Things I Learned From Movie X
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
By Edwin Davies
December 22, 2011
Ah, Christmas. Truly, the greatest holiday ever invented, a time when we all gather with our loved ones to celebrate the wondrous day when Jesus, Santa and Superman joined forces to banish Jack Frost to the Phantom Zone. And each year we use our festive cheer to top up the defenses of Frost's magic prison to ensure that he will never again threaten our world. And if that little bitch Linus tells you anything else, Charlie Brown, he's a goddamned liar. (It's worth pointing out at this point that I was educated at Church of England schools as a child, which is as close as you can get to being an atheist whilst still being guaranteed a place in Heaven, so I'm willing to admit that my teachers may have flubbed some of the details, loveable souses that they were.)
It truly is the most wonderful time of the year, and in keeping with the season, this festive installment of Things I Learned From Movie X (or "A Things I Learned From Movie Xmas", if you want to be extra Christmassy) will focus on one of the most successful Christmas movies ever made, 1992's Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, in which the world's most violent ten-year-old is unleashed on the streets of Manhattan, like a three-foot Godzilla, leaving chaos and destruction in his wake. What deeper subtext is there to be drawn from a film which features Daniel Stern getting a stapler shot into his crotch? You'd be surprised, maybe.
(On a sincere note, I hope that everyone reading this and everyone who has read these columns this year has a wonderful time over the next few weeks, regardless of what holiday you celebrate. Right, enough heart, time for the withering sarcasm.)
New York in the early '90s was a magical place, free of problems of any kind
The plot of Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, starts when Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Kulkin) and his family decide to spend Christmas in Florida. In the chaos of trying to herd all the children and adults through the airport, Kevin accidentally gets up on the wrong plane and winds up in New York, immediately invalidating the title of the film, since at no point is he Alone in his Home. A more accurate title would have been Surrounded By Strangers In A Place You Don't Live, which incidentally is also the title of the screenplay for an indie romance I wrote when I was 17, which remains unproduced because it doesn't exist, and this entire last sentence has been a lie.
The film glosses over the fact that Kevin's parents are the most negligent in cinema history (though I like to think that the lack of McCallisters in the subsequent films is due to the fact that, following the events of Home Alone 2, Social Services finally stepped in and took Kevin away from them) and instead spends much of its first half depicting New York as a candy-covered wonderland filled with giant toy stores and a murder rate well below the national average. In reality, New York at the time still had a reputation for crime and violence that the film completely ignores, sacrificing harsh social realism for wacky family hijinks. (This became a trademark of director Chris Columbus, who directed Mrs. Doubtfire the following year and chose to jettison the original ending, in which Robin Williams' has a complete psychotic break and is consumed by the Mrs. Doubtfire persona, who then proceeds to beat Pierce Brosnan to death.) Even once Kevin is kicked out of the luxury hotel that he tricks his way into staying at and is forced to live in an empty tenement house under-going refurbishment, the film still makes everything look incredibly sanitary and safe, when a real house undergoing renovation in New York circa 1992 would have been stripped of all its copper wiring and filled to the brim with rotting corpses.