After the massive success of 1990's "Home Alone" and 1992's "Home Alone 2: Lost in New York", the nagging question remains, "Can there be life after Macaulay Culkin?"
The answer is yes. And no.
While "Home Alone 3" is a virtual Xerox of the oft-imitated "Home Alone" blueprint, young Alex D. Linz ("One Fine