The Pitch: Pam (Ellie Kemper) and Jeff Fritzovski (Rob Delaney) are two down-on-their-luck parents forced to put their house on the market after the economy puts Jeff out of a job. But hope springs again when Jeff discovers a priceless heirloom his mother left him, a deformed porcelain doll worth $200,000; it might just be enough to keep their family in the home they love.
There’s just one problem: the doll goes missing the day after their open house, and the likely culprit is Max Mercer (Jojo Rabbit‘s Archie Yates), a precocious 10-year-old English boy. Determined to sneak into Max’s house and steal the doll back, the Fritzovskis decide to pull a little Wet Bandits action. But Max, having been left behind after the rest of his family — including his mother (Aisling Bea) — fly off to Tokyo for Christmas vacation, chooses to stand his ground and show these prospective intruders what horrible designs his little mind can conjure.
You Can Never Go Home (Alone) Again: Despite what you may think, the Home Alone premise is slightly more durable than its Macaulay Culkin-centered reputation would suggest: in fact, Home Sweet Home Alone is the sixth movie in the franchise to date. But while it’s probably got some of the best production value since the last theatrically-released entry in the series (1997’s Home Alone 3), and is replete with a cast of genuinely funny actors, there’s something rotten at the core of Home Sweet Home Alone that makes it harder to swallow than a pool ball to the kisser.
The script, by Saturday Night Live vets Mikey Day and Streeter Seidell, feels like a parodic sketch of the series drawn out to feature length — the kind of idea they’d spin out one long night in the SNL writers’ room, before realizing they could just turn it into an actual movie. And it’s not a bad one in theory: What if a Home Alone movie placed us firmly in the perspectives of the crooks, who had a good, sympathetic reason to break into the kid protagonist’s house?
To their credit, Kemper and Delaney, both brilliant comic actors, lean into the farce with entertaining elan in the first half. (Kemper, in particular, remains an expert at the kind of confident guilelessness that made Kimmy Schmidt so appealing, and she’s an incredible physical comedian.) There’s something bittersweet about their dynamic, and the first half works mostly by virtue of tracking their reluctant dipping of toes into the world of petty crime: they Google whether their plan constitutes a felony or a misdemeanor and Jeff frets about being put in “gen pop”: “That’s where all the young fishes get got.”
But the problem is they’re too good at making you root for them; all they want is this doll they don’t even know for sure Max has, and they’re hardly ever in a position (or mindset) to do him any actual harm.