A year after the events of the original Home Alone, it's Christmastime again and the McCallister family is gearing up for another holiday trip, this time to Florida. Kevin isn't happy, though, since there are no Christmas trees in Florida, and things go south pretty quickly when, during a school concert that features him singing a solo, his older brother, Buzz, humiliates him and Kevin retaliates, once again causing a huge commotion that he's blamed for. Buzz "apologizes" to Kevin and his family but he makes it clear to Kevin that he didn't mean it and admonishes his family for believing his lies. After an argument with his mother later that evening, Kevin says he wishes he had his own money so he could go on his own vacation without any of them. The next day, they rush to the airport after a mishap causes them to oversleep again and nearly miss their plane. They manage to make it to the airport with Kevin this time but, due to the commotion, the rush, and the crowds, Kevin follows a man he mistakes for his father onto the wrong plane and ends up in New York City. At first horrified at what he's done, Kevin, realizing he once again got his wish, decides to make the most of it and manages to check into the most luxurious hotel in the city, although the concierge and the staff immediately become suspicious of the legitimacy of the story he uses to check in. Even worse, Harry and Marv, who've recently broke out of prison, have arrived in New York as well, and Kevin soon finds himself battling the criminals once again.
As you can tell from that plot synopsis, John Hughes and Chris Columbus took the adage, "If it's not broke, don't fix it," to heart and virtually recycled the whole plot of the first film in a different setting. Actually, that's a conservative description, as they out and out plagiarize plot-points, scenes, moments, and gags from the original: Kevin has a fight with Buzz that causes him to get sent to the third floor to sleep by himself; a mishap causes the family's clock to be reset and they oversleep; Kate McCallister screams, "Kevin!", again when the family realizes they've lost him; there's a montage of Kevin having fun when he realizes he can do whatever he wants without his family; Kevin uses a inflatable clown pool toy to discourage the concierge from snooping around in his room, as he did with the mannequins to make Harry and Marv think there were people at the house in the original; Kevin encounters a person whom he's initially frightened of but later befriends and said person ultimately saves him from Harry and Marv; and, of course, you have the house full of booby traps that the two criminals blunder into, almost entirely in the same circumstances and with some traps being flat-out repeated. There are also some recycled lines, like when Marv said kids are "a-scared" of the dark in the original and here, he says, "kids are a-scared of the park," and they even bring back the fake gangster movie by giving it a sequel, Angels with Even Filthier Souls, which Kevin also uses to help get himself out of a jam. While I do enjoy this film, I can see people's points that such heavy borrowing from the original film does show a lack of creativity on the filmmakers' part.
Initially, Kevin is dismayed to find he's been separated from his family again but, when he realizes how much fun he can have in New York by himself with his dad's money, he goes on an exciting sightseeing tour of the city before checking into an expensive, luxurious hotel. (I'm aware that a ten-year old kid roaming around New York unsupervised and checking into a big hotel by himself is even more preposterous than the scenario in the original but, you know what? It's a family comedy. Just go with it.) Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have learned anything about not judging people by how they look from Marley in the first film, as he's initially frightened of and screams at the kind of odd-looking pigeon lady (you know, given everything else he'd seen that night, she doesn't look all that bad) but, like Marley, he ultimately befriends her. He's also good enough in this film to give some money to a children's charity and his ultimate confrontation with Harry and Marv is try to stop them from robbing said charity rather than simply defending himself like before. Of course, he's rewarded for his good deed by being reunited with his family and having a great Christmas... that is, until his dad finds out how much money he spent on room service. In the end, even though he didn't have much new stuff to do, I think Culkin's performance here is just as good, charming and sincere as his performance in the original.
Once again, I'm going to crap all over Buzz and Uncle Frank (Devin Ratray and Gerry Bamman again), because these two are just as hateful as ever, perhaps even more so. It just irritates me how, two movies in a row, Buzz does something to start a scuffle with Kevin and gets away with it. It's even worse here because Buzz does this BS apology that no smart parent would fall for and afterward, he whispers to Kevin, "Beat that, you little trout-sniffer." This guy is not sorry for what he did, knows that nobody believes Kevin, and then rubs his nose in it, like, "I can do whatever I want to you and nobody will defend you." And then, when Kevin storms out of the room, Buzz comments, "What a troubled young man." What a piece of crap. He does kind of redeem himself at the end when he announces that it's because of Kevin that they're in a luxurious hotel instead of that crappy, rundown one they were stuck in back in rain-drenched Florida and he lets his brother open the first present. Fine, I'll give him that (begrudgingly). Uncle Frank pisses me off way more here than he did before. This guy clearly hates Kevin. He laughs when Buzz humiliates Kevin, has the audacity to tell him, "You better not ruin my trip!", and when they arrive in Florida and are passing Kevin's bag along, he acts like it's disease-ridden. What an ass! And, at the end of the movie when everybody's cheering Kevin, he's only cheering because he got free stuff. I love how Kevin gets back at him early on. When he says, "You better not ruin my trip, you little sourpuss. Your dad's paying good money for it," Kevin says, "Wouldn't want to spoil your fun, Mr. Cheapskate." Yeah, fuck you, you bald-headed asshole!
