Kevin is lost again, this time not in the house, but in the airport. It's a progress but seriously, what were the odds? Not too low when you consider the premise of a sequel making loads of money and capitalizing on the first opus' popularity.
But box-office considerations put aside, what's to think about the film? I guess it all comes down to one thing: someone who loves "Home Alone" will appreciate the sequel (subtitled "Lost in New York") because it didn't take too much distance from the original format. And someone who disliked the first opus will probably hate this one even more. The other possibility is to appreciate the first for its nostalgic value and while not denying that the second is a 90's comedy classic (as a continuation of the first), it's possible to have a few reservations.
"Lost in New York" reminds me of another sequel: "Gremlins 2", the same premise in the Big Apple setting, with little Gizmo as the same heartwarming leitmotif as Christmas in "Home Alone". But "Gremlins 2" was also notable for its change of tone and pace, compared with the original, too many goofy Gremlins and zany jokes made the film closer to a parody than a direct continuation. I believe "Home Alone 2" did the same, it really is over-the-top and goofier than the first (which says a lot) but it also displays an overdose of schmaltz and sappiness and in a weird and sneaky way, it does create some bizarre balance in the end.
The problem of "Home Alone 2" is that the film is really capable of mocking its own material in a edgy way, but these brilliant moments get drowned in an ocean of syrupy sentimentality and cartoon-like violence. When after losing their black sheep of a kid again, the parents go to the Police, they almost break into laughter when they say "at least we didn't lose one luggage", it's funny in a hilarious Simpson-like way because it's like they concede how awful their parenting is and it's so tragic it's actually risible. That was a hilarious moment. But there aren't many unfortunately as John Hughes, who wrote the script, was busier trying to recycle the original plot.
That would have been fine of course, especially the premise of a kid like Kevin, again brilliantly played by Macaulay Culkin, to spend some vacation in the most prestigious hotel in New York (and meet future President Trump). And when the staff is composed of Tim Curry, Dana Ivey (and even Rob Schneider) you know it's going to be fun. But there's a fine line between funny and ludicrous that the film crosses too many times even within the screwball universe it got us used to. I have a hard time believing that Curry would mistake an inflatable clown for a man. It's not a matter of contrivance but awkwardness, when the "old movie" shtick works again and the man on TV mentions "Cliff" and there's a staff member named the same, that's a contrivance that pays off.
Another moment of brilliance was the confrontation between the parents and the staff, "What kind of idiots do you have working here?" "The finest in New York City!" replies Dana Ivey with a triumphant smile in Curry and Schneider's faces, not realizing the joke is on them and when the confrontations ends with a slap on his face, you can almost taste the tear in Curry's eyes. When a writer is capable of such subtly funny moments, you regret that the film followed the same formula as the first and push it to most extreme levels. The best parts are all in the first part of the film, after that, it just goes too far for its own good.
I love a Good Christmas story but talk about overplaying it. All right, Kevin has a poignant conversation with a toy store owner who happens to have the same growl than James Stewart, it was so sappy I thought it would be revealed at the end that this guy was Santa Klaus. I understand the toy shop was pivotal to set up the final act and the moment with the kid is in the hospital important to establish that Kevin was mischievous but with a golden heart. Now, did we need that Bird Lady? Brenda Ficker plays "Shovel Man" counterpart very well but that exchange about the meaning of heart and all was quite overwritten. I couldn't believe Kevin would say that after what he said to his mother, and before what he did to Harry and Marvin.
Speaking of them, yes, they're the bad guys all right, we get it. But they undergo so much pain that I found the confrontation very hard to watch. In the first film, the house tricks lasted less than twenty minutes, it's almost twice longer in the sequel and they get the full treatment: bricks thrown from a hundred feet high, ropes soaked with kerosene, electrocution, and always that annoying sliding before falling on their back. Whoever told Hughes that seeing a man falling on his back was funny, it's cringe-worthy at best and no matter how bad they are, it really plays like a disproportionate retribution.
I know I'm reading too much, but there's another fine line between getting their comeuppance and being victim of a sadistic little brat that the film doesn't cross, it flies over it. Marvin screaming with the spider on his face was funny, seeing him scream in a Hitchcok's "Birds" remake was quite painful to watch.
"Home Alone 2" is fun and entertaining but the last part recycles the original's bits by overplaying their effect, sometimes I felt the sentimentality was like the bricks thrown at our face and the violence toward Harry and Marv made me feel more sorry for her than any bird lady or hospital kid.