Notes on Home Alone 2: Farce in New York
A gonzo exploration into the heart of a modern classic. I saw this movie in theaters as a kid in 1992 and have watched it almost yearly ever since. I have a lot of feels about the film and recently delivered a presentation on my analysis of it. Here are my expanded lecture notes with some supporting clips and images from the talk.
I cannot explain myself.
(Full presentation at bottom)
🎄This “Sequel” is essentially a bigger-budget remake of the first one.
Kevin roams the high-end luxury hotels, toy stores, and gutted brownstones of New York City instead of hanging around his suburban Chicago neighborhood, and his family vacations to Florida instead of Paris (serious downgrade right??) but other than that 1992’s Home Alone 2 is pretty much the same film as 1990’s Home Alone.
Per IMDB: “Director Chris Columbus admits on the audio commentary for Home Alone (1990), this film was “to some extent” a remake of the first film.” But I’d argue that it’s to a maximum extent. To note just some of the similarities:
🎄Uncle Frank = Total Scumbag
Unloving. Money Grubbing. Useless. Homophobic.
More on him below.
🎄The cops really should have warned the McCallisters when The Bandits escaped, right?
Let’s see, the two men who had the most motive in the world to murder the McCallisters’ youngest suddenly escape from prison. They’ve thought of nothing but revenge and the embarrassment of being defeated by a child for a year. They most definitely know where the McCallisters live. You’d think this would be grounds for, at minimum, a heads up phone call to the family warning them to be extra vigilant. Realistically I’d think an unmarked car camped out of their residence for a few days would be a solid move. Not just to protect the family, but you know, because it’s a reasonable spot to keep an eye on in the hopes of recapturing those dudes. But nope.
AT THE VERY LEAST Uncle Frank could have spoken up about it since the Home Alone 2 novelization (yes it exists, yes I have read it) makes it clear that he was aware of their escape. In the book he mentions it offhandedly in a crowded situation and when no one notices he makes *zero* additional effort to warn the rest of his family of the convicts who might come to murder them all in their beds. Seriously, this guy beats Hans Gruber as the most villainous character in Christmas cinema of the past 30 years.
🎄 Shoutout to Big Pete!
Hell yeah. Actor Mike Maronna aka Big Pete Wrigley from Nickelodeon’s 90s touchstone The Adventures of Pete & Pete once again pops up in the sequel to reprise his role as Jeff McCallister, Kevin’s other older brother. Once again in this film Buzz McCallister (Devin Ratray) got 99% of the lines among the siblings so Big Pete is basically background filler. Still I consider Pete & Pete to be essential viewing and a top 5 kids show ever so it’s always just been good to see his face. (But why is everyone’s hair red except Kevin and one of his sisters? Some say Old Man Marley is their real father…but that’s none of my business…)
Speaking of Pete: I’ve often wondered who would fare better against the machinations of The Bandits. Sure Kevin has proven himself a resourceful (if sadistic) tactical mastermind in each of the first two Home Alone films, so we know he can take care of business, but how would Little Pete Wrigley (Danny Tamberelli) fare?
Welp, I asked this crowd and the answer was decisive.
🎄 The Talkboy Tape Recorder (TM) makes most of this movie possible.
For at least the last 12 years the phones I’ve carried around in my pocket every day have been able to do everything that a Talkboy Tape Recorder could do. (They can also hold the contact info for all of my friends and family, take better pictures than any camera on the market in the early 90s, be used to buy anything, manage my finances, track my fitness, and initiate an awkward date with a stranger anywhere in the world). HOWEVER, all that’s beside the point because I have never yearned for my phone with the same passion that I yearned for a Talkboy Tape Recorder in 1992 after seeing Kevin use it continuously in this movie.
What we saw in the actual film is just a non-functioning prop used to advance the plot. However as soon as the film was released demand for the Talkboy blew up so much that Hasbro rushed a working recorder to stores. It eventually became the most popular toy of the 1993 Christmas season, a full year after the film dropped and even inspired a pink & purple version for girls (because the 90s… and rigid gender roles). I can still remember the pangs of envy I felt watching the commercial where that cockblocking little brother used his Talkboy to give his older sister’s date blueballs and a crushing insecurity about his makeout skills that would no doubt haunt him through junior year of college. I, along with millions of other kids, wanted a Talkboy. Bad. Unfortunately it was not to be. Until…
After 26 years my curiosity got the best of me and search/peer-to-peer commerce technology caught up. I located an extremely reasonably priced (relatively) and fully functional Talkboy in Rockaway, NJ. A few emails and a train from NYC → NJ later and I was in a position to make good on a childhood dream.
🎄 I don’t care how rich you are, how white you are, or how many years before 9/11 it is. NO ONE, gets a party of 14 through O’Hare Airport check-in & security in under 5 minutes. No One.
🎄 None of this is necessary.
Yes, this is a big budget Hollywood movie of pure fiction that needs to be at least 90 minutes long so simply by the act of watching it we’re agreeing to suspend our disbelief to a certain degree. I get it. But you really can’t overstate how much none of the anxiety surrounding Kevin’s initial separation from his family needs to happen.
🎄 Yes: 45 was in it.
Probably no piece of Home Alone 2 trivia has been discussed more than this. When I saw this in theater as a kid in 1992 I didn’t register or laugh at the cameo at all as I had no idea who this dude was. I wish things had stayed that way, but just like Macaulay Culkin in 1993’s The Good Son we all have to lose our innocence at some point.
