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Home Alone: The Holiday Heist Review

Home Alone: The Holiday Heist (2012) DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Home Alone: The Holiday Heist
Movie & DVD Details

Director: Pete Hewitt / Writers: Aaron Ginsburg, Wade McIntyre

Cast: Christian Martyn (Finn Baxter), Eddie Steeples (Mr. Hughes), Jodelle Ferland (Alexis Baxter), Doug Murray (Curtis Baxter), Ellie Harvie (Catherine Baxter), Debi Mazar (Jessica), Malcolm McDowell (Sinclair), Edward Asner (Mr. Carson), Adriana O'Neil (Gabby Marano), Peter DaCunha (Mason), Bill Turnbull (Simon)

Original Air Date: November 25, 2012 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

1.78:1 Anamorphic Widescreen / Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish; Closed Captioned
DVD Release Date: October 29, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $19.98
Single-sided, single-layered disc (DVD-5) / Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase
Also available on Amazon Instant Video

Buy Home Alone: The Holiday Heist from Amazon.com: DVD Instant Video

Home Alone is one of the most successful films ever. Though today its $286 million domestic gross only ranks it 58th overall and in the neighborhood of Twilight sequels, it soared to third place all time,
behind only E.T. and Star Wars, during its prolific 1990-91 theatrical run. To reach such heights, the John Hughes-written, Christopher Columbus-directed family comedy sold around 70 million tickets, a feat that just five films have accomplished this century despite sharp increases in population and movie theaters.

What's more impressive than that commercial success is just how well Home Alone stands up. It helps that a generation of children grew up watching the film. But many immediately popular works elicit scratched heads from the next generation and remorse from the one that adopted it. Home Alone prompts neither and the film has impressively evolved from a 1999 Kevin Smith punchline to a genuine cultural landmark. Hughes would never top it in his few waning years of scripting family comedies before reclusion. Columbus, a rising young filmmaker with doors suddenly opened, has yet to exceed it, even though he got to helm the first two Harry Potter movies. Despite headlining a variety of films and befriending Michael Jackson, young star Macaulay Culkin will never be remembered as well for anything else.

Home Alone currently stands with a 7.3 average user rating on IMDb, having risen one full point in the past ten years. Watch your back, A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, and It's a Wonderful Life. A newer Christmas classic is gunning for the same legacy of seasonal wonderment you have long possessed.

You don't enjoy as much success as Home Alone without the word "sequel" springing to mind. Hughes, Columbus, and Culkin weren't above such an idea, but they displayed enough prudence to wait a Christmas, the one where the original movie sold several millions of copies on VHS, before returning to the well. They did that with Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, which while not on par with the original, still turned healthy profits, only trailing Aladdin for 1992's box office crown. Once Columbus and the cast seemed to opt not to make a third movie, the franchise seemed finished.

But Hughes wrote a third installment with a new family and Home Alone 3 was released in 1997 to expectedly diminished returns. Now, with no chance of a sequel, it seemed the series had hit reached dormancy, especially with Hughes getting out of the industry. But in 2002, Home Alone 4 premiered on ABC's The Wonderful World of Disney, with the original characters returning unaged and all being recast. Ten years later, ABC Family saw an opportunity to enliven their popular seasonal programming slate with another sequel and thus we got Home Alone: The Holiday Heist, sure to be better known colloquially as Home Alone 5.

When parents are away, children will play in front of a bathroom mirror. Finn Baxter (Christian Martyn) shows he can handle aftershave better than Kevin McCallister, and also make use of Q-tip fangs in "Home Alone: The Holiday Heist."

Even the most optimistic people behind this low-budget made-for-cable production couldn't have imagined that they'd be restoring the splendor of this brand or creating a new Christmas classic. Their movie could, however, sell some ads and draw some viewers on good, old-fashioned name recognition, while always being available to fill a two-hour timeslot in ABC Family's annual 25 Days of Christmas lineup, which has been extended to 36 days with a "Countdown to" stretch.

The Holiday Heist doesn't credit Hughes anywhere, but his basic story again functions as the foundation. The Baxters, a family of four, have just moved from California to Maine for Mom's (Ellie Harvie) job as some kind of VP. The two kids aren't crazy about relocating, but then 10-year-old Finn (Christian Martyn) and teenaged Alexis (Jodelle Ferland) aren't crazy about much except his video games and her cell phone. Finn is actually afraid the family's new home is haunted, after he learns from his snow-obsessed neighbor that it once belonged to Jimmy "Dead Leg" Cravano, a notorious bootlegger who apparently was strangled to death there.

Though the history is correct, the disturbances Finn notices are not the work of a ghost, but of Sinclair (Malcolm McDowell), a criminal who is determined to find the priceless piece of art he believes is hidden in the house. Sinclair and his crew of two, safecracker Mr. Hughes (Eddie Steeples) and tight-panted Jessica (Debi Mazar), were hoping to break into Cravano's basement vault before the new owners moved in. Now, they're hoping to do so when the Baxters are away.

The Baxter family, formerly of California, settles into their supposedly haunted new Maine home. Sinclair (Malcolm McDowell) is not afraid of any ghost, or so he claims.

