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At-A-Glance Film Reviews

Home Alone 2: Lost In New York (1992)



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I liked roughly three quarters of Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. Unlike the original, this film is a straight kids' fantasy. Securely fastened within the genre, plot contrivances that would otherwise be problematic aren't any trouble at all. So what if the manner in which Macaulay Culkin's character is separated from his family is unbelievable. So what if, in a city of eight million, the two crooks he runs into just happen to be the same two from the original film. So what if the kid is wiser than any of the adults in the ways of human psychology? Childrens' fiction isn't about realism in the world so much as realism of the heart. There isn't a kid in the world who doesn't fantasize about being a hero in the big bad scary world, defeating the badguys, and earning the debt of gratitude from nice people. Home Alone 2 appeals to exactly those sensibilities.

What doesn't work -- and, indeed, what sinks the film -- is the astonishingly unfunny showdown with villains Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Granted, little in the movie is outright funny, but much of it is amusing. The amusement ground to an abrupt halt once the slapstick antics began. The analogous sequence in the first film was not as funny as it tried to be either, but it had its moments. This time, it induces wincing and cringing by the score and not one smile.

The violence is all cartoon-style, to the point where, when someone is electrocuted, there are flashes of the skeleton beneath the flesh, true to the conventions of Wile E. Coyote cartoons. But what's funny in animation doesn't necessarily work in live action, and Home Alone 2 is a great illustration of this.

Still, there are some small, simple pleasures to be had. Tim Curry is delightful as always in the supporting role of a suspicious hotel manager, but the shining moment for me was a scene with Eddie Bracken, one of my favorite comic actors from the 1940s. Here, although his comic talents are untapped, he is every bit as lovable as he was back then.

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