Home Alone 3 (1997) — The sequel everyone pretends didn’t happen

“Alex slammed the toilet seat down on his thing again!”

Justin’s rating: Third time’s the harm

Justin’s review: The story behind how Home Alone 3 came to be is no doubt far more fascinating than the movie itself. After the monster hit that was 1990’s Home Alone ($476M), a follow-up was inevitable. And, eyeing the growing age of Macaulay Culkin, the studio actually wanted to film two sequels back-to-back. That approach ultimately wasn’t taken, although 1992’s Home Alone 2 was made and did very well all things considered with $359M. But after that, Culkin entered his teens, and any further movies would either need to age up or try a different tack entirely.

The decision kind of rested with Culkin, who, in 1994, was burned out on acting and wanted to have a few years of a normal high school experience. So Plan B went into effect, tossing out pretty much all of the original creatives and cast and a staring with a different team. Only John Hughes returned, this time to write and produce, but that was it.

Replacing Culkin as lead was Alex D. Linz, who was two years younger than Culkin was in the first movie. Home Alone 3 became the last movie of the series to get a theatrical release, landing with a soft plop with a box office gross of only $79M. It also marked the final time that Hughes would be involved in the series, closing out the trilogy.

With all of that out of the way, let’s talk about the movie itself. The most important thing to know about Home Alone 3 is that this isn’t a sequel at all. It doesn’t involve the McCallisters, it doesn’t have John Williams scoring, nobody accidentally gets left home alone, and it doesn’t even take place during Christmas, for cripe’s sake.

Instead, we have eight-year-old Alex, who ends up staying home from school due to the chickenpox. Left alone during the day (mom and dad both can’t take time off of work for Movie Reasons), Alex ends up being the only person who spots a quartet of thieves breaking into each of the houses on the street. The thieves are looking for a special computer chip that Does Things and also got put into a R/C car that was gifted to Alex. But nobody, including the cops and Alex’s parents, believe the boy’s reports, so he takes it on himself to thwart the bad guys.

The problem with the Home Alone sequels past number two is that everyone who made them — including, apparently, John Hughes — got tunnel vision about what made the original movie so good. Everyone remembers the house traps and the horrible injuries the criminals sustained, so that’s all that’s important, right? That’s the formula, just have a kid beat up on bad adults with traps?

Except that’s NOT it. Seriously, go back and watch the original Home Alone and note that the formula is far more involved than this. It’s got a lead who’s charismatic and likable. It’s swaddled in cozy Christmas motifs. It explores the childhood fantasy of having the full run of the house all by yourself. It’s got criminals who are funny and personable in their own right. It was fun for all ages. And it even tosses in a bit of heartwarming drama with the older neighbor and his grandkid. Home Alone was a package deal; Home Alone 3 is just one part of the package.

That said, I’m not going to call this the worst movie ever. It’s got some moments. The music is well-done. And it’s interesting to see more capable bad guys as a threat to our protagonist. But ultimately it ends up being standard kiddie fare that only appeals to kids with low standards.

Didja notice?

  • Scarlett Johanssen as Alex’s sister!
  • The Janitor from Scrubs as a cop
  • R/C cars can bust through wooden fences and leave a hole

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