Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York may be the most successful sequel that’s also unashamedly a carbon copy of its predecessor.
Released two years after Chris Collumbus’s hugely successful 1990 original — a film that left Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) to protect his home from burglars with nothing but a few quips and a series of increasingly bloodthirsty boobie traps — part two wasted no time offering audiences more of the same.
However, instead of ditching Kevin in his parents’ lush Chicago house again, Columbus stuck closely to a familiar sequel trope and sent his hero on a new adventure in the big smoke.
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At the time, this didn’t feel like anything overly special. After all, following the rollicking success of the first Home Alone movie (it stayed at the box office number one spot for 12 consecutive weeks), viewers would’ve likely gobbled up anything that even remotely resembled Macaulay Culkin chucking a paint can at a middle-aged bloke.
However, with the gift of hindsight, there’s plenty about Home Alone 2: Lost in New York that make it feel very much like a product of its time. Cinema, especially movies released between the mid-80s and the late 90s, seemed to have a penchant for using a similar motif when it came to capitalising on their most popular properties. Essentially, if in doubt, head to New York City.
Looking back, Home Alone 2: Lost in New York perhaps emerges as the most well-known example of this sequel storytelling technique — but look deeper and you’ll see it has happened quite a bit.
Other sequels in New York
The Muppets took Manhattan in their 1984 third outing. Jason Vorhees made a detour to the city that never sleeps in 1989’s Friday The 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan. Inquisitive robot Johnny Five made for the Big Apple in 1988’s Short Circuit 2 (and subsequently got battered) and even the gremlins swapped sleepy Kingston Falls for a self-aware skyscraper in 1990’s brilliant follow-up, Gremlins 2: The New Batch.
The notable exception to the rule was 1988’s Crocodile Dundee II which took the opposite approach, sending its adopted New York Aussie hardman back to his outback homeland for his second outing - but you get the idea.
Don't change the formula
Whatever the reason behind sending Kevin to New York City, it can’t have been to avoid retreading familiar ground because that’s exactly what Home Alone 2: Lost in New York excels at. Beat for beat, Columbus’s sequel is almost exactly the same as its predecessor.
We get another rushed hustle to the airport; there’s a new fake noir movie-within-a-movie used to help Kevin get out of a few scrapes and a mysterious, misunderstood stranger that helps him learn the true meaning of the holidays (so long snow shovelling neighbour, hello heartbroken pigeon lady!).
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There’s even a third-act house invasion that puts the Wet Bandits through their paces once more. Home Alone 2 capitalises on the success of the first movie by practically doing that movie all over again — with the baubles, skyscrapers and the dazzling lights of NYC serving as a handy distraction.
It worked, too. Despite receiving mixed reviews following its initial release (Roger Ebert only gave it two stars, yikes), three decades later and the film has transcended any gripes to become a multi-generational Christmas classic that’s enjoyed by family members of all ages.
It also serves as a pretty solid advert for New York’s tourism board — showcasing the ultimate festivity of 30 Rock’s mammoth Christmas tree to the wider world and even leading the hotel where Kevin stays in the movie to launch its own Home Alone 2 experience. Opt for the ‘Fun in New York’ package and you’ll be treated to a limo ride around the city to visit key moments from the movie, an extravagant ice cream sundae and Kevin’s favourite food: a large cheese pizza.
You’ll also get yourself a hefty bill (the package’s cheapest stay averages at around $1500 a night), so while this is clearly one for all the Mac megafans out there, it’s also living proof of the movie’s status as the pinnacle of big-budget sequels heading to the big city for some storytelling mojo.
While Home Alone 2: Lost in New York may have marked a bit of a jump-the-shark moment for lazy sequel tropes, that doesn’t make it any less enjoyable as a bonafide Christmas staple.
So go on, stick it on again this December and revel in its uncanny ability to sell you something you already have - in the best possible way. Enjoy it, ya filthy animal - it’s Christmas!
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York is streaming on Disney+.
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