I tried to consider Home Alone: The Holiday Heist from a kid's perspective. Would I have liked this movie if I were seeing it for the first time as a nine or ten year old? I don't think so. For starters, everyone in the movie is stupid, and that's a red flag even when you're little.
The movie focuses on the Baxter family who has just moved from California to Maine for the mother's new job. The kids, Alexis (Jodelle Ferland) and Finn (Christian Martyn) are surly and depressed about the move, making for a total Uncle Buck situation. Alexis and her mom spar just like Tia and her mother did in Uncle Buck, minus the gravitas, of course, and there's generally a lot of talk about, "Why did you move us here? Why can't we just go back home?" There's also a lot of emphasis on how totally disconnected these kids are from real life, what with their video games and headphones, cell phones and internet. We all know that's an aspect of life for kids today and yes, it does create something of a generation gap, but at a point the jokes become a little mean-spirited, especially when these clueless, dismissive, parents wonder why their kids aren't up for family bonding. Um, maybe because you're a couple of tools and the best these kids can hope for is meeting someone halfway authentic and likable in a virtual environment?
In any case, Finn is convinced their new home is haunted, which makes for lots of pratfalls and hijinx. As it turns out, he's sort of right. A bootlegger lived in the home years ago, and there's a lost Munch hidden in a secret passage in the basement. (Oh, you know an Edvard Munch, creator of The Scream...the face Macaulay Culkin made in the original. Now let's all make that face just to drive the point home.) Naturally, some hapless thieves, (Debi Mazar, Malcolm McDowell, and Eddie Steeples) are bent on stealing that painting, and it follows that they try to do so while Finn's parents are snowed in at a Christmas party and his sister is trapped in the basement.
Unsurprisingly, Finn uses a lot of the same methods to thwart the burglars that little Kevin McCallister did in the first movie. He pours water on the pavement outside so they'll slip in the ice, but in a hilarious twist, it's the police who fall down in this movie! He goes shopping by himself for a ridiculous amount of hardware but can only afford some string. And he sends one of the burglars face first down the stairs, and he looks just like Kevin did on his sled. There are even twinkles of the original Home Alone music to be heard in the background. All of this makes a person wonder why they're not just watching the original.
The only fun additions to the formula are a snow-obsessed neighbor kid and an online gamer who manages to help Finn out, even though he's a college kid and he and Finn have never met in real life. Turns out these virtual friendships have some worth after all. Oh, but that doesn't stop a SWAT team from descending upon the gamer's apartment, because we really need a wink to Christmas Vacation in here somewhere. Again, the reference really only serves to remind us that we could be watching another movie that doesn't insult our intelligence and has held up over time.