“Home Alone 3” is a kid flick through-and-through. It has the kid smarter than all the adults put together and he wins out in the end. It is basically inoffensive, even though the bad guys have guns (they are only fired in a comedic setting that makes the bad guys look foolish). However, while the holes in the plot are big enough to drive a truck through, the slapstick comedy of the bad guys and the set-up traps and tricks from the kid are simply marvelous and the entire reason to watch this film. You’ll easily find it this holiday season, but, if you haven’t seen it, don’t expect anything from the original and first sequel. “Home Alone 3” is quite its own film. And a total stinker at that!
‘Home Alone 3’
(1997; 102 minutes; rated PG; directed by Raja Gosnell and starring Alex D. Linz, Olek Krupa and David Thornton)
A BAD, BAD MOVIE, BUT FALL-DOWN FUNNY SLAPSTICK
John Hughes’ participation in a simply awful second sequel to the immensely popular “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” (click here for my look at them) is puzzling, but it doesn’t fully answer why I like watching “Home Alone 3.” Hughes is the writer of the entire trio, but it’s not the writing that helps the second sequel – it is the wonderfully executed slapstick comedy by the bad guys.
Hughes had the top-notch talent of Chis Columbus to direct the first two, but I’d like to know how much first-time director Raja Gosnell changed through the final cut of “Home Alone 3.” The story isn’t up to Hughes’ usual standard but the physical comedy excels. All in all, it’s an interesting puzzle other than there’s no question that Gosnell does a completely incompetent job with this one.
I guess Hughes wasn’t as interested in this sequel as he was with the first since the title is the quite milquetoast “Home Alone 3.” No explanation like for the first sequel. In any case … you’ll find none of the original characters in “Home Alone 3” as a completely new family is introduced. The young boy in the story is left at home because he has the Chicken Pox and both mom and dad work, while his older brother and sister are in school.
Through a convoluted plot involving the theft of a super-secret computer chip that finds its way to the boy’s neighborhood, he soon discovers that there is a team of thieves (he didn’t know that they were hired by a North Korea-backed terrorist group to steal the chip) on the hunt for the chip in his neighborhood.
After a calling the police a couple times and getting in trouble for making a false report, he’s left to his own devices to stop the thieves. Here’s where the already deficient plots wheels off-track and the traps really stupid and impossible, but it’s where the slapstick really kicks in and you really start to laugh.
From the talking parrot to the pet mouse “Doris,” you get both barrels of a shotgun’s load of awful stereotypes that filmmakers must put into this kind of kids-win-it-all movie.
So, let’s take a look at some the principal cast (and nary a major acting award win among them):
- Alex D. Linz plays “Alex Pruitt” and, like in the first two films, is a kid perpetually in trouble with adults and under the critical microscope of his brother and sister (only one of each here). It’s next to impossible to judge an actor’s talent at Linz’s age at the time of the film – he was a month shy of nine at the premiere in December 1997 – but he does an acceptable job with only some overacting. OK, well, a lot of over acting. The best thing is that he, unlike star McCauley Culkin of the first two movies, isn’t perfectly groomed and dressed and looking and acting like a smarmy little toad. Damning with faint praise, I guess. Linz began his career on a soap opera at age 6 in 1995 and had 36 acting credits before his acting career’s last in 2007. He also starred in another kid flick called “Max Keeble’s Big Move.”
- Olek Krupa is “Petr Beaupre,” who is the leader of the bad guys. Krupa was a good choice as the somewhat phlegmatic member of the group. He’s smooth on camera, but, and it’s no surprise, you never get a real feeling for what he can do as an actor. Krupa has been in “Hidden Figures,” “Salt” and the remake of “The Italian Job.” Additionally, he has credits on a variety of TV shows including several spots as a villain on all three of the “Law & Order” franchises and he was also on the wonderful series “Monk.”
- Of of three bad guys, Rya Kihlstedt is “Alice Ribbons” and she’s an ice queen here, except when everything fails around her and she becomes desperate. Kihlstedt does the best job of all the actors, but that’s not really saying much. She has been in “Deep Imact” and “The Atticus Institute” and has done a lot of work in television.
