Enter the villains. Marv (previously portrayed by Daniel Stern, now by French Stewart) and his seemingly mentally-challenged ex-prostitute wife Vera (Missi Pyle) have given up on burglary and plan to break into the smart house to kidnap the crown prince and hold him for ransom. Predictably, Kevin uses the voice-activated death house to set up his lazily contrived booby traps to defeat the baddies. You know a film series known for its elaborate Rube Goldberg-esque traps has completely run out of steam when it’s reduced to such pathetic ruses as soaking the villains with bath water, hitting them on the head with frying pans, and flying remote controlled airplanes into their groins. Long gone is the sadistic mischief of bricks to the head, staple guns to the face, and broken glass on bare feet. And there isn’t even anything remotely resembling clever banter between Kevin and the crooks.
Blowing a raspberry. That pretty much sums up this whole review.
When French Stewart agreed to star in this production I don’t think he actually knew which of the original villains he was playing. Instead of the cheery voiced, childlike, and decidedly hatless Marv of yesterfilm, Stewart’s Marv wears a black wool cap, talks in a gruff voice, and is prone to angry outbursts, all of which are hallmarks of Joe Pesci’s character Harry. Did nobody on the set point this out? Did anybody working on the set even give a shit? Daniel Stern, star of Bushwhacked (1995) and Celtic Pride (1996), refused to return to his signature role, reportedly calling the script “an insult, total garbage.” I’d pay good money to hear all about his discussion with the producers of this film, so long as he presents it via “Wonder Years” style voice over narration.
While the bickering Harry and Marv were a hilarious highlight of the original films, the bickering husband and wife team of Marv and Vera is depressingly off-putting. When a man tells another man he’s going to kill him, it’s hilarious. When he says it to his wife, it’s a prelude to spousal abuse. And speaking of violence against women, it’s too bad they repeated the same mistake of Home Alone 3 by including a female baddie. I don’t know about you, but I don’t find anything funny about watching a woman being repeatedly and violently assaulted. At least the third movie had the decency to soften the blow by slathering the scenes of violence against women with wall-to-wall fart noises.
Seeing another actor play Kevin makes you realize what an incredibly talented performer Macaulay Culkin really was. Kevin McCallister was never introduced as a likeable character. In the first act of the first two films, he’s essentially an unsympathetic spoiled brat, and Culkin really nails those characteristics. Michael Weinberg is annoying and unsympathetic in this movie, but unlike Culkin he never gains our sympathy in Acts 2 or 3 through his sense of humor, humility, and resourcefulness. Weinberg’s Kevin, with his whiney one-note performance and creepy doll eyes, remains throughout the film a shrill and obnoxious crybaby.
The only positive thing I can say about this alleged “movie” is that Erick Avari is competent as the butler Prescott. As the Old Man Marley / Homeless Pigeon Lady type character of this installment he brings more dignity to this production than it deserves.
Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House is a near-“Star Wars Holiday Special”-level Christmas catastrophe. It is an insult to the film franchise on every conceivable level. Long gone is Culkin as a “young George Bailey everykid”. Long gone is the wit and warmth of John Hughes. Long gone are the whimsical wall-to-wall fart sounds of Home Alone 3. Heck, there’s never even a moment in this film when Kevin is alone at home. How can you make a Home Alone movie without a kid home alone? Bah humbug!
½ an Airplane to the Groin out of 5
As Gene Shalit would say, Home Alone 4 should be put under house arrest.
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