It’s approaching the “holiday season” – as our transatlantic cousins would say – which brings with it a seemingly unavoidable viewing programme of saccharine, made-for-TV movies. These tend to veer wildly between “so bad it’s good” and absolute guff. They usually follow very specific formulas about overworked executives visiting small towns or a person completely changing their character as part of a Christmas miracle. 

The one thing that’s good about them, though, is that they don’t attempt to be anything they’re not. They’re not aiming for Oscars or seasonal status as a “classic”, because there’s so much nostalgia associated with the classic that they’re almost impossible to emulate. And that is precisely where Dan Mazer – who previously wrote for the two Borat movies and Da Ali G Show – falls down with his festive offering, Home Sweet Home Alone. 

Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell’s screenplay sees two narratives converge to create a new take on the 1990 family classic. Pam and Jeff McKenzie (played by Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney) are on the brink of losing everything and plan to sell their house in order to help their finances whilst Jeff is out of work. Max Mercer (Archie Yates) and his mum, Carol (Aisling Bea), stop by at their open house to use the bathroom. It is at this chance meeting that Jeff becomes convinced that Max has stolen a priceless family heirloom that could solve all their money problems. And the only way to get it back? To break into the Mercer home whilst everyone is holidaying in Tokyo for Christmas. There’s just one small issue … Max is – you guessed it – home alone. 

It would be really easy to spend this review knocking the film for not being as good as the original. But the problem is, there are so many elements here that are identical to the original – not knowing nods, just absolutely ripped right off – that it’s really hard to judge it on its own merit. The 1990 Home Alone had jokes for the adults and the kids. This one resorts to fart jokes and over-explanation about Cloud software. 

The set-up – a crowded house full of cousins about to embark on a big holiday – is identical. Carol has a breakdown at an airport desk in a camel-coloured coat. The McKenzie’s daughter sings in the church choir (they’re even singing O Holy Night). Max wishes he was the only one left in his family thanks to constant ribbing and feeling out of place. There’s a visit to Santa’s grotto and a run past a giant outdoor nativity scene. 

 “I don’t know why they’re always trying to remake the classics. They’re never as good as the original” Pete Holmes’ character remarks, whilst watching a sci-fi remake of Angels With Dirty Faces. It’s the most self-aware, unironic moment in the entire film. 

John Debney’s score borrows heavily from John Williams’ original work, which does give older viewers a lovely burst of nostalgia, but it’s not enough to elevate the entire film. Another little nod to those who have seen the original is the cameo appearance by Devin Rattray, reprising his role as Buzz McAllister, as the policeman who is sent to check on Max whilst he is home alone. It’s a fun skit, but probably one that will be wasted on the target audience.

Archie Yates is far too precocious in the lead role – seriously, like one of those annoying kids from Outnumbered. He’s not particularly charming or sympathetic. When he’s displaying his vulnerability, he’s at his best. But, otherwise the character is really bland. Much has been made of Aisling Bea’s accent but, on the whole, it’s fine. It’s a generic “British” accent and is, quite frankly, the least of the issues here. The rest of the cast is made up of a Who’s Who of American TV comedies – everyone from Kemper and Delaney to Keenan Thomson and Chris Parnell – but sadly none of them are allowed to flex their comedic chops. 

Home Sweet Home Alone also takes its sweet time in actually getting to the home invasion situation which, let’s be honest, is what we’re all here for. You’ll get nearly an hour into the ninety-minute runtime before it all kicks off. And, in this case, it’s really hard to side with Max. Pam and Jeff are portrayed as a sympathetic case until this point. They’re losing their family home and are struggling to provide their kids with a good Christmas. Do we really want to laugh at them being pelted with bags of flour or snooker balls? It just doesn’t make sense to demand you invest your emotions with these characters only to turn them into fools. 

This is a film that is devoid of any of the charm or fun of its predecessor. The ending ties everything up in a neat, little festive bow but doesn’t pack an emotional punch. The film is included in the Disney+ package though, so that’s one thing to be grateful for. A Christmas miracle indeed. 

Rating: ★½

Home Sweet Home Alone is now streaming on Disney+

Director: Dan Mazer
Writer: Streeter Seidell, Mikey Day
Cast: Archie Yates, Rob Delaney, Ellie Kemper, Kenan Thompson, Aisling Bea