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I find it very hard to feel any sympathy for Kevin in the second film…

December 8, 2020, 10:07 PM

Since I’ve been a Disney+ subscriber, I’ve been able to watch the classic Home Alone movies, i.e. Home Alone and Home Alone 2, all over again.  And I figure that this seems as good of a time as ever to explore my thoughts about the movies based on this rewatch as a 39-year-old who is now closer in age to the parents than to Kevin.  In other words, I’m waaaaaaaaay more mature than I was when I first watched them when they were new.

For those not familiar with the Home Alone movies, in the first movie, the McCallister family, a well-off family in the Chicago area, is planning to go on a Christmas trip to Paris to visit relatives.  The night before they are to leave on this trip, two things happen.  First, at dinner, youngest son Kevin gets involved in a fight with his older brother Buzz, who is being unkind to him over pizza.  That leads to his being banished to the attic bedroom (“the third floor” as it’s called in the movie), for the night.  Second, while the family is asleep, high winds cause a tree branch to fall on some nearby power lines, creating a power outage, which takes out the alarm clocks, among other things, causing everyone to oversleep.  When the parents wake up, there is a mad dash to make it to the airport in time.  In the course of taking a headcount prior to leaving, a neighbor child, who stopped by to see what was going on and chat, was accidentally counted.  So, with a good headcount, they were off to the airport.  Unbeknownst to them at the time, they had forgotten Kevin.  Kevin, meanwhile, wakes up to discover that the family has left for the airport, and he is all by himself.  He eventually learns that two burglars are working the neighborhood, and that they are looking to target his house, among others.  So he comes up with a plan to defend his house against said burglars, and leads the burglars through a series of traps that should have killed them many times over (but didn’t because this is the movies).  Kevin also befriends a neighbor along the way, who ultimately finishes off the burglars with two well-placed blows with a snow shovel, which leads to the burglars’ arrest.  While this is going on, Kevin’s mother, after realizing that they had forgotten their youngest, is trying her best to get back home to Kevin, and flies to a number of different cities to that end, and ultimately hitches a ride in a van with a polka group to get home, arriving on Christmas morning.  The rest of the family arrives home shortly thereafter, and there is a happy reunion, with no one except Kevin’s knowing what had happened the night before.

In the second movie, the McCallister family is once again going on vacation for Christmas, but this time, they’re going to Florida.  The night before they are to leave, they are attending a school performance that Buzz and Kevin are both in.  While Kevin is performing a solo, Buzz humiliates Kevin by making various gestures using electric candles that all of the kids on stage were holding.  After Kevin completes his solo, he turns around and punches Buzz, which leads to a chain reaction which causes all of the performers on stage to fall down, and also causes a set piece to hit a teacher, on stage playing the piano, on the head, causing her to fall off of the stage.  This leads to a discussion afterward, with the end result’s being that Kevin is put in a similar situation as the year before.  The family sleeps in again, this time due to an inadvertent unplugging of an alarm clock, but this time, everyone, including Kevin, makes it to the airport.  At the airport, Kevin gets separated from his family while changing the batteries on an electronic device, and ends up following another man who has a similar hairstyle and is wearing the same style coat as his father (the man never has any idea that Kevin is following him).  The airline allows him to board, and he finds himself not in Florida as he expected, instead finding himself in New York City.  While the family learns at the airport in Florida that Kevin is missing, and works to reunite with him, Kevin reserves a room at a hotel and checks in, and lives it up.  In the meantime, he runs into the burglars from the first movie, freshly escaped from prison, and witnesses them in their attempt to rob a toy store, photographing them in the process.  This leads the burglars to pursue Kevin in order to destroy the evidence of their crime.  In the meantime, the hotel discovers that the credit card that Kevin used to book the hotel was flagged as stolen, and they confront Kevin.  Kevin escapes the hotel, and is captured by the burglars.  Kevin eventually gets free from them, and sets up another set of booby traps in a brownstone house owned by a relative that is under renovation, in anticipation of the burglars’ following him.  The burglars again go through all of the traps that Kevin set, and should have each been killed many times over, but they survived, because fiction.  Kevin also befriends a homeless woman in Central Park, who helps finish off the burglars by throwing seed on them and therefore attracting a bunch of pigeons to them, when the burglars eventually catch up with Kevin and attempt revenge on him.  The burglars are arrested, and Kevin’s mother, after the police locate him in New York and the family travels up there, eventually is reunited with her son.  The family then celebrates Christmas together in their complimentary hotel suite in New York.  The end.