Mr. (Doug Murray) and Mrs. Baxter leave the kids at home to attend the Christmas party thrown by Mom's new boss (Ed Asner) on the night that Sinclair and company are expecting to find Edvard Munch's The Widow, an $85 million painting with personal significance to Sinclair.

Holiday Heist doesn't exactly stick to the original storyline. There's no big family gathering or vacation and Finn isn't left behind accidentally. He's not even alone, either, until Alexis gets locked in the basement. Still, there are bad guys outside trying to get in and one boy inside determined to protect his house. Like Lost in New York, this outing spends the most time and effort on the slapsticky climactic comeuppance. In many ways, that was the main event of the original film, the imaginative sequence that produced the big laughs.
As one grows up, they find that childish part the film's weakest and one which nearly threatens to undo the good will earned by the fantastic premise. (Home Alone 2's big flaw is its drawn-out violence desperate to outdo the original's gags.) A full third of Holiday Heist is devoted to that element. It pays homage to Kevin McCallister's defense tactics (the icy walkway, tar, etc.) and invents some new ones (wrapping paper!) without going to extremes.

This new sequel actually isn't nearly as bad as you think it will be. As an ABC Family original movie, the creative ceiling is only so high and this production doesn't even approach it. But the writers, TV and video game veterans Aaron Ginsburg and Wade McIntyre (Call of Duty 2: Big Red One, Fox's short-lived "The Good Guys"), seem content to loosely recreate the original movie's beats and not attempt anything too brazen or outrageous. After showing some promise (Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey, Tom and Huck, The Borrowers), director Peter Hewitt has struck out a lot with his most recent big screen fare like Garfield: The Movie and Zoom, but he seems comfortable helming a sequel distanced enough to create no positive expectations. None of the material is really funny or smart or surprising, but nor is it terrible enough to make you cringe and regret giving it your time. All ABC Family original movies should be as considerate.

Christmas movie veteran Edward Asner makes a special appearance as Mom's dementia-addled new boss Mr. Carson, the host of the Christmas party. Portland college student Simon (Bill Turnbull) can't believe he's been gaming with a 10-year-old, or that that 10-year-old is in danger, or that the SWAT Team is about to crash his messy pad.

You may wonder how a made-for-TV fifth Home Alone movie was able to attract an actor as accomplished as Malcolm McDowell, but a look at his recent filmography reveals he isn't the most discerning of actors. Mazar, the other recognizable cast member, seems to have come full circle, as she seems willing to play comic villain as she did all the way back in 1993's Beethoven's 2nd. There is a noble precedent to this duty, after all, as Joe Pesci won an Oscar for Goodfellas (a Mazar connection!) the same time he could widely be seen taking a blowtorch to the head as Wet Bandits mastermind Harry Lime.
McDowell and Mazar can probably only expect the same level of resurgence that Home Alone 4 gave French Stewart.

Eleven months after premiering and two days before Halloween, Holiday Heist hit home video on DVD alone from 20th Century Fox. ABC Family will also air the movie on two Saturday mornings in December as part of 2013's 25 Days of Christmas.

VIDEO and AUDIO

The movie is treated to fine picture and sound for standard definition. The 1.78:1 widescreen picture is clearly the product of digital video on a budget, but it looks sufficiently polished and cinematic for a basic cable TV movie. The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack is as good as it needs to be, displaying some lively effects in addition to original score designed to sound sort of like John Williams' themes.

Finn Baxter protects his house with gumballs and such on the "Home Alone: The Holiday Heist" DVD main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

There's nary a bonus feature found here. The disc opens with trailers for Free Birds, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters, Heart of the Country, and The Ultimate Life, but none of them are accessible by menu.

The animated main menu plays clips, sometimes in a frame surrounded by Christmas lights.

The Eco-Box keepcase isn't joined by any insert or slipcover, but at least the disc uses an image less androgynous than the front cover artwork.

It just wouldn't be "Home Alone" without would-be burglars (Eddie Steeples, Debi Mazar) getting all messed up. Mr. and Mrs. Baxter (Doug Murray and Ellie Harvie) recreate the image of Edvard Munch's "Scream", a pose that bears obvious significance to this franchise.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Unsurprisingly, Home Alone: The Holiday Heist isn't very good. However, because expectations are set so low (or maybe just because I've encountered some truly atrocious, far more amateurish holiday family films recently), it's not as terrible or unwatchable as you might think. That's no ringing endorsement, but for arriving twenty years after the first sequel that itself was kind of questionable and on ABC Family, this comedy is almost shockingly harmless and inoffensive.

This barebones DVD is not one you need to own or one worth waiting for The (No Longer) Complete Collection to expand to include. Interested parties could always check it out on ABC Family in December. If you're looking to pick up a Home Alone movie, you'll be best served by the original movie's Family Fun Edition DVD (which is bizarrely not selling as well on Amazon as the older, inferior disc that's priced nearly $3 higher) or this low-priced Blu-ray 2-Pack.

Buy Home Alone: The Holiday Heist from Amazon.com: DVD / Instant Video

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Reviewed November 25, 2013.



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