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On last week’s installment of the Dadgum podcast, fellow writers Kyle Bandujo and Will DeFries had an interesting discussion about the merits of both the original Home Alone and its sequel. While their discussion focused mostly on whether Mr. McCallister was a good father or not – I gotta give the man a thumbs up just for how opulent his house was for having like twenty kids – some follow up tweets got me thinking about the pros and cons to each movie.
the beginning of home alone 2 is phenomenal but it gets worse as it goes on, home alone 1 is just a more complete movie top to bottom
— will defries (@WilldeFries) December 16, 2018
For the record, I think both movies are absolute classics. But what really stuck in my craw was one of my esteemed editor’s response that Home Alone 2 starts off much better, but is eventually outpaced by Home Alone 1. I find this to be a gross mischaracterization of the films. Sure, Home Alone 2 has the epic airport sequence, but I find the set-up for Home Alone 1 to be as good or better. And the trap sequence in Home Alone 2 smacks the original.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a blow-by-blow comparison of the beats both movies followed, and which did it better.
Home Alone 1 opens at the McCallister house the night before they are leaving for Paris. There is chaos galore as both the native McCallister’s and Uncle Frank’s spawn run amok as “officer” Joe Pesci cases the joint. There is some great character development as we see Kevin interacting with all the members of his family, establishing that he’s kind of a pain but they also overlook him.
Then, of course, there’s the pizza brawl where Buzz taunts young Kev for missing on his precious cheese pizza, which sparks a ton of commotion that causes Kevin’s ticket to get ruined and him sent up to the dreaded 3rd floor for the night. It may seem comically unbelievable, but as someone with a younger brother, we have started fights over much less in our youth. It’s also very believable that in all the commotion someone could accidentally throw away the tickets.
In the sequel, we get a bunch of set-up for…Kevin using his Talkboy and not liking the idea that there won’t be a Christmas tree when they spend the holiday in Florida. Of course, there is the classic moment where Kevin records his uncle in the shower, which is wholly unnecessary but hilarious nonetheless.
Then we get to the primary conflict that sets up Kevin wanting to be separated from his family during the holidays (aka the “I wish they all would disappear” moment of 2). At a choir recital, Buzz stands behind Kevin (isn’t Buzz like in high school at this point? Why is he in an elementary school play?) and openly embarrasses him to the point everyone is laughing at Kevin’s solo. Kevin finds out, punches Buzz, and knocks down everyone on the stairs ruining the recital. I’m sorry, but Kevin is 100% in the right here; his brother publicly humiliated him and he can’t be blamed for acting out in anger. The whole conflict here just doesn’t feel as organic as the original with Buzz’s fake apology and the whole quasi-jury plea. As a result, the set-up for the sequel loses out hard to the original.
Original 1 – Sequel 0
In the original, Kevin isn’t accounted for when his family piles into the vans to go to the airport due to a remarkable set of coincidences. A storm knocks out the power and phones, causing the family to oversleep, they scramble to get ready, Kevin’s sister Megan (a stone-cold babe I may add) gets the headcount wrong because a neighbor kid is among the pack rummaging through the McCallister’s stuff like an otter trying to crack open a clam and nobody notices.
Because of the storm, the McCallisters aren’t able to call Kevin and tell him what to do, none of the neighbors are around to look in on him, and he’s not able to call the police. Of course, there’s the famous cop who goes to check on Kevin and says “tell ‘em to count their kids again” as if they didn’t call the police for that fucking reason.
The sequel, yes, has a similarly unbelievable premise for the McCallister’s sleeping in after Peter unplugs the alarm and forgets to reset it (is no one else setting an alarm around here), but at least this year they’re doing their due diligence to keep a head count. In the rush, Kevin gets left behind when he’s trying to put batteries in his Talkboy (this product placement aged badly) and loses track of his dad, instead following a man who looks like his dad to the wrong gate and boarding a plane to NY.
Of course, Kevin’s parents are unable to contact him because they don’t know whether he’s back in Chicago or somewhere else. Yeah it seems a bit implausible for all of these coincidences to separate Kevin from his family in the airport, but the dash scene in the airport is so well done, I have to give HA2 the nod here.
Original 1 – Sequel 1
What does Kevin do after being unsupervised for the first time in his life? He does what any 8-year old in his position would do, he eats like a glutton, watches adult movies, and goes through everyone’s stuff. He even orders his very own cheese pizza using the classic Angels with Filthy Souls to trick the pizza guy (I maintain this part of the movie is more unbelievable than him being able to set up all those traps in an hour).
However, after a few days of this Kevin somehow morphs from a previously helpless kid to almost an adult. He starts doing laundry and going grocery shopping on his own. Yeah, it’s cute and all, but it’s completely out of character because there’s no explanation as to why he stopped being a sugar-fueled tornado to a more competent adult than myself. Of course, there are some other high points like him tricking Harry and Marv with the cardboard cutouts, but there is also inane shit like him stealing a toothbrush after seeing old man Marley (we never found out if that toothbrush was approved by the American Dental Association, or why an 8-year-old even cares).
In the sequel, Kevin is basically able to bluff his way into a suite at the Plaza Hotel with his trademarked charm and chutzpah. At least this was established in the first movie, and he has his dad’s credit card to get the room paid for. That room, by the way, is every child’s fantasy, full of sweets, a luxurious bed, and all the amenities you could ask for.
