[Screen It]


(1997) (Alex D. Linz, Olek Krupa) (PG)

Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Tense Scenes
Minor Minor *Mild Minor Moderate
Heavy Minor Mild Minor Minor
Smoking Tense Family
Topics To
Talk About
Mild Minor Minor Mild *Moderate

Children's/Comedy: An eight-year-old boy, left home alone with the chicken pox, thwarts the efforts of international thieves who are looking for a stolen military computer chip.
Petr Beaupre (OLEK KRUPA) is the leader of an international quartet of thieves who've stolen a valuable military computer chip. When a bag mixup at the airport causes a Chicago senior citizen, Mrs. Hess (MARIAN SELDES), to inadvertently take home the chip hidden inside a toy remote control car, Beaupre and his gang descend upon the Chicago suburbs looking for her and it. He and fellow thieves Alice Ribbons (RYA KIHLSTEDT), Earl Unger (DAVID THORTON), and Burton Jernigan (LENNY VON DOHLEN) begin canvassing Hess' neighborhood and breaking into homes searching for the chip.

Little do they know that eight-year-old Alex Pruitt (ALEX D. LINZ) is home alone with the chicken pox. Alex reports seeing the "burglars," but his older siblings, Molly (SCARLETT JOHANSSON) and Stan (SETH SMITH), along with parents Jack (KEVIN KILNER) and Karen (HAVILAND MORRIS) think he's making up the story. Beaupre and the others eventually figure out that the chip is in the Pruitt home, and Alex, left home alone again, must do everything he can to thwart their efforts to get into his house.

It's hard to say. The kids who liked the original(s) are now too old (or think they're too old) for this film and it's questionable whether younger audiences will flock to see this one like their older friends did seven years ago.
For slapstick violence, language and mild sensuality.
  • ALEX D. LINZ plays a young, precocious boy who sets various booby traps for a quartet of thieves trying to break into his home. While the results are comical, some of his "traps" could be harmful if replicated. Some parents may also not like his occasional "smart aleck" or cocky attitude.
  • HAVILAND MORRIS plays the mother whose intentions are good, but still manages to leave her sick eight-year-old alone at home.
  • The performers playing the thieves are stereotypical villains who exhibit (on the surface) malicious intent, but they come off as such buffoons that most of that is diffused.


    OUR TAKE: 3 out of 10
    In 1990 along came a little film titled "Home Alone." Featuring ten-year-old Macaulay Culkin -- whose biggest roles up to that time were small, but hilarious supporting characters (such as in "Uncle Buck") -- the film was a major hit with audiences. Written and produced by John Hughes ("Sixteen Candles," "Ferris Bueller's Day Off") and helmed by writer turned director Chris Columbus ("Mrs. Doubtfire," "Nine Months"), the film went on to gross more than $500 million worldwide and sold umpteen millions of videocassettes. It also turned "Mac" Culkin into a worldwide star and spawned the inevitable 1992 sequel, "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York" that reunited nearly everyone from the original film. Once again Mac thwarted the dimwitted thugs with more slapstick violence, this time out of the house and to the worldwide tune of nearly $300 million.

    Obviously a serious franchise was building here, but the film makers found themselves with quite the dilemma. Culkin had grown up into a teenager, as well as an expensive commodity with reported salaries nearing the $10 million mark. Thus, while Mac tried to spread his wings dramatically, and figure out what his family did with all of his money, the film makers moved on to other projects, leaving the "Home Alone" franchise in limbo. Never fear good readers, for Hollywood will always dig up an old hit if it thinks it smells blood -- or in this case, money.

    Thus, the appearance now five years later of "Home Alone 3." It's not a sequel in the purest sense, for while the plot is the same, they have jettisoned the original cast for some fresh faces. Columbus and Culkin are gone, but Hughes has returned to write more domestic slapstick mayhem. Raja Gosnell, who formerly was an editor (on the first two films, among others), makes his directorial debut. And replacing Culkin in the role of precociously cute kid is Alex D. Linz, who played Michelle Pfeiffer's young son in "One Fine Day" (1996).

    Not wanting to mess with what has been more than a three quarters of a billion-dollar success story, the film makers chose to return to the familiar settings of the suburbs. They also made sure that the new, young kid is left home alone to thwart the criminal efforts of some thugs -- this time in the form of international terrorists -- while being afraid of an old and seemingly cranky neighbor. Sound familiar? This film couldn't be much more of a carbon copy of the original if it tried. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, the results are not the same.

