Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House (2002)

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What is officially a fourth installment of the modern Christmas classic should actually be considered an alternate universe or even a reboot of the second film, replacing New York with home in Chicago again.

Nine-year old Kevin McCallister is gearing up for another Christmas holiday. However, this year things are different as his parents Kate and Peter have separated. Peter announces to Kate that once their divorce is finalized, he plans to marry rich woman Natalie, staying with her as a royal family is set to visit her for Christmas. When Peter invites Kevin to join him, he refuses at first until older brother Buzz’s constant bullying forces Kevin to stay with Peter and Natalie.

At first, Kevin being with Peter is a dream come true thanks to Natalie’s lavish house. However, Kevin does tend to go at odds with Natalie’s servant Prescott. That’s nothing compared to what is about to happen. Marv, one of the original Wet Bandits, is out of prison. He has married Vera and the two have been notified about the royal family. Their plan is to kidnap the young prince for ransom. When Kevin attempts to stop the duo, he gets in hot water with Peter and Natalie. However, when Kevin gets a shocking discovery of an “inside person”, he intends to prove to everyone that Marv and Vera are trouble and he will do what he can to stop them.

Just when you thought 1997’s Home Alone 3 would be a fitting finale, someone decided to unleash a fourth made-for-TV film that has some decent moments, but ultimately looks more like a very bad reboot of the classic that could have been a pilot for a potentially failed television series version. The reason being that they bring back the character of Kevin McAllister back, only it’s not Macauley Culkin and no one can do Kevin like Mac.

Mike Weinberg plays Kevin this time around and the one good thing about his take on the character is that he isn’t trying to imitate Macauley Culkin. There’s no “scream face” and that’s actually a good thing. After all, who would want a poor rehash of a classic Christmas hero? Weinberg makes the most of what he has to work with, as he deals not only with the separation of his parents, but the arrival of an old enemy.

Daniel Stern wisely opted not to return to his signature character. If he were to have been there and no with Joe Pesci, it’s like Abbott without Costello, or Laurel without Hardy. Instead, 3rd Rock from the Sun’s French Stewart takes on the role of Marv, who replaces Harry with his wife, Vera, played by Missi Pyle. Erick Avari, as Prescott, does a good job of supporting and helping make the film quite smooth in a mysterious role of a servant. The only downfall here is that some of the gags in the climax, a staple for the franchise, are tamer compared to its predecessors. It is virtually a few old gags from the first few films and gives off more of a “meh” vibe if anything.

As much as one would want to have enjoyed it, Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House seems more fitted to be a pilot for a failed TV reboot of the franchise rather than an official installment. On the plus side, at least this Kevin isn’t trying to imitate the original. Otherwise, it would be “Kev-sploitation”.

WFG RATING: C-

A 20th Century Fox Television production. Director: Rod Daniel. Producer: Mitch Engel. Writers: Debra Frank and Steve L. Hayes; based on the original characters created by John Hughes. Cinematography: Peter Benison. Editing: John Coniglio and Michael A. Stevenson.

Cast: Mike Weinberg, French Stewart, Missi Pyle, Erick Avari, Jason Beghe, Clare Carey, Joanna Going, Barbara Babcock, Gideon Jacobs, Chelsea Russo.

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