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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Blu-ray)
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (Blu-ray)
Fox // PG // Region A
List Price: $34.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Michael Zupan | posted October 20, 2009 | E-mail the Author
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If there's a single title in my DVD collection that's been desperately screaming for an update for quite some time, it's Home Alone 2. Every time December rolls around I can't help but watch through every holiday disc I own, but it's become increasingly difficult year after year to enjoy this particular title because of the degrading picture quality and non-anamorphic transfer. While Kevin McCallister is usually asking the big guy in the red and white pajamas to fulfill such tall orders as, oh, making his entire family reappear, all I've been asking Hollywood for is nothing more than a semi-decent rerelease of this film. Big name studios have made it a habit to entice the consumer with double and triple dips over the years, so why is it a veritable cash cow like this can be neglected while money gets allocated for sleeper sequels like Home Alone 3 and 4? It's a head scratcher, ain't it? While 2009 seems to finally be the year we can see a vast upgrade in terms of picture and audio quality with Home Alone 2's debut on Blu-ray, I have to admit I'm still left scratching my head a little.

There's no need to go into a long winded description of Home Alone 2, because it's exactly the same film as the original. Kevin gets into a huge fight with his family right before they're supposed to go on Christmas vacation together, and like most adolescents his age that are fed up with their parents, Kevin wishes they would all just disappear and leave him alone. His wish comes true the very next day thanks to a snafu at the airport (yes, again), and Kevin is left to fend for himself with nothing more than his wits while the duo known as the 'Wet Bandits' nip at his heels every step of the way. The only way you can really distinguish Home Alone 2 from its predecessor is by its new locale, as Kevin has at least made it out of the house this time to hop on a plane to New York City. Other than that, the similarities between the two films aren't just striking, they're practically insulting.

The passing of John Hughes was a great loss to the world of cinema. So many of the films he's credited with writing are considered timeless classics (Ferris Bueller's Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Christmas Vacation), but I can't sit here and pretend that Home Alone 2 is anywhere near the quality of work Hughes is typically known for. Such a talented writer should have been able to at least string the same basic plot points along with some kind of variation, but instead he plays it safe with a 'if it ain't broke don't fix it' mentality. Think I'm being too harsh? How about the way in which we see the hectic McCallister household scramble while getting ready for their trip? It's exactly the same. Watching the McCallister family run through the airport to make their flight? The same. Coming face to face with a creepy misunderstood character that Kevin later becomes friends with? Same. Hell, even the 'Angels with Filthy Souls' gag is identical. It's as if 20th Century Fox sat down with John Hughes and Chris Columbus and said, "That first film you guys did was great! How would you like to do another one for us? The audience loved watching Pesci and Stern get their asses handed to them by a little kid, and we're willing to bet they'll pay to go see it again! Put Kevin in a place that reaches out to the American audience, like New York City for example, and make all the gags bigger and better the second time around and we'll make a bajillion bucks! We can't lose!"

The original Home Alone was a whimsical look into the imagination of a child and the ingenuity that can come as a result, and there were also elements of heart and warmth to enjoy as well. However, since this sequel finds Kevin at fault once again for successfully wishing his family away, it's incredibly hard for me to feel sorry for a kid I already know isn't weak and defenseless. The reason why the original film worked as well as it did was because Kevin's survival techniques were surprising and charming, but those elements have been replaced this time around with yawn inducing predictability. Know what the real kicker is though? This film still actually works. It doesn't come close to replicating the original by any stretch (but boy did it try), but it's still thoroughly entertaining. This is probably the most frustrating aspect of Home Alone 2 for me, especially as a reviewer. As much as every fiber in my being knows this film is one of the most blatant cash grabs in cinematic history, I still had a pretty good time watching these events unfold all over again. Although the cons heavily outweigh the pros critically, once in a while it's necessary to lay down the 'reviewer' cap and acknowledge a film for its sheer ability to entertain, even if it is absurdly unoriginal.

Besides, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are the real reasons to watch this film, as the comical flare they provide while taking punishment from the McCallister kid is unforgettable and second to none. I can't help but feel sorry for them as they're assaulted with fire, electricity, bricks and even a staple gun, but their hilarious reactions to the dastardly traps kept me begging for more. As long as you're able to get past the films inability to provide a single fresh idea, you should find Home Alone 2 to be a pretty entertaining experience from beginning to end. If not, well, you're probably going to find the scathing majority of my review to hit the mark.


Video
Home Alone 2 makes its debut on Blu-ray with an AVC encode at 1080p (1.85:1), and although it's an immense improvement over the ancient DVD release, it's an inconsistent experience overall. Color levels are presented without issue, black levels are more often than not spot on, sharpness is generally good, and film grain has been preserved to keep the original integrity of the source intact. Despite how good this transfer can look for a 17 year old film, all the strong points noted have a tendency to waver. Contrast can occasionally look a little flat, and grain can be pretty obtrusive from time to time as well. Sharpness is probably the worst offender on this release, as certain shots can look pretty soft, while others have been artificially tweaked with some minor edge enhancement. It's a shame these inconsistencies pop up throughout the film, but this is still the best Home Alone 2 has ever looked on home video. If you're a stickler for owning nothing but perfect video representations in your Blu-ray collection, you might want to rent this first. For the rest of you, this is a pretty substantial upgrade over the DVD in every perceivable way.


Audio


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track on this release is a vast improvement over the DVD, but for a film that takes place in New York City, I was hoping for a little more out of the directional sound field. There are times throughout where the surround channels are used accordingly and with an impressive sense of environment ambience at that, but most of the time Home Alone 2 doesn't stray too far away from the front end of your home theater. Dialogue remains clear throughout the entirety of the film no matter what seems to be happening on screen, but the biggest complement I can give this lossless track is to John Williams' score. I haven't heard it sound this full or realistic since I saw this film in theaters 17 years ago, but I imagine what's presented here is pretty close. It's not the most impressive sounding audio track I've ever heard, but Home Alone 2's sound design wasn't crafted in such a way where it would even be able to compete. The mix may be lacking a bit at times, but the representation of the source material is practically flawless.


Extras


If you're looking for extras, you're going to be sorely disappointed. Although the original Home Alone came to Blu-ray with a pretty nice amount of bonus material to keep fans happy, Home Alone 2 is armed with nothing more than the trailers for the theatrical Home Alone trilogy. At the beginning of my review I mentioned I was left scratching my head a little about this release, and one only needs to see the lack of a supplement list to know why. After waiting ten years for a decent rerelease for this film, it's pretty harsh to be given nothing extra for the long wait.


Overall


To put it bluntly, Home Alone 2 is little more than a shameless repackaging of the original. It doesn't go out of its way to restructure the story so the audience has something fresh to enjoy, instead it just changes the paint job and throws it in a shiny box with a purdy little bow and says, "Here I am, new and improved! Buy me!" Even so, it's hard to deny the film's ability to entertain from beginning to end. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern completely overshadow Culkin's performance during their torturous romp through New York, as their reactions to the most painful traps they've ever had to endure provide paint-bucketfuls of laughs. Despite the numerous shortcomings this film has formulaically, it's still a title I can recommend for most casual moviegoers. Some of you might want to consider this one a rental however, as there's a complete lack of extras and the video quality can take a brief dip from time to time.
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