- Next up on the bad guys’ team is Lenny von Dohlen as “Burton Jernigan.” He’s the control-freak counterpart to Kihlstedt and takes his lumps as well as could be expressed. About the only thing you can say about von Dohlen’s work here is … well, nothing comes to mind. Von Dohlen has appeared on a a variety of TV shows and in films such as “Tollbooth” and “Jennifer 8.”
- The last bad guy is David Thornton as “Earl Unger.” Thornton’s character actually has some character. He’s not the most motivated team member – after the group does a frenzied search at an airport he comes up and says he didn’t see anything in the bathroom (yes, it’s that kind of humor) – and he always has a sarcastic comment. Thornton has been in “The Notebook” and “The Other Woman.”
The siblings in this film are played by a young Scarlett Johansson as “Molly Pruitt” and Seth Smith as “Stan Pruitt.”
- Four-time Golden Globe nominee (not for this one) Johansson, who was 13 at the film’s release, notched her sixth movie credit with this one and she actually appears to try. However, like everyone else, she doesn’t have much to work with. Of course, Johansson’s career has skyrocketed since “Home Alone 3” and she’s the only one of the actors in the principal cast to be a nominee for a major award. Most recently, I liked her in the Coen brothers’ “Hail, Caesar!” (click here for my review) and one of her nominations was for “Lost in Translation” with Bill Murray.
- I’m sorry to report that I can identify the worst actor here. It’s Smith as “Stan.” He tries to come off like “Buzz” in the original, but comes up completely short. Luckily for audiences, Smith had a short career in Hollywood with only eight acting credits (two on TV). He was in “Jack” and had an uncredited role in “Angels in the Outfield.” His last credit was in 1998.
As for other characters, Linz’s parents and the neighbor across the street all play important parts in the film (well, as important as any but the bad guys), but their efforts are really not worth mentioning. Nor are any of the law enforcement officers. After that, there isn’t much of a supporting cast.
I won’t try to describe much of the slapstick because writing just doesn’t do the visual justice. However, once you’ve suspended your disbelief that the boy’s traps work, the bad guys do an outstanding job of executing the scenes. Trust me on this one and get the movie and fast forward to the slapstick. You don’t really need the see all the rest.
“Home Alone 3” wasn’t a total loss with moviegoers as it was the 69th ranked film at U.S. theaters with $30.8 million in ticket sales, according to Box Office Mojo. Worldwide and with video sales, it made $79.1 million, according to Wiki. Of course, it didn’t even come close to approaching the No. 1 film of the year, which was “Titanic” with its almost unbelievable haul (at the time) of $600.7 million, which was more than double the No.2 film’s take – “Men in Black” with $250.6 million). Here are the films from 1997 that I’ve reviewed for my blog:
- “Donnie Brasco” (good mob flick) – click here for my review
- “Grosse Pointe Blank” (excellent) – click here for my review
- “The Jackal” (pure dreck) – click here for my review
- “Jackie Brown” (Tarantino’s best) – click here for my review
- “L.A. Confidential” (one of the best ever) – click here for my review
- “Liar Liar” (hilarious Jim Carrey) – click here for my review
- “Tomorrow Never Dies” (so-so 007 effort) – click here for my review
- “Wag the Dog” (wonderful political satire) – click here for my review
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Macauley Culkin, who became an established star playing “Kevin McAllister” in the original and first sequel, turned down “Home Alone 3.” He said he had done all that could with the left-alone child story.
- Linz is the son of a college professor and sings, plays drums and guitar.
- Directly from IMDb.com: “This was the final film of John Hughes‘ five picture contract with 20th Century Fox, to write, produce or direct, after the success of the original Home Alone (1990). He wrote and produced Dutch (1991), Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992), Baby’s Day Out (1994), Miracle on 34th Street (1994), and this movie.” Click here for my review of “Dutch.”
- The studio originally considered “Home Alone 3” as a TV project, but executives stayed a course by going movie. However, their tune changed for the two sequels and they were sent straight to home video.
- Odd, but noted film critic Roger Ebert called “Home Alone 3” better than the original and give it a positive review (his was one of very few positive reviews).
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “While this is the second Home Alone movie to feature a bad guy with a gun (or in this case, several all the bad guys), this is the only one in the franchise in which gun shots are fired from the villains.”
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