Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist (A Shitmas Post from Nigel Daniel of Terrible Movies for Terrible People!)

When I was four years old, my family and I sat down and watched Home Alone together.  Kevin McCallister, played by Macaulay Culkin, was left home alone after a series of unfortunate events led to his parents leaving on a trip for France without him.  Kevin was forced to fend for himself using guile and cunning to outwit Harry and Marv, a pair of thieves known as the "Wet Bandits", played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.  My family and I laughed when Marv was hit in the face with an iron.  When Harry caught Kevin and lifted him up, I remember the very real feeling of being scared.  And at the end of the movie, when the police finally caught the bad guys and the McCallister family was reunited, it felt good.  It felt like the good guys won.
My family wasn't big into the idea of Christmas, and sitting down to watch Home Alone and Home Alone 2 each year was the closest we got to a "holiday tradition".  It may not sound like much, but it meant a lot to me.  We grew older, I moved out, and life just kind of continued.
Recently, I've discovered that Home Alone 5 was released in 2012, as a made for TV movie. This raised many questions for me, such as, "Was there a Home Alone 3 and Home Alone 4?" and "Why does God hate us?"

These answers would come soon enough, as the DVD was less than $10 on Amazon, and I have no real impulse control.

Home Alone 5: The Holiday Heist is the story of Finn Baxter, a young boy who prefers video games to actual human interaction.  The movie starts out with Finn and the rest of the Baxter family moving into a new house.  This includes Finn's mother, Catherine, who has moved the family from California to Maine to further her career.  In an interesting contrast, Finn's father, Curtis, is not given a backstory.  It is never explained if he has his own job or if he's a stay at home dad.  He just exists and tells campy dad-jokes.  He will eventually die and it's very likely no one will care or even notice.  And finally, Finn's sister, Alexis.  Alexis is a teenage girl who doesn't want to do what her parents tell her to do and only wants to chat online and listen to music all day. 
Congratulations, every family role and stereotype has been filled.
We soon learn that art thieves have been casing the house, trying to get to a priceless painting, hidden deep within the basement of the Baxter's new home.  There are three thieves total.  Jessica, played by Debi Mazar, who is likely best known as Sandy from Goodfellas.  Mr. Hughes, played by Eddie Steeples, who will forever be Crabman to me.  And the mastermind of the group, Sinclair, played by Malcom McDowell, who has been in the movie game long enough to know better and has no excuse for what he's done here.

Taking place during Christmastime, the movie is filled with appropriately-themed decorations, snow, and holiday cheer.  There's even a montage of the family going out to buy a Christmas tree where the teen daughter looks up from her phone just long enough to crack a smile and then pretends that it didn't happen.
One day, while the parents are out at a office dinner party, the art thieves decide to start their heist.  Panicking, Finn asks his online gamer friend for advice on how to stop people from breaking into his house.  Thinking that Finn is referring to a video game, the online friend suggests setting traps.  There's buckets of paint, a snow blower rigged to shoot wooden balls, slippery ice, and even a sink that somehow shoots glue and cotton balls onto someone's face to make them look like Santa Claus.  Eventually the police show up to arrest the trio, everyone hugs and says that the real Christmas present is family, and the movie ends.
The original Home Alone movie was a classic because you were really rooting for Kevin to win.  He wasn't perfect, in fact he was mostly a smart-ass, but that was okay.  Kevin's family made a mistake, and Kevin had to fight to survive using his wits and some clever homemade traps.  As outlandish at it was, it still felt like "this is something a clever kid could probably do, if the criminals were dumb enough."  Luckily for us, they were. 

The Holiday Heist tries to capitalize on the aspects of the series that made the original great.  There's a family, a kid, some thieves, some traps, and it's Christmas.  That's really all this new movie brings to the table.  If you've seen the first movie, there is literally no reason to watch this movie.

I understand that this is a "kid's movie" and that may mean they can get away with a little more campiness than usual and can cut a few more corners.  Normally, I'd give a children's movie a pass for most of the stuff in this movie.  However, this is the fifth movie in the series.  They've had five chances to get it right, and each entry in the series after Home Alone 2 just steadily declines in quality.  There is no reason for this movie to exist other than a shameless cash grab using the Home Alone name.
You can get the first four Home Alone movies for about $15 on Amazon right now as a 4-disc set. Buy it and then literally throw away the DVDs for Home Alone 3 and 4.  This is a significantly better use of your money than actually buying Home Alone 5 The Holiday Heist.

- Nigel Daniel

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