Here's the thing about sequels. You think you're going in for the next installment of the story, a brand new adventure that happens to feature the same characters but is really a whole different thing. But what you really want is the same thing that made you love the first movie-- the same action sequences, the same kind of jokes, the knowing nods to the first movie that make you feel "in the know." Yes, these kinds of sequels aren't the highest form of cinema-- but they're the ones that get you in the seats and keep you happy the whole time you're there.
And that, in short, is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, a sequel that manages to stick remarkably close to the original even with the action transplanted to a new city. There's the same bit with watching It's a Wonderful Life dubbed in another language. There's tricking the bad guys with an old mobster movie. There's the mysterious, spooky old person on hand to teach Kevin a thing or two about life-- and there's two of them this time! And then there's the pranks! Oh, Lord, how we all were waiting for the new pranks.
The genius of Home Alone 2 is that it sticks so closely to the beats of the first movie without feeling like the same damn thing over again. They know all the parts we want to see again-- Kevin slapping on aftershave and screaming, Kevin eating a bunch of junk food, Kevin outsmarting Harry and Marv-- and replace everything else with something new. The addition of the hotel staff, led by Tim Curry and Rob Schneider, is brilliant-- even more villains, and dumber ones at that. The child fantasia of Duncan's Toy Chest is a way to make everything in the movie "bigger and better" without seeming like gluttons about it. And the key final sequence, when Kevin sets up all the traps in his uncle's renovated home, is just twisted a tiny bit from the original, but still keeps all the same elements. They knew Kevin didn't need to somehow get his hands on a bazooka and blow away Harry and Marv; just add some new pranks and you've got all the variety you need.
I'm not going to argue that Home Alone 2 was some utterly crucial artistic endeavor, or that its $175 million box office gross wasn't the entire goal to begin with. But Home Alone and Home Alone 2 remain satisfying back-to-back viewing experiences because they're similar enough to be what you want, but different enough not to feel like a retread. It's like resetting your video game after you beat it and starting all over again-- the end point will be the same, but think of how many different adventures you can have on the way there!
Whine all you want, Mack, about plotholes and creepy old people and some ridiculous notion you have that Tim Curry is too smart to be fooled by Kevin McAllister (he was a voice in Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties! How smart do you really think he is?) You know, Mack, just like the rest of us, that Home Alone 2 provided everything you loved about the first movie, plus some New York scenery, a joke about giving chewed gum as a tip, and an unimaginable amount of toys. If you're against those staples of the Christmas season, then I suggest you move along to Ramadan and leave the rest of us to enjoy the most wonderful time of the year.
Read Mack's completely Scrooge-y and hateful Red Band Rant here.