomes the most interesting aspect of the film.
The final thing going for Home Alone 4 is the smart house which Kevin turns against Mr. Stewart and Company. While the core formula hasn’t much changed, the high-tech battleground plays with the template enough to give the film some inventiveness.
No, it doesn’t come close to matching the original, but Home Alone 4 is a perfectly serviceable sequel. I probably wouldn’t call up a store and scream its magnificence, but I’d watch it again without complaint.
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