This movie also has an interesting supporting cast of new characters, particularly when it comes to the hotel staff. You've got good old Tim Curry as the concierge, Hector (I don't remember them ever saying his name in the film, though). He's always great fun to watch and this is no exception, as he's sly and devilish as ever, with that great shit-eating grin. One of my favorite scenes is when he enters Kevin's room to see if his father ever showed up and Kevin tricks him with that inflatable clown toy and the recording of Uncle Frank singing in the shower. I crack up when he bashes his knee on a stool while running out of the room. You also got to love that Joker-like grin when he discovers that Kevin's credit card is stolen and a light comes on above his head right when he says, "Bingo." Another funny moment is when Kevin tricks him and the other staff members with the fake gangster movie and the character in the movie says, "Get down on your knees and tell me ya love me." The look on Hector's face when he gets down on his knees right before he says, "I love you," spells out, "I can't believe I'm about to do this." My favorite moment with him, though, is when he's being very callous towards Kate when she talks about going out to find Kevin and she smacks him right across his face. He looks like he's about to start crying! Yeah, Tim Curry's just awesome. Also among the staff is Dana Ivey as Mrs. Stone, this uptight woman who is suspicious of Kevin from the start but lets him into the hotel regardless. Like Hector and the other staff members, though, she doesn't do a very good job of catching Kevin when they realize his credit card is stolen (like Kate said, they shouldn't have frightened him by being so confrontational about it). Finally, there's Rob Schneider as Cedric, the bellhop. Normally, I can't stand him but he's tolerable here because he doesn't act like a total tool. I do chuckle at the running joke where he wants a tip but both Kevin and, later, Buzz give him chewing gum instead and the loud squeak he makes when Hector pulls him off the plaza floor after he got clobbered is also pretty funny. I also have to mention Eddie Bracken's small role as Mr. Duncan, the kindly owner of the toy store, Duncan's Toy Chest. He's just a very sweet old man who loves kids and donates money to a nearby children's hospital. He gives Kevin two turtle-dove ornaments from a Christmas tree and tells him to give one to a special person, saying that they'll be friends forever. He's such a sweetheart of a person that it just warms your heart. Maybe I'm overly sentimental but I just love characters like that.
Finally, I have to mention the replacement for Marley in this film: Brenda Fricker as the pigeon lady. She's beat for beat the same character as Marley: a social outcast who looks really weird, whom Kevin is initially frightened of but later befriends, reveals to him that she's had a troubled past and he gives her some advice about how to deal with it, saves him from Harry and Marv, and has a touching final moment with him at the end of the movie. Their hear-to-heart talk even takes place in the attic above a music hall, similar to the church where Kevin and Marley talked in the first movie. It couldn't be any more plagiarized if they tried. She tells him that she had heart broken years before when her lover left her and that she's avoided becoming close to anyone ever since. Kevin suggests to her what she can do, that she should start trusting people again and that she can trust him. The performances are fine but it would strike more of a cord with me if it wasn't such a blatant copy of a character and scenario from the original movie. I don't find the pigeon lady to be as interesting as Marley either, even though Fricker does play her well. Plus, you could feel a connection between Kevin and Marley since their situations were very similar and also because their talk was much more well-written, whereas this feels forced and contrived, mainly because Kevin only saw her once before they become friends, whereas Marley frightened him throughout the first movie, which made the scene between them in the church work all the more. I didn't mind Hughes and Columbus reusing so much material from the first movie but I think they went way too far with this and really hindered what they were trying to get across. And what's more, the pigeon lady's advice to Kevin that a good deed erases a bad deed? That's kind of a questionable morality when you really think about it.
There are also some notable celebrity cameos in the film. When Kevin first enters the Plaza Hotel, he asks none other than Donald Trump, who owned the place at the time (and who also had a cameo in another family movie, namely the Little Rascals movie, the following year) where the front desk is; Frank Oz can be seen during the brief moment where Marv robs change from a donation bucket; Ally Sheedy from The Breakfast Club pops up as an attendant on the phone who Kevin asks what city it is he can see out the window of the New York airport, although you'd probably not recognize her since she has short, blonde hair; and Chris Columbus himself appears in the scene in Duncan's Toy Chest, holding a little girl who I think may be his real-life daughter Eleanor (I know for sure that his wife, Monica Devereux, is the operator who takes Kevin's reservation when he calls in, pretending to be his father).
