“Home Alone” is the holiday movie gift that just keeps on giving. At least, that’s what the purveyors of “Home Alone: Holiday Heist” seem to be hoping as they trot out the shopworn and highly repetitive fifth movie (this time, made for TV) in this formulaic lone-kid-fends-off-inept-burglars series.
The 1990 original, which made a star of young Macaulay Culkin and became a pop-culture benchmark in the impressive career of writer and adolescent specialist John Hughes, is truly a Christmas classic. But in spinning off four progressively pale sequels, successive producers have pushed the law of diminishing returns to the breaking point.
“Holiday Heist,” which even rips off the iconic “scream” pose from the original poster, is simply a cartoonish retread of all the series’ now-tired conventions. Surprisingly though, it has attracted a once-promising director in Peter Hewitt (“Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey,” “The Borrowers”) and a slumming cast of name actors that includes Malcolm McDowell, Debi Mazar and Ed Asner.
Christian Martyn who at 13 seems a little long in the tooth to be playing a 10-year-old, stars as young Finn Baxter, a California kid who is reluctantly uprooted when his mom (Ellie Harvey) gets a new job and moves the family to craggy, frigid Maine. As Finn and his older sister Alexis (Jodelle Ferland) settle into their chilly, rambling new house, Finn becomes convinced that the place is haunted by the ghost of a one-legged bootlegger who was supposedly murdered there.
As it turns out, there is a pretty scary presence hidden away in a secret room in the basement – an eerie, valuable painting done by famed Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (“The Scream”) that has become the target of a trio of skulking burglars (McDowell, Mazar and Eddie Steeples).
So when Finn’s parents leave the kids home alone to attend a Christmas party, well, if you’ve seen any of the four previous movies, you know what happens.
The pitting of resourceful young Finn and his intricate array of booby traps against the trio of burglar boobs sets off the expected array of cringe-inducing pratfalls and painfully violent slapstick. As usual, Finn’s Rube-Goldberg traps entail far more sophisticated engineering than any 10-year-old could ever muster. But, of course, the fantasy premise here trumps all logic and the kid-versus-mean-adults gimmick takes precedence. Even as predictable as it all is, there are a few guilty – or maybe nostalgic – laughs to be had from the comic mayhem.
But, by and large, the only potential viewers who might be surprised or delighted by this rehash are youngsters who’ve never seen the previous incarnations. And they would be better served by popping a DVD of the first “Home Alone” into the player and enjoying Kevin’s original matching of wits with the famed and funny “wet burglars.”
- Dennis King