Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) seems to defy many conventions. Sequels are always tricky. If a film enjoys even the most modest of success, its fans start clamoring for a follow-up. For all the uproar, these usually fail to satisfy, and there are a couple reasons why this happens. First, oftentimes part two is compared, for better or worse (usually worse), to part one. With some exceptions, the second installment in the Home Alone franchise being one of them, the next one fails to live up to the expectations. Pinning down those expectations is tricky. Either people want more of the same, or they want to see it taken in a different direction. You can only do one or the other, really, and either way you end up upsetting one side of this debate. Of the two options just mentioned, today’s film falls in the former of those two camps. I have no idea which I wanted on the heels of seeing Home Alone (1990), but I do feel the next in line might have more of the surprising heart that I saw in the progenitor.
It is Christmas time once again for the McCallister family of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York City and this time they are headed en masse to Miami, Florida, for the holidays. Our hero, the ten-year-old Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is not pleased with this upcoming trip. To his adolescent mind, a Christmas spent where there are no Christmas trees or snow is ridiculous. Adding to his misery is the public humiliation he receives from his older brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) at their school’s Christmas pageant. Kevin’s retaliation ends with the entire show going down in a torrent of bodies following Kevin unexpectedly punching Buzz. Back at the house, Buzz delivers a fake apology that everyone buys, and when they all turn to Kevin, he refuses to do the same. Instead, he wishes to spend Christmas alone. Not eager to have a repeat of the previous year (or movie), this time the McCallisters make sure Kevin is with them. What is like last year is them oversleeping for their ride to the airport. In their hustle through the terminal, Kevin gets separated and boards a different plane from his family. Thus, while the McCallisters head for the Sunshine State, Kevin flies to the Big Apple. One thing working in his favor is the fact that Kevin has his father Peter’s (John Heard) travel backpack with him, containing a large sum of cash and the credit cards. These mistakes are not realized until each party arrive at their new locations. Of course, it is Kevin’s mother Kate (Catherine O’Hara) who realizes first that her youngest son is missing. Yet, having lost him in an airport, he could be anywhere. For his part, Kevin decides to “live his best life” (as the modern saying goes) by conning his way into a swanky room in The Plaza Hotel overlooking Central Park. It is while he is out exploring the famous grounds that he is spotted by the escaped Wet Bandits, Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern). They are the two house burglars Kevin had thwarted in the previous movie, and who recently escaped from prison. They also had been casing a downtown toy store, taking note of the large amount of money being taken in from holiday shoppers and about to be donated to a hospital for sick children. Kevin learns of this plot and vows to stop it, particularly since he had befriended the store’s owner Mr. Duncan (Eddie Bracken). Kevin’s New York activities also give Kate the clues she needs to track Kevin down, and she flies to New York as soon as she can. What follows is a lot of the same stuff you saw in the previous movie, though this time starting in the toy store. Kevin lures the Wet Bandits away, after taking pictures of them in the act of robbing the retail establishment. They then chase the boy to a townhouse owned by relatives of the McCallisters, and who are currently out of town. As expected, Kevin has rigged the abode with a number of painful booby traps that Harry and Marv keep walking into in their desire to get even with a kid. Eventually, they are arrested. Not long after, Kate finds Kevin in front of the Christmas tree at the Rockefeller Center, remembering that it was one of the things Kevin wanted out of the holiday. They are soon joined by the rest of the McCallisters, who had escaped an inexplicably dreary late December in Florida. They are also able to leverage The Plaza Hotel into giving them the best room in the establishment for having not recognized a little boy in danger. With everyone reunited and forgiven, that is basically where the film ends.
I say “basically” with the ending of Home Alone 2: Lost in New York because there is one character I left out in my plot description, and that is the Pigeon Lady (Brenda Fricker). She replaces the snow shovel wielding Marley (Roberts Blossom) from the predecessor. This is evident for many reasons, not the least of which is the way Kevin reacts to her with fear when he sees her with all her birds. She also helps with the apprehension of the Wet Bandits at the end. Her character hit a bit close to my heart. As one could probably guess, Kevin eventually befriends her, and they share an evening overlooking a concert in Carnegie Hall. During their conversation, he asks her how she got to be this way, a homeless person with avians as her only companions. She reveals how she had her heart broken, and instead of risking another relationship, she withdrew from society. Kevin gives some rather Godly advice. He tells his new friend that if she does not use her heart, it will not be any use in the future. God resides in our hearts. It is where He builds His home, and where His presences can be felt most readily. It is also where we can go to communicate with Him. If you do not speak to God through the all-important organ, your Faith will wither and die. There is an interesting follow-up to this concept in the film. Pigeon Lady tells Kevin, who is feeling sorry for having wished to be alone again on Christmas, that good deeds can erase bad deeds, and that the good ones count extra on Christ’s birthday. While that is not an exactly theologically correct position, it is a good motivation for Kevin to continue to do right. Granted, Jesus would not want us to torture and maim two middle-aged men, but Kevin does do it to defend a children’s hospital.
Speaking of this hospital in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it is called St. Anne’s. St. Anne, by the way, was the mother of Jesus’ mother Mary. For this Catholic reviewer, it is a nice little reminder of the role the Church has played in caring for the most vulnerable and underprivileged in society. While the McCallisters are undoubtedly well off, it is a mission that Kevin commits himself to, and it truly shines in the sequel. The first is funny because, oh man, there is a little kid left by himself by his family and outwitting would-be burglars. I think the second one is better because there is a higher purpose to Kevin’s actions. Please treat this as an unequivocal recommendation, and great Christmas-time cinematic fare.