Why Home Alone 2 is the perfect sequel

In his video "The Day Alien Died", YouTuber Adam Tinius highlighted the five major steps to creating a good sequel in relation to James Cameron's Aliens. When I think of sequels that remain as enjoyable as - or even surpass - the original, I think of films like Terminator 2: Judgement Day, The Dark Knight and Toy Story 2. In my mind, each of these do exactly what they set out to accomplish, while also following the five steps that Tinius mentions in his video:

1. Give the audience something new
2. Identify what worked and build off of it
3. Change the stakes
4. Add new memorable characters
5. Play with expectations

With it being the Christmas season, I took the time to a watch a few of my festive favourites again. Besides Gremlins and my annual rewatching of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy, I sat down with my family and went through the first two entries of the Home Alone franchise.
Directed by Chris Columbus and written by John Hughes, the original Home Alone was released in 1990 and has remained a cult classic with many families over the years since. It featured rising child star Macaulay Culkin in the role of Kevin McAllister, who is mistakenly left home alone when his family flies to Paris for a Christmas holiday, and is forced to contend with two burglars who attempt to rob his house. Critics praised Culkin's performance, the slapstick humour and the creativity of the booby traps as particularly high points of the film. It also earned enough money to become the third-highest-grossing film of all time at its release.

It was a no-brainer that 20th Century Fox would eventually greenlight a sequel. Columbus and Hughes both returned to do Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. The setting was moved from a quiet suburb to the bustling streets of Manhattan, with Kevin once again being separated from his family and spending Christmas trying to foil the plans of Harry and Marv - the Wet Bandits - who escape from prison and are plotting to rob a toy store. I believe that Adam Tinius' rules for making a sequel apply here too, as Home Alone 2 ticks all of his boxes for how a film like this should be made.
Give the Audience Something New

With the setting moving to New York City, there became more opportunities for Kevin's shenanigans. Being a ten-year old left alone with his rich father's credit card in one of the biggest cities in the world, naturally he spends money at a large toy store, on an expensive hotel room, and plenty of room service. This also allowed the film to work with more subplots besides the return of the Wet Bandits - now calling themselves the Sticky Bandits - such as Kevin's encounter with the pigeon lady or the hotel concierge attempting to have him arrested. It may have felt like Home Alone 2 recycled parts of the original, but there were also new things to work with.
Identify What Worked and Build Off of It

As previously established, critics found the creativity of Kevin's booby traps as well as the slapstick humour to be particular high points of the original film. This was dialled up for the sequel, with many of the traps being more elaborate and causing greater injuries to Harry and Marv during the final act. In fact, many of the injuries the two criminals endure would be potentially lethal if it happened in real life. Have we forgotten that Marv is literally electrocuted by a rigged AC/DC Arc Welder for the better part of half a minute? What about Harry dunking his burning head into a toilet filled with some kind of flammable liquid, enough to create an impressive light show and give him third-degree burns? Bigger is always better, and the increasingly lethal properties of these moments is what made Home Alone 2 so memorable.
Change the Stakes

The stakes are already larger when Kevin is no longer in a familiar environment such as his home, but a busy city filled with strangers and dangerous criminals. His mother knew where he'd be in the first one, she'd just have to journey back to find him, but in the sequel, she's left scouring the streets, desperately searching for her son. Not only that, but the threat of death is also increased. In the first Home Alone, no matter how close the Wet Bandits came to catching Kevin, he was never really in any sort of fatal danger. They were likely going to tie him up and steal from his home. But this time, Harry has a gun and states several times throughout the final part of the film about how he plans on shooting the boy.
Add New Memorable Characters

Home Alone 2 is filled with new characters that are just as memorable as the ones in the first. The hotel's concierge and bellhop as played by Tim Curry and Rob Schneider act as the main degree of comedy for the first half until the main plot with the Sticky Bandits is set in full motion. The pigeon lady and sweet old Mr Duncan provide the more sentimental moments, echoing the scenes between Kevin and Old Man Marley in the first film. All of these actors did a fantastic job of creating new memorable characters in Home Alone 2, and are a big reason of why this film is just as good as the original.

Play with Expectations

There are two scenes in particular that I feel toy with people's expectations quite well in Home Alone 2. The beginning reuses a joke from the original where the family accidentally sleep in and are pressed for time to make it to the airport. The déjà vu kicks in for Kevin's mother as she gets in the car and exclaims "where's Kevin?", before he turns around from the front seat and grabs his plane ticket. Of course, anyone knowing the film's subtitle would realise it's obvious he wouldn't be left behind in the suburbs again, but it's still a funny "gotcha!" moment.

The second moment is much smaller, but still comes as a shock. It's during the scene where Harry and Marv are going around the townhouse laden with traps. When they come to the stairs, they quickly deduce that Kevin will try the paint can trick again like he did in the first film. They pretend to walk up the stairs, but narrowly avoid getting smacked in the face both times, only to instead meet a very painful fate as Kevin throws down a metal bar that knocks them down into the basement. It's probably one of the funniest moments in the entire film, and a good example of how it defies expectations.
There are many great sequels that manage to tick only three or four of these boxes, but what makes Home Alone 2: Lost in New York the perfect sequel is how well it manages to qualify in each of these steps. Both films are pretty perfect Christmas films in my eyes, and have been a big highlight of the holiday for me over the years. I can't wait to watch them both again next year!

What are your thoughts on the Home Alone films?

No comments:

Powered by Blogger.