The two movies tend to follow the usual pattern for popular flicks that get sequels because they’re so popular.  The first movie flows naturally, and the story flows, and it all comes to a resolution in the end, sewing up all of the various plot points nicely.  The story is complete, and there is nothing left to tell.  But then the movie ends up being a smash hit, and so they decide to make a second installment in order to cash in on the success of the first.  The sequel is usually a bit of a trainwreck, with the story’s coming off as contrived, with lots of callbacks to the original movie.  Mara Wilson put it best about a possible sequel to Mrs. Doubtfire when she said, “Sequels generally suck unless they were planned as part of a trilogy or series.  I think Doubtfire ended where it needed to end.”  Home Alone 2 was no exception to this, as it is, for the most part, a rehashing of the original story, with all of the same elements, but in New York rather than Chicago.  Home Alone 2 is not unique in this regard, though.  Sister Act 2 also tends to do this, with a very contrived way of getting Whoopi Goldberg‘s character back with the nuns.  However, Sister Act 2 likely could have been a standalone story if they had not tried to shoehorn it into the Sister Act franchise by including the nuns and throwing in a few forced callbacks to the first film.  This is not to say that there aren’t sequels that can stand completely on their own, though.  Evan Almighty immediately comes to mind as a sequel that can stand completely on its own without its parent film.  I’ve seen Evan Almighty plenty of times, but I’ve still never seen Bruce Almighty, and my having never seen it has not had a detrimental effect on my enjoyment of its sequel.  Home Alone 2, however, is not one of those sequels that can stand on its own.  You really have to know what happened in the first movie for many elements of the second movie to make sense.

Regardless, in the first movie, it is very easy to feel sorry for Kevin, because he was on the receiving end of just about everything.  He was subject to very poor treatment by almost all of his relatives.  His relatives left him at home, albeit accidentally, and he was probably too young to be responsible for an alarm clock of his own.  The burglars came to him, and were going to rob his house.  The movie really was about Kevin’s making the best of the situation that he found himself in and working through it.  The people committing the wrongs were his relatives for leaving him, and the burglars for attempting to burglarize his house.  Kevin was, for the most part, innocent, and can be easily characterized as a victim.  For the most part, his own actions did not put him in the situation that he found himself in.  Only his attacking Buzz in the kitchen could be attributed to him, which led to his being placed on the third floor in the first place.  Everything else was outside of his control.

The second movie flips that entire concept on its head.  Kevin is very much in control in the second movie, and he’s driving the story rather than reacting to the circumstances that he finds himself in.  But first, ignore all of the scenes about the school program where Buzz humiliates Kevin and the subsequent argument at the house, because all of that has no bearing on the plot.  Kevin still makes it to the airport, after all.  Those scenes could have been deleted from the final film and your understanding of the story would be unchanged.  But starting with the airport scenes, Kevin makes several moves that put responsibility for what happens on his shoulders, and only his shoulders.  In other words, he’s not a victim in the second movie.  Rather, in the second movie, he owns it.  The victims in the second movie are almost everyone that Kevin encounters – particularly his own family and Mr. Duncan.  About the only person who wasn’t a victim of Kevin’s activities was the pigeon lady.  It all makes me wonder if the true villain in the second film was actually Kevin.

It all starts when Kevin and the rest of his family are running through the airport to make their flight.  Kevin is at the tail end of the group, and makes a conscious decision to stop and change the batteries on his Talkboy device.  That’s when he loses his family in the airport.  He owns that.  However, I’m willing to forgive his following the wrong person after that, because he was trying to do right and make it onto the plane with his family, even though he ultimately failed at doing that.  But when he got on the plane, he almost immediately put his headphones on, which prevented him from learning that he was on a flight to New York rather than Florida.  And then the biggest mistake of all was when he got to New York, he realized that he’d screwed up, and he still left the airport.  Any sympathy that I might have still had for Kevin goes out the window right there, because now, he is no longer attempting to follow the original plan and do right by his parents, even if he’s been unsuccessful at doing so thus far.  Rather, at this point, he has gone rogue, and left everyone else holding the bag.  He completely owns it from that point on, since now he’s made his own decision to deviate from the plan, and do his own thing in a city where no one knows that he’s there.