🎄If Marv catches Kevin there’s a chance the kid will live. But Harry is DEFINITELY gonna kill him.
Marv is just dumber and softer. Harry carries a rage that boils deep. If you don’t think so witness this non-CGI moment of Harry legit smacking a pigeon with a newspaper. Word up to the best side-eye in the whole movie delivered by my man ion the cross-colored windbreaker.
🎄 There are exactly six black people with speaking roles in this film.
- A flight attendant on Kevin’s plane to NYC
- A man asking Tim Curry for directions to Columbus Circle in the lobby of the hotel
- A woman outside Duncan’s Toy Chest who simply screams when she’s pushed out of the way by Harry
- A fake pearl vendor that Kevin visits in his first escape from the bandits
- Two different cops (one of whom Kevin’s mom uses as a taxi service with zero hesitation toward the end of the film)
🎄Most unrealistic part of the movie: Fruit Stripe gum lasting 24 hours.
When Rob Schneider’s bellhop character, Cedric, first shows Kevin to his suite he stalls awkwardly for a tip before leaving. Kevin, not fully comprehending the concept of tipping because he’s 10 (and because he wasn’t raised right) finally hands him a piece of Fruit Stripe gum.
The next day the scenario more or less repeats itself except that Rob Schneider plays himself because Kevin is now throwing a lot of cash around. When he moves to tip him again he intends to lay down some dough but an unaware Schneider declines and explains that he’s still got some “tip” (gum) left over from yesterday. I call BULLSHIT. No one in this WORLD has ever kept a stick of Fruit Stripe going for longer than 7 minutes, let alone a whole day.
🎄Home Alone 2 (the novel) has 100% more grown male nudity in it than the film.
OK, as previously discussed, there’s a weird vibe with Uncle Frank where in addition to his usual cheapskate douchebaggery he also lays a creepy & homophobic warning on his 10 year old nephew about not looking at him naked. (Yeah, it’s totally reasonable to NOT WANT to have that interaction with your nephew, but going into paranoid detail about why is suspect. Just lock the door dude.)
Anyway, maybe his intuition was correct because when Kevin does finally barge in on him in the bathroom (at his dad’s insistence so he can grab a necktie instead of just waiting 5 minutes) Kevin does indeed linger, smile impishly, and make an audio recording of the the whole thing. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
The out-of-place nudity fixation doesn’t stop there though. Once booked into the Park Plaza Kevin makes his way to the pool where he sticks out like a sore thumb as an unaccompanied minor. He politely asks all of the adult people chilling there if he can practice his cannonballs, two senior citizens in the hot tub say it’s fine, and then he jumps in and looses his shorts on impact for a cheap sight gag (despite us seeing him with his trunks still on post-dive for a half a second in the previous shot).
OK fine. A 10 year old kid ends up naked in a room full of adults. It’s a broad comedy, nothing truly creepy intended, it’s a reasonable, if weird & hack-y, gag.
But if you read the book (as I have…for some reason) you see realize that a hella unnecessary scene was written but never shot.
Yeah, after his diving sesh Kevin hits the steam room. Eventually two business dudes (presumably the same 2 seen in the hot tub) enter and begin engaging in some “Locker Room Talk” (TM) about a female associate. Kevin precociously deduces what they’re on about and in a move way ahead of his time, and his years, asks them to show a little respect. So far so good. Then the steam shifts a bit and Kevin realizes their junk is out and flees in a panic. Again: ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
🎄 Kevin McCallister Gropes To Live
After shutting down some boorish steam room behavior from 2 older men we’re really feeling Kevin’s respect for Women. But never forget that he’s able to make his second escape from the Bandits by pinching a woman’s ass on a Manhattan street in broad daylight. When he does so she furiously turns around and punches out Marv (who she’s interacted with before) then Kevin says Harry actually did and he gets jacked up too.
Of course Kevin’s intent here is utterly non-sexual. He’s just using his quick wits to get out of a pickle. The scene is played for (and received with) laughs. But I can’t shake the feeling that Kevin has dramatically internalized a lesson that he may carry for life: when in trouble, grab some booty. It’s not a great thing to imprint on a kid. Especially one who has already shown such a marked bent toward sadism & manipulation.
🎄What was the name of that woman who saved Kevin’s life and got him into a free show at Carnegie Hall???
Ah yes, stepping in to fill the role of ominous stranger cum savior that Old Man Marley occupied in the first movie we have here the Pigeon Lady of Central Park. After Lil Kev screams in her face in horror/disgust TWICE she not only frees his foot from a rock and gets him into a concert that probably had a nosebleed ticket price of $100+, she also swoops in to save him once the Bandits pull a gun on him. But remind me, what was Pigeon Lady’s actual name?
OH YEAH IT WAS FUCKING PIGEON LADY
That’s right in both the novel and the screenplay this saint (Academy Award winning actress Brenda Fricker) is referred to only as PIGEON LADY. Wut?!?! You mean to tell me she had to listen to spoiled & rich 10 year old give her an 8 minute lecture about the importance of leaving your heart open to love before saving his life and getting nothing in return beyond a hot chocolate, a hug, and half a Christmas ornament and no one even had the decency to drop a “Sarah” or an “Agnes” next to her character description in the Dramatis personæ????
🎄Home Alone 2 featured the most fire mixtape ever dropped.
🎄Also, Tim Curry is a multinational treasure and he took the greatest slap in cinema history like a champ. Without him Home Alone 2: Lost in New York would simply be less.
And here’s the whole presentation. Merry Christmas and enjoy!