    For one thing, it's missing the charm and originality the first so exuberantly displayed. Culkin's absence is also a major problem. While many people quickly grew tired of his smug and obnoxious behavior, he was certainly the pivotal part of the series. While Linz is cute (perhaps too cute for the role) and recently won the Showest Convention Award for best young star of the year, he doesn't have that perfect, adorably obnoxious mix that served Macaulay Culkin so well in the original.

    The film also suffers from the misguided notion that the success of the earlier films relied totally on their violent slapstick mayhem. While the first did bring back that cinematic commodity with a vengeance rarely seen since the Three Stooges, this film thinks that's all that's needed. One can trace this back to Hughes and some of his subsequent efforts, and it's trickled down into other kids films such as last year's "101 Dalmatians." Granted, the first film did have a great deal of that material, but at least is seemed freshly original for the time, something this film sorely lacks.

    The first film also dealt with the parents trying to get back to their son which at least gave it a semblance of humanity. While all three films are ludicrous in how the child is left alone, at least the original only committed that fax pas once (albeit in a grand fashion). This film surprisingly seems more unbelievable in that the parents keep coming and going out of the house, leaving little Alex alone. Thus the parents are portrayed as absentminded (the father forgetting to wear his pants) or just thoughtless (the mother continually leaving her sick son at home). Similarly, the villains -- at first presented as high tech, very clever thieves -- come off as nothing more than buffoons. Of course we realize that's the whole point, but at least in the first films the characters played by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern were known to be idiots right from the start.

    Additionally, maybe there's something in the water in those affluent Chicago suburbs, and maybe it's a condition that only happens in the winter, but hey, the characters played by Culkin and now Linz are some resourceful kids who know how to take care of themselves. They're not only wizards at setting up quite effective booby traps, but this latest kid is also proficient in setting up a video surveillance system around the house. Of course this film intends solely to entertain kids (by whacking them over the head), and some may see these objections as being too critical, but if they're going to make such a film, they could at least not be so blatant about copying the original solely in an effort to make a quick buck.

    Unfortunately for the kids, the first half is rather slow and not very involving for them. Consequently, the fidget factor grew steadily among the kids at our screening. Of course the payoff finally arrives in the second half, all in the form of slapstick humor and a talking parrot (that makes comments on what's happening: "Let the party begin," "Let's get ready to rumble," etc...), and the kids seemed to enjoy the mayhem and the film's increasingly overall ridiculous nature. There is some fun music from the fifties early on, but that quickly segues into some current, mediocre music that serves no purpose other than hopefully to sell some more copies of the soundtrack.

    On a side trivia note, it's interesting to see that Haviland Morris (the mother) played the stuck up high school senior in Hughes' earlier film, "Sixteen Candles" (the one Anthony Michael Hall had a crush on). Talk about coming full circle. Anyway, today's kids won't even know about that film, or probably even care. They'll just want to see ever more slapstick mayhem once it gets cranked up in this film. This feature fully delivers that, but it's too bad the film makers didn't try to do anything but regurgitate the old formula. Thus, we give "Home Alone 3" just a 3 out of 10.

    If you've seen the original "Home Alone," you've pretty much seen this film. The plot is essentially identical and the second half is filled with sight gag after sight gag of slapstick mayhem as the villains stumble across the many traps laid before them. While some of that imitative behavior is innocent, and other bits are probably too difficult for most kids to duplicate, some actions could prove to be harmful (a barbell falling onto people, spray paint sprayed into someone's eyes, etc...).

    There are some odd moments such as Alex mentioning that the suspects were "wearing butt inspection gloves," and a scene where raw sewage spills onto a man from a broken toilet above him. Also, there are some brief glimpses of scantily clad (or covered up) "girlie" posters that may be a bit much for parents of younger children. Since many kids may want to see this film, we suggest you look through the content to determine whether it will be appropriate for them.