At $20 million, Home Alone 2's budget was only a couple of million dollars bigger than the original's but that didn't stop the filmmakers from giving it a much bigger look and feel, taking full advantage of the new setting of New York City. While the first film took place mostly at McCallister family's house, with a few other scenes set in the surrounding neighborhood, here we get to see New York in all its glory, especially when Kevin goes on a sightseeing tour upon arriving (the big pull-back of him atop one of the Twin Towers is particularly spectacular), and some really good production design for some of the sets, like Duncan's Toy Chest, which is this really big, cool-looking toy store, and the large, abandoned townhouse that serves as the setting for Harry and Marv's slapstick punishment this time around. The city's more sinister side is also made clear when, after escaping from Harry and Marv and the hotel staff, Kevin wanders the city streets at night, coming across some really creepy characters, particularly that cab-driver, and the place itself is given a very unsettling vibe in how it's shot, as we can see that he's ended up in the bad side of town. I think my favorite image from the location shots, though, is near the end when Kevin is standing near the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center and he's reunited with his mother. It's lit so beautifully and elegantly and it shows off the increased budget and scale and the film very well.
I'd really be remised if I didn't comment on the design of the Plaza Hotel. That place is so luxurious and spotless that it's just perfect and, even though you know it'd be expensive as all get-out, it's the type of hotel where you'd want to spend a vacation. Not only is the place big and incredible in how it looks, with a really nice-looking pool area (although, that was shot somewhere else as the real place doesn't have a pool), the room Kevin stays in looks particularly awesome, with a huge bed, big TV, a nice-looking bathroom, and snacks all ready for you. When you see him being served ice-cream while watching TV and riding around in a limo, eating pizza and drinking coke while watching a TV in the backseat, you just can't help but think, "That kid is living the dream." The room the whole family ends up in at the end of the film is even more impressive, with that shot of all those presents around that big Christmas tree being a sight anyone would want to see on Christmas morning.
The aspect of this movie that's very much cranked up from the first one is the slapstick. It starts long before Harry and Marv come into the picture, with Kevin punching Buzz as the school choir, which causes a domino effect of kids falling and ends with a big cardboard Christmas tree clobbering the piano player right in the head, serving as a prelude of things to come. Even before Kevin lures Harry and Marv into the booby-trapped house, he has them slip on beads when they're first chasing him and when he runs into the Plaza Hotel, he's chased by the staff who've now discovered that his credit card is stolen, causing them to trip and slam into each other, as well as use the gangster movie to distract them in his room while he slips out the back way. Of course, the hilarity really starts when he ruins Harry and Marv's attempt to rob Duncan's Toy Chest by throwing a brick through the window, setting off the alarm and prompting them to chase him. Little do they know that he put a makeshift seesaw outside the store window and so, when Harry jumps on one end, Marv ends up jumping on the other and sending Harry flying up into the air and landing on a car. When they chase Kevin back to the booby-trapped townhouse, Harry feigns making a deal with Kevin so that they won't hurt him: give them the camera he used to snap a picture of them robbing the store (never mind that his camera is an instamatic camera, so taking it wouldn't mean anything). Kevin, of course, knows they won't keep up their end of the bargain even if he gives them the camera, so he proceeds to throw bricks at them, all of which hit poor Marv right in the forehead (which probably added to the idiot effect the hits in the first movie had on him). Just like before, the two of them split up, with Harry going around back while Marv tries to go through the front door. Unbeknownst to Marv, Kevin put a staple gun on the other end of the front door that's attached to the door knob and when he tries to open the door, he gets a staple right in the butt and later gets one right in the crouch (ouch!) and the nose. Meanwhile, Harry tries to use a hanging ladder to swing into a window but Kevin greased up the rungs of the ladder and Harry slips right off and falls to the ground... with a glob of grease falling on his forehead to add insult to injury. Marv, after pulling the staples off of him, kicks down the front door, proclaims that he's reached the top... and proceeds to fall right through a huge hole in the floor down to the basement. Harry climbs up to the back door (tapping the knob to make sure he doesn't burn his hand like he did in the first movie) and open it, sending a bunch of tools contained in a bag above him right on his head. Marv, meanwhile, gets up in the basement, only to slip on a big puddle of grease and slide right into some shelves full of paint cans, with him getting covered in the stuff (I always felt bad for Marv here because he even got paint on his tongue, which had to have sucked). After getting up from that disaster, he tries to wash his face in a nearby sink, which Kevin happened to hook up to a power generator that nearly electrocutes him to death when he grabs the faucet handles. This is where the movie enters into full blown cartoon mode, as you actually see Marv's skeleton for a bit as he's being electrocuted and his high-pitched screaming makes it all the more funny.
