Old Friends

30 Years Later, Home Alone 2 Is Way Better Than The Original For One Big Reason

This Home Alone has aged better than you think.

Originally Published: 
'Home Alone 2'
20th Century Fox

30 years ago, on November 15, 1992, the seemingly unnecessary sequel to Home Alone managed to do the impossible — be better than the original. Although many might disagree, the truth is that Home Alone 2 has aged way better than the original for one huge reason. It’s more realistic, and reminds us of a time when New York City was changing, forever.

Much has been made about how the events of Home Alone wouldn’t fly today. With smart devices ruling our lives and helicopter parents fearing for children’s safety, the idea that Kevin would get left “home alone” in the first movie is absurd. But, in contrast, Home Alone 2 is less anachronistic simply because we can believe Kevin could get lost in New York, and there’s something slightly more interesting about rewatching it. Home Alone 2, is the far superior sequel to 1990’s Home Alone and celebrates its thirtieth anniversary this holiday season. In other words: those of us who grew up with it as a Christmas staple are all old people now!

Whereas the original finds Macaulay Culkin’s Kevin left at home alone in his palatial Chicago mansion while his parents and entire extended family fly to France, Home Alone 2 ups the ante, with Kevin Lost in New York.

After the requisite chaos of the McAllister home pre-holiday travel at the beginning of the first (and only, as we’ve established) two films, Home Alone 2 begins in the Chicago O'Hare airport, where this time Kevin has been brought along for the ride. Straggling behind trying to reload batteries for his tape recorder (three nouns I didn’t think I would be writing in the year of our lord 2022), he follows the trench coat-clad man he mistakes for his father (John Heard) to the wrong terminal. He promptly bumps into a boarding assistant and loses his ticket among all the others that have just fallen to the floor. The airport staff let him on the plane, which apparently doesn’t have assigned seating. Before Kevin can hear the captain’s announcement that they’re headed to New York, not Florida where his family plans to spend the holidays (“How can you have Christmas without a Christmas tree?!” is his response to the tropical locale), he puts his headphones on and zones out. Ahh, the pre-9/11 of it all.

While Mom of the Year 1990 and 1992, Kate (the superb Catherine O’Hara), chronically underestimates the fearfulness of her son alone in America’s largest city, Kevin is reveling in his second Christmas apart from his family (as someone who has spent five out of the past six holiday seasons alone, honestly #goals). He does the tourist thing, catching a cab to Manhattan, which he can apparently see from the mythical adjacent airport (for those playing at home, none of New York’s three major airports are in such close proximity to the island).

Lest we think this is any old New York City, Home Alone 2 takes pains to illustrate that Kevin’s in a pre-Giuliani, pre-Sex and the City metropolis in which unstable, unhoused bird people stalk kids through treacherous Central Park—not to mention the Sticky Bandits, Harry and Marv, played iconically by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern, respectively, who’ve upgraded from the Wet Bandits during their crime spree two years prior.

This brings us to the pranks. Oh, the pranks. Lesser criminals would have died many times over, or at least be severely injured and disabled by the traps Kevin set for them over the course of the two movies. And the joy Kevin gets from said traps, which in Home Alone 2 occur within the expertly-utilized mid-renovation brownstone belonging to Kevin’s uncle who, along with the rest of the Upper West Side, is apparently also out of town, makes a pretty good case for his psychopathy.

Home Alone 2 happens in Manhattan in particular, because Brooklyn was still considered a place you move when your life is over, as per Miranda Hobbes in Sex and the City. But the questions of what was and wasn’t considered “safe” in New York were in flux at the time.

Kevin McAllister was far from Etan Patz, the Soho boy whose 1979 disappearance ignited the milk carton trend, stranger danger, and fear in the hearts of parents everywhere, the latter two of which Home Alone trades in. One can’t help but be reminded of the Exonerated Five, then known as the Central Park Five, five Black and brown boys who were wrongfully convicted of the sexual assault of a white woman in 1989. (Donald Trump, whose cameo has sometimes been retroactively erased from Home Alone 2, at one point, called for the death penalty for the boys in a paid advertisement in The New York Times.)

Who would have thought that Home Alone 2 would prove such a prophetic snapshot of what New York would become: a literal playground for the wealthy, ostracizing the poor and mentally ill?

And after the mass exodus of people who could probably afford the $967.43 (double that at today’s rate of inflation) room service bill that Kevin racks up by the end of his hotel stay from New York for their country homes during the height of COVID (not including the very real job losses that caused many more to move back home and/or to cheaper locales), their prodigal returns to the city has jacked up rents to their highest rates ever. Very few in New York can afford to have homes alone.

That’s why Home Alone 2 still resonates today: the more distance we get from it, the more our nostalgia grows for a time we’re hurtling further away from. Whether that be childhood or a pre-9/11, pre-COVID, pre-crippling inflation optimistic view of the world where a cheese pizza, a tray of ice cream, and some me-time was all it took to make everything better. Ya filthy animal.

Home Alone 2 is streaming on Disney+.

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