After making his way into the high life at the hotel, Kevin has to bluff his way past nosy concierge members (using Angels with Filthier Souls and the recording of his uncle, which was hilarious). He then managed to bluff into a limo with his own cheese pizza, a trip to Duncan’s Toy Chest (basically if Toys ‘R’ Us and Barneys had a baby), and general hobnobbing around the Big Apple. Home Alone 2 takes the W here, just because it’s exactly how a kid would act if he got to plan his own vacation.
Original 1 – Sequel 2
Harry and Marv
In the original movie, Harry and Marv are just a couple of low-level burglars looking to engage in some home invasion. However, as we follow them in their attempts to case the neighborhood – particularly the McCallister house – there’s not a lot of funny or interesting stuff that happens other than Marv leaving the water running in every house they hit as a calling card.
When we catch up with the Wet Sticky Bandits in the sequel, they’ve busted out of jail and are looking for one big score before they flee the country. Smartly, Harry decides that they should rob a place that will be carrying a lot of liquid cash on Christmas Eve: Duncan’s Toy Chest. Unlike his obsession with robbing the McCallister’s house when they already burgled most of the neighborhood, this singular robbery is a much better plan.
In addition, we get a lot more fun moments with Harry and Marv before the trap sequence, like them chasing Kevin down the streets, Kev getting away by pinching the woman’s ass and blaming it on them, and the duo hiding out inside the toy house. The sequel is clearly more entertaining.
Original 1 – Sequel 3
Let’s be brief here because I don’t think this needs a lot of explanation. Old Man Marley is an amazing eventual ally to Kevin. He goes from being the scary figure in Kevin’s mind to a kindly old neighbor once the young boy gets to know him. Marley is a complex and vulnerable figure, torn by his past mistakes.
On the other hand, the Pigeon Lady (she never gets a name, she’s literally credited as “Pigeon Lady”) is utterly useless. Her backstory drags the whole movie down and its premise is ridiculous (she lost trust with people after her lover left her, boo hoo says everyone in the age of Tinder). Despite Kevins promise, that 10-year old kid wasn’t going to be friends forever with some old crazy vagrant who lives in a different time zone and is surrounded by pigeons. Marley wins. He wins so hard and the Pigeon Lady sucks so badly I’m actually going to deduct a point from HA2 for that tripe.
Original 2 – Sequel 2
The battle plan
The OG trap sequence was amazing. It was full of inventive and crazy Rube-Goldberg-esque traps that young maniacs like myself dreamed about making possible one day. Sure, it’s unrealistic that an 8-year-old who wasn’t able to pack a suitcase by himself less than a week earlier could rig up a blowtorch, or that the burglars would stumble across every single trap he set up, but it was entertaining goddamn it.
That’s why the sequel gets so much credit from me for how it improved the trap sequence.
You liked Harry having his head lit on fire with a blowtorch? Well now let’s add an appealing toilet bowl to dunk his head in that’s filled with gasoline. Liked Marv getting a nail through his foot? Now he’s going to get electrocuted. And if you liked the paint cans on strings gag (if you didn’t you have no soul) nothing could be more hilarious than Marv and Harry appearing to goose Kevin as he throws two cans, only to be greeted by a fucking steel beam right when they thought they were safe.
The sequel also has a few original trap moments that the first one lacked, like Kevin pelting the two with bricks from the room and lighting a kerosene-soaked rope with Harry and Marv on it. Also, it makes sense that Kevin would be able to upgrade his traps after his experience in the first movie, considering he’s got more time and is in a house under renovation (presumably with more tools and equipment he can use). I know a lot of people will disagree with me, but Home Alone 2 wins the traps portion.
Original 2 – Sequel 3
You gotta give it up to Kate McCallister in the original movie. I mean she went through the wringer trying to reunite with Kevin, begging her way onto a flight to Dallas, getting to Scranton, then riding in the back of a moving van with a polka ban (in the age before Spotify, that’s basically a death sentence). The reunion of her and Kevin is sweet and heartfelt, the fact that the rest of the family is a minute behind her after all those trials is hilarious, and it gives this great feeling like Kevin actually did wish his family back to him.
In the sequel, yeah Kate is still out there struggling and because she’s a loving mom she managed to figure out where Kevin is going to be. Yes, the family has a great reunion because Kevin helped Mr. Duncan and he gives them a bunch of presents. Unfortunately, it just doesn’t feel as earned as the original, so Home Alone 1 gets the category.
Original 3 – Sequel 3
So, we have a tie, so does that mean we say they’re equally good movies and call it a day? Hell no. Instead, I’m going to look at the wildcard factors of Home Alone 2: celebrity stars.
In HA2, we are graced with the incredible British wit of Tim Curry as the concierge, Rob Schneider as the bellman, and pre-President Donald Trump as himself. Now a lot of you might think “Rob Schnieder and Donald Trump? The original takes the cake for sure” but as Lee Corso would say not so fast my friend.
Remember, back in the day (1992) Donald Trump wasn’t so widely known as a scumbag, nor was Rob Schneider (he wouldn’t make the abomination that is The Animal for another nine years). Also, Schneider’s portrayal as a greedy, sniveling little bellman was actually quite endearing (“don’t count your tips in public Cedric”).
Given that, is Tim Curry’s slimy, psuedo-charming, concierge enough to drag those two over the line to make the celebrity appearances in the sequel good not bad? Yes, yes it is. Plus, if you weren’t dying laughing at this scene I don’t know what to tell you:
The sequel gets the W, but I would never fault someone who disagreed with me. It’s a close call between these two masterpieces. Now excuse me, I’m gonna go order a three-scoop ice cream sundae. I’m not driving. .
Image via Youtube