What’s a kid to do when he’s accidentally left home alone for Christmas? Build elaborate traps to stop burglars, of course.

In the new Disney+ feature Home Sweet Home Alone, Max (Archie Yates) is left behind when his family flies to Japan for the holidays. When a married couple sets their sights on his home to retrieve a priceless heirloom, it’s up to Max to protect it from trespassers… And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep them out.

Remakes, am I right?

Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room. Home Sweet Home Alone is a remake/reboot of 1990’s Home Alone. The original film starred young Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister, who creates a series of clever pranks and schemes to ward off burglars when he’s accidentally left home alone for the holidays. The original movie is pretty widely regarded as a classic; if you flip on cable TV at any point in December, you can probably catch Home Alone playing somewhere.

Obviously, the love for the original movie means Home Sweet Home Alone has some big shoes to fill. (And will have to endure a lot of online hate just for existing at all.) And as the case always stands with remakes, there’s one key question to ask… Is it better than the original?

In a word… no. Home Sweet Home Alone isn’t better than the original Home Alone. That movie is a classic for a reason – it does what it sets out to do really, really well, and I don’t think this version tops it on any level.

But if you can manage to distance yourself from the original and view this new entry as its own film, it’s still a fairly fun and enjoyable holiday family flick. 

Heroes, villains, and the space in-between

The biggest thing Home Sweet Home Alone does differently than its predecessors is the way it reframes the narrative of “good guys” and “bad guys.” 

The film places a lot of time and emphasis on the McKenzies’ (Ellie Kemper and Rob Delaney) story; they’re not the Wet Bandits of original Home Alone fame, clear-cut baddies just out to cause trouble. Pam and Jeff are parents trying to save their family home, which they can no longer afford to keep. Convinced Max has stolen a rare collectible doll from them (one they can hawk for a couple hundred thousand dollars), they resolve to do whatever it takes to get it back. They’re on a mission to save Christmas, and if they gotta do a little entering (not breaking – they have the house key) to do it, so be it.

Through a few misunderstandings, Max naturally believes the McKenzies are trying to kidnap him, and pulls out all the stops to protect himself while home alone. (The movie also addresses a plot hole fans have brought up about the original movie – why Kevin never goes to the police for help when he learns about the robbers. Max considers contacting the police, but fears his mom will get in trouble for leaving him home alone, so decides against it.)

Home Sweet Home Alone - Ellie Kemper as Pam and Rob Delaney as Jeff

The new setup certainly lends a different dynamic to the film. On one hand, it makes it feel even more “Christmas-y” – there’s a greater emphasis on doing things for the sake of family built into the story, which makes it feel thematically appropriate. But it also takes away some of the fun of the film; instead of being able to 100% root for Max making his burglars suffer, you feel kinda bad about it.

Home Alone is undeniably Kevin’s story and Culkin’s movie. But it can’t really be said that Home Sweet Home Alone is entirely Max’s story and Yates’ movie. If anything, it’s the McKenzies’ movie, which I think is not necessarily what people are looking for.

Pranks, traps, and Easter Eggs

It wouldn’t be a Home Alone movie without pranks, booby traps, and meddlesome-kid-inflicted-violence. So, does Max earn his prankmaster stripes?

Well, I say yes! I do think it takes the movie too long to get to the main event, but Max proves himself a pretty worthy successor to Kevin when it comes down to it. I was afraid a new take on Home Alone would water down the traps, making them less violent for a new generation of viewers. But Max (and director Dan Mazer) doesn’t pull any punches. You’ll get your fix of cringe-inducing hits, from Jeff taking a pool ball fired straight into his forehead, to Pam getting peppered with thumbtack darts.

In addition to the traps, the movie plays up Easter Eggs for franchise fans. Most notably, Devin Ratray returns as Buzz McCallister. He even makes a reference to Kevin keeping up his mischievous ways into adulthood. You can definitely tell that this movie has a lot of love and respect for the original, which I appreciated.

Archie Yates as Max in HOME SWEET HOME ALONE, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by courtesy of Disney+. © 2021 20th Century Studios.

Does Home Sweet Home Alone hold its own?

If you could watch Home Sweet Home Alone in a vacuum, you would easily call it a good movie. The stacked cast keeps things funny, it hits the important thematic and emotional beats of a Christmas movie, and it’s a pretty fun watch all things considered. Unfortunately, the new narrative reframing takes away a lot of the fun of the original. Watching well-meaning parents get the crap beat out of them just isn’t as enjoyable as watching a kid violently take down a criminal operation. This reimagining isn’t bad, but I think it is a classic case of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Home Sweet Home Alone begins streaming on Disney+ November 12.