While this is going on, Harry enters the backside of the house and he's so paranoid from what happened in the first film that every time he pulls a light switch, he backs away slightly, probably thinking of when he got a blowtorch to the head. Eventually, though, it does happen to him again. When he realizes his head is on fire, you can hear him yell, "Aah, he did it!", and he desperately sticks his head in the toilet... which Kevin filled with gasoline, causing an explosion that leaves his face covered in soot and his hat burned off. Repeating another gag from the first film, Marv tries to climb up a rope and a big bag of flour falls right onto him like the iron in the face. Also borrowing from the original, Marv growls, "I'm gonna murder that kid," after sitting up. He then uses a makeshift ladder of various objects to climb up to the second floor, warning Harry that Kevin is in the living room. Harry tries to climb up a ladder after Kevin but earlier, he sawed into the rungs and Harry's weight causes them to give way, with him taking a painful fall. Marv helps Harry to his feet and they take the stairs but Harry, knowing Kevin will bomb them with paint cans again, holds Marv back. Once again, they underestimate Kevin because, after the two paint cans, he swings this big metal post that clobbers them both right in the face (I love how Marv says, "Oops," right before it hits them), sending them back down the basement. Even worse, Kevin cuts the rope and sends the post rolling down in the basement on top of them. After getting back up to the second floor, they come to another door and when they pull on the knob, it yanks a big tool chest down the stairs that pins them between the door and the wall. After crunching their noses back into position, they follow Kevin to the roof, now determined more than ever to kill their little tormentor. They realize that Kevin climbed down from the roof with a rope and Marv, in an attempt to get revenge, throws a brick at Kevin and, of course, misses. They both proceed to try to climb down the rope, just like they tried to climb across to Kevin's treehouse before and, also just like in the first movie, Kevin gives them a painful way back down: lighting the kerosene-soaked rope on fire and causing them to fall, with a shower of paint and grease from buckets they sent flying upwards landing all over them. Kevin himself is a victim of slapstick when he later slips on a patch of ice and knocks himself senseless, leading to him being captured by Harry and Marv. They take Kevin to Central Park to finish him off but the pigeon lady comes to his rescue, throwing birdseed onto them, which sticks to their clothing and attracts every pigeon in the park to them, resulting in them being covered with the birds (Marv once again screams like Fay Wray during this commotion). The cops then arrive, having been tipped of by Kevin, and they arrest the two crooks. Marv, like before, can't keep his mouth shut and confesses their whole scheme to the cops and then tells the cops that, if this makes the papers, they're now the "Sticky Bandits" and tries to spell "sticky". Harry, like before, tries to shut him up but just gives up a few seconds in.
Like Hughes and Columbus, returning composer John Williams decided to basically reuse his score for the original, with few changes. In deed, there are almost no deviations in the music between the two films. All the themes and melodies from the original are back, often accompanying the scenes that mirror those they played over in the original, although the Somewhere in My Memory song isn't used nearly as much and is only heard in its full instrumental entirety at the ending and over the latter part of the ending credits. Also like the original, there are bunch of Christmas songs on the soundtrack, both classic and modern, like It's Beginning To Look a Lot Like Christmas, Jingle Bell Rock, The Most Wonderful Time of the Year, Holly Jolly Christmas, and Silver Bells (I honestly don't remember hearing those last two, though), as well as stuff like Cool Jerk (the song Uncle Frank sings along with in the shower), Sleigh Ride by TLC (I think that's the song that plays over the montage of Kevin touring New York and, if so, that's a rocking song) and Christmas All Over Again by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. So, yes, the score isn't very original, except for the songs that weren't featured on the original's soundtrack, but it still fits the film and manages to put you in the Christmas mood.
Like the original Home Alone, Home Alone 2 was a big success all around the world, if not quite successful as its predecessor but, even though there were several more films afterward, this was the end of Home Alone as I and everyone else who grew up in that period knew it. Home Alone 3, released in 1997, had nothing with the first two movies, had no involvement from Chris Columbus, Macaulay Culkin (who'd dropped out of acting by that point), or any of the other cast members (John Hughes still wrote and produced it, though), and wasn't anywhere near as successful as the first two. I've only seen bits of it but it's never been a movie I've been interested in seeing, as it's just not the same. The final nails in the coffin for the series were two TV movies: Home Alone 4: Taking Back the House in 2002 and Home Alone: Holiday Heist in 2012. While the former does feature Kevin again, it's a reboot rather than another sequel, with a younger kid playing Kevin and other has-been actors, including French Stewart as Marv (Daniel Stern wisely refused to return, calling this movie an insulting piece of trash; although, I wonder what his excuse was for appearing in A Christmas Story 2?). I never watched that because it sounded so atrocious and I doubt I ever will. And I didn't even know until just recently that there was a fifth film, so there's that. To me, the original Home Alone and this film are the only ones that exist.