Now, at this juncture, it’s worth noting that Kevin doesn’t necessarily deserve all of the blame.  He deserves most of it, but American Airlines screwed up here as well, because they didn’t check his boarding pass at the gate to ensure that he was on the right flight.  They were in too much of a hurry to depart that they just assumed that he was on the right flight and boarded him without verifying.  Additionally, when his reaction in front of an airline employee after learning that he was in New York piqued the employee’s interest and caused them to question the reaction, they did not go any further than that and took his word that he was okay and let him leave the airport.  Considering that Kevin was essentially an unaccompanied minor at that point, major red flags should have been going off all over the place, but they let him go.  Airlines tend to take unaccompanied minors pretty seriously.  Look at American Airlines’ current policy for unaccompanied minors for an idea about how seriously they take it in real life.  It should have ended right there, with the airline’s correcting their error and getting Kevin on a flight to Florida.  I imagine that American Airlines would have been on the hook for a major amount of money had something happened to Kevin, since they put him on the wrong flight and then let him leave the airport.

Then, of course, he went and lived it up on his parents’ dime once he left the airport, checking into the Plaza Hotel and getting limo rides and such.  That’s all on him.  However, the hotel also deserves a good bit of blame for the situation by allowing him to check into a room by himself in the first place, and transporting him around the city in that limo (complete with cheese pizza).  So if something happened to Kevin, the hotel would likely be on the hook as well.  The hotel also handled the confrontation with Kevin over the credit card extremely poorly.  Holding everything else constant, if I were Kevin, I think that I might have fled, too, if I were confronted in that same way.

Also, Kevin really brought Harry and Marv to him by inserting himself into a situation that he didn’t need to be in.  Of course, without Harry and Marv, it would have just been a story about a bratty kid who ended up in New York by himself and spent a bunch of his parents’ money.  But remember that in the first movie, the burglars came to him.  It was his house, where he lived, that Harry and Marv were planning on robbing.  This time, the burglars were robbing a business.  It wasn’t Kevin’s battle at all.  He had no dog in that fight.  Thus he put his own life in danger over someone else’s money.  Money that was probably insured, too.  And money belonging to someone that he just met earlier that same day, no less, and had only spoken to for about five minutes total.  However, for purposes of the story, this does add a “fighting for what’s right” angle to it all rather than just being about a bratty kid who found himself in New York and spent a bunch of his parents’ money.  But it still wasn’t his fight.  It also wasn’t his house that he booby trapped.  Rather, he led them to his relatives’ house that was under renovation, and set up a bunch of traps for the burglars there.  I suppose that, considering that he trashed his relatives’ house in the name of getting the burglars and then never cleaned it all up afterward, those relatives were another one of Kevin’s victims.

Meanwhile, as far as I can tell, the rest of the family did almost everything right.  Sure, Uncle Frank was still a jerk, and the family didn’t show much patience for Kevin, but the family didn’t really contribute to Kevin’s situation in the second movie.  Kevin did it all himself, and took them for a ride.  The parents were, for the most part, on their game in the second movie.  The only things that I can find that they did wrong were to unplug an alarm clock, which caused them to oversleep again, and not taking another headcount once they all got on the airplane to ensure that everyone was accounted for.  That second measure could have nipped the entire problem in the bud, but, of course, then we wouldn’t have a movie, since Kevin wouldn’t have been able to terrorize New York City like he did.  But other than those two mistakes, they did pretty well, going to the police as soon as they realized that Kevin was missing, and then heading straight to New York once Kevin was located based on the credit card usage.  And then Kevin’s mother did exactly what one would expect a mother to do when her child was missing: she went out and looked for him, and there was a happy reunion when she found him.

Oh, and Tim Curry’s character absolutely deserved to get slapped by Kevin’s mother in the scene where she confronts the hotel staff.

All in all, I suppose that all parties involved should be extremely grateful that Kevin came through the experience no worse for wear, since neither the airline nor the hotel would have come out clean if Kevin had been hurt or killed.  I suppose that I may have ruined your enjoyment of the second Home Alone movie by overanalyzing it, but I couldn’t help but realize that Kevin is no hero in the second movie.  All of the predicaments that he finds himself in are of his own making, and he makes victims out of almost everyone that he sees due to his own acts, regardless of whether or not that was his intent.  So he gets no sympathy from me for this one.

Categories: Movies