Back to Beating the Bad Guys

Jerusha Jose, III Year B.V.A. Fine Arts.

When the whole world groaned, ‘Home Alone 3?’ the producers stuck to their guns and went on to produce the critically acclaimed third instalment in the Home Alone franchise. It was decided that the ”Home Alone” series didn’t require the towheaded, hooded-eyed screen presence of Macaulay Culkin to stay alive and kicking. As ”Home Alone 3” vigorously demonstrates, all the franchise really needs to keep going is a charismatic child (Alex D. Linz has replaced Culkin) with no great acting skills but loads of pseudo-innocent chubby-cheeked adorability.

Put sophisticated remote-control gadgetry at the boy’s fingertips, and get a director (the newcomer Raja Gosnell) with a feel for the kind of knockabout farce that makes grown-ups look like fools, and you have a refreshed formula that’s good for at least one more episode and maybe two. Providing crucial continuity is John Hughes, who masterminded the first two ”Home Alones” and is co-producer and writer for the third movie.

”Home Alone 3” is essentially a good-natured repeat of the blockbuster original with a generous serving of Christmas spirit on the side, but with a different all-American family (the Pruitts have replaced the McCallisters) in an upscale Chicago suburb. Its hero, 8-year-old Alex Pruitt (Linz), the youngest of the three Pruitt children, is a mechanical whiz of infinite resourcefulness and indefatigable self-confidence.

To my astonishment, I liked the third “Home Alone” movie better than the first two; I’m even going so far as to recommend it, although not to grownups unless they are in the mood for some mindless silly entertainment. This movie follows the exact formula of the first two, but is funnier and gentler, has a real charmer for a hero, and provides splendid wish fulfilment and escapism for us in, say, the lower grades.

There is even a better rationale for why the hero is left home alone. Alex gets the chicken pox. His dad is out of town on business, his mom has an emergency at the office, and his brother and sister are at school. So he’s left home alone, with a beeper number, a fax number, a cell phone number, the number of Mrs. Hess across the street and dialling 911 as a fallback position.

The subplot has already been set into motion. A spy ring has stolen a computer chip, and because of an exchange of identical bags at the San Francisco airport, the toy truck containing the chip has ended up at Mrs. Hess’ house. Four spies fly to Chicago on the same plane with Mrs. Hess and have four hours on board to search for the bag, but somehow they fail to find it and end up deciding to burglarize every house on little Alex’s block.

While his family is out of the house, Alex fortifies the place with so many potentially lethal booby traps that an intruder unlucky enough to force his way in will find himself plunged into a zany chamber of horrors. Even the family pets, a white mouse named Doris (whom Alex enjoys scaring by showing her a neighbour’s cat through his telescope) and a loud-mouthed parrot that can light matches, get into the act.

The difference between ”Home Alone 3” and its predecessors is largely a matter of tone. Where Culkin seemed to take a sadistic, poker-faced glee in the injuries he inflicted, Linz expresses the more innocent delight of a child caught up in an action-packed Saturday morning cartoon.

Behind the villains’ comic grimaces, there’s no real pain. And in making the villains (Olek Krupa, Rya Kihlstedt, Lenny Von Dohlen, and David Thornton) buffoonish caricatures of television spies, the movie deftly spoofs a technological mystique that Alex’s ingenious homemade defenses puncture again and again.

”Home Alone 3” is rated PG (parental guidance suggested). The punishments meted out to the villains are funny, but many of them are also rather cruel.

[Photo Source: The Internet]

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