  • Mrs. Hess pours herself a drink.
  • Although not really either, a man's gun accidentally goes off, piercing the toilet above him. Consequently, copious amounts of thick, brown sewage spills onto him.
  • Obviously the bad guys have both (they've stolen a top-secret computer chip, they break into homes looking for it, etc...), but it's done in such a comical way that diffuses most of the meanspirited intentions. Even so, they do threaten Alex and tie up an elderly woman with duct tape.
  • Some viewers may see the parents as having both as they alternately leave eight-year-old Alex home alone.
  • Some younger children may get a bit nervous from the bad guys' actions, particularly during the brief moments where Alex acts surprised or nervous.
  • Kids may find a sequence where the bad guys chase Alex's remote control car as playfully suspenseful.
  • Although it's played for laughs, some people may find the scenes where the bad guys "hunt" for Alex with their guns drawn as a bit tense and/or not funny.
  • Missiles: Briefly seen in a warehouse.
  • Handguns/Shotgun: Carried by the bad guys and used to threaten Alex. There are several scenes where what appear to be shotgun shells accidentally go off, as does Beaupre's shotgun and other handguns in several scenes.
  • Toy guns: Used by Alex to thwart the bad guys' plans.
  • Phrases: "Geez," Shut up," "See yah!" (exaggeratedly said like Jim Carrey), "Nit wit," "Brat," "Dumb broad" (toward a woman), "Idiot," "Thing" and "Winkie" for male genitals, and "Monkey butt."
  • The actions listed under "Violence" that Alex uses to defeat the bad guys may prove enticing to some kids to imitate.
  • There are also several moments when people are electrically shocked for laughs and kids may get the wrong idea about that.
  • Guns (real and toy) are also used in several scenes. Toward the end, Alex holds a fake gun on Beaupre who thinks it's real. Again, kids may get the wrong idea about guns being real vs. toys.
  • The quartet smuggles the chip through airport security by placing it inside a boxed remote control car.
  • Alex visibly scratches his butt (he does have the chicken pox).
  • Molly writes what appears to be cheat notes (for a test) on the bottom of her shoe.
  • Stan accidentally bounces a basketball onto Alex's bug (for a school project), but since it's played for laughs, some kids might do the same.
  • Alex uses his remote control to change the channels on Mrs. Hess' TV.
  • Alex calls 911 (for a real reason -- he sees what he thinks are burglars).
  • Alex hooks up the video camera to the back of the TV set (and is seen behind the TV with a screwdriver) by himself.
  • Alex blows a dog whistle to irritate the dog Alice is walking.
  • Alex (eight-years-old) drives a riding lawn mower/tractor to pull a trampoline out into the yard.
  • Alice ties up Mrs. Hess with tape and leaves her in a cold, open garage.
  • Beaupre looks through the front door mail slot and Alex shoots spray paint through it onto his eyes and face.
  • Alex, watching a video feed from a camera mounted atop a remote control car, is suddenly surprised when Beaupre's face shows up full screen.
  • There is a mild amount of tension-filled music though out the film.
  • One song contains 3 "hells."
  • 3 hells (in a song), 1 damn, 1 incomplete "I'm right behind the little..." and 2 uses each of "Oh God" and "Oh my God" are heard.
  • Stan has some posters of scantily clad women on his wall. Alex later finds a larger poster featuring a side view of a nude woman whose breasts are covered by stick on notes. We later see this same poster through a shower curtain and a man thinks it's a nude woman (again the breasts are strategically covered, this time by a towel).
  • After hearing Alex screaming, Molly says, "He slammed the toilet seat down on his thing again."
  • A parrot squawks out to an intruder, "Don't come in, I'm naked."
  • Mrs. Hess smokes.
  • There's some early (and stereotypical) ribbing of Alex by his older siblings, but certainly not as bad as in the original film.
  • Alex's mom is upset with him over what she thinks are crank 911 phone calls.
  • Calling 911 for the police (here the boy does that, but neither the police nor his mother believe what he says).
  • Imitating Alex's actions, and how doing so would really injure people (compared to the cartoon- like effects in this film).
  • Most of the following material is slapstick in nature and intended for laughs.
  • The police kick in several doors as they respond to burglar calls.
  • A remote control car takes off and hits Alice in the face.
  • Two of the thieves try to jump over a hedge and smack into each other and another man is hit by their van and lands hard on the windshield.
  • A dog drags Alice by its leash through some hedges.
  • Alex rigs up traps for the intruders where the following occurs:
  • Two men are electrically shocked, one by a chair rigged to a car battery, the other by grabbing electrified wires.
  • A man trips on a welcome mat under which there are marbles.
  • A large book-filled chest falls from an attic window and lands on two of the men. Moments later, a barbell with weights then hits the two on their heads.
  • Falling flower pots hit Alice several times on the head.
  • A motorized lawn mover that falls onto a man's head nearly scalps him.
  • A rigged boxing glove shoots out of a closet and hits Beaupre in the crotch.
  • A man falls several stories through the house, others fall through the porch (after wooden planks hit them on the head), and Alice falls several stories down a dumbwaiter.
  • Alice whacks a man in the crotch with a stick when she sees Alex's pet rat poking its head out from the man's torn clothing.
  • Two of the men fall through a trampoline and into a frozen pool.
  • Beaupre threatens Alex with his gun and then picks the boy up off the ground.
  • A snow plow intentionally knocks over the bad guys' parked van.
  • A large number of firecrackers blow up around a man.

  • Reviewed December 3, 1997

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