'Home Alone 2' worth all of about seven minutes of wicked fun

November 20, 1992|By Stephen Hunter | Stephen Hunter,Film Critic

In front of me, a little boy arched his back in sheer excitement, squeals of animal delight blasting from every pore of his scrawny body. His pillow head gibbered in giddy expectation, his hands spanked together in greedy ecstasy.

"Oh, boy," he sang to his father, "THIS IS GOING TO HURT!!!!"

He was right.

It was climax time for "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York," and Macaulay Culkin was about to unleash the destructive energy of the entire 344th Strategic Bomb Group. He was really going to hurt some people, and it was going to be fun.

That's the movie: a 7-minute blast of pure hostility aimed at the adult world in which young Culkin, an angel-faced Terminator more potent than any assault rifle-armed Schwarzenegger, swells with empowerment and lashes out, symbolically, at the indifferent parents, the ignorant teachers, the irritable authority figures, the brutal older sibling. Oh, how he hurts them! Ho ho ho ho!

Of course, to enjoy it, it helps to be 10.

VTC This one segment reiterates the one segment of genius that propelled "Home Alone" the first into the mega-stratosphere of money earners. What surrounds either episode in either movie is largely irrelevant but also inescapable. Written, once again, by John Hughes and directed, once again, by Chris Columbus, the movie halfheartedly shuffles through setup and stalling tactics until the Big Moment arrives. Even pillow head up front grew restive and began to blow Goobers into the aisle. Everybody's a critic.

Meanwhile, up on the screen, mother Catherine O'Hara again misplaces her child at the airport; he ends up in Manhattan, with an envelope full of his dad's money and a credit card, and bluffs his way into a suite at the Plaza, where he begins to enjoy the pleasures of childhood undiluted by parental authority.

The family ends up in a sleazy hotel in Florida, which is simply absurd. These are wealthy people, not fools. They would have travel agents, no? They would not stay at some decrepit seaside man-on-the-run motel where "Detour" or "Body Heat" could have been filmed.

At the same time, those two oafish wannabe child-murderers Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern have escaped from prison. As luck would have it, they end up in New York where, as luck would have it, they run into Culkin. Somebody was up late thinking up the plot twists on this one!

Among the stalling tactics that Hughes comes up with, the most irritating is a grotesque subplot involving a homeless pigeon woman who is coaxed into rejoining the human race by young millionaire Culkin, that font of bromides and banalities. The great Irish actress Brenda Fricker ("My Left Foot") plays this unfortunate, and her dialogue with Culkin in a grotesquely mawkish scene in the loft over Carnegie Hall (she has wondrous powers of penetration) feels like it was written by Kahlil Gibran. Oy, it hurts! As a child, Culkin remains unbearably cute; as an actor, he's mastered a pretty good imitation of Edvard Munch's "The Scream," and that's about it.

Finally, it's time to really wreck the two bad guys.

I have to say that the seven minutes here, like the seven minutes in the original, are really nasty fun. The things this kid dreams up! He should work for the special operations department of the CIA! He burns them, he drops them, he gets them with a nail gun, he dumps them, he whacks them!

Choreographing these orgies of controlled demolition is no easy thing, and Columbus, if he seems uninterested in anything else in the movie, at least was concentrating the week this segment was shot. It's beautifully crafted, exquisitely timed and seems to draw its overall sense of catastrophe from Chuck Jones' wonderful Road Runner cartoons, where each trope of destruction unleashed by the RR is watched with queasy admiration by Wile E. Coyote as it approaches to squish him.

'Home Alone 2: Lost in New York'

Starring Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.

Directed by Chris Columbus.

Released by Twentieth Century Fox.

Rated PG-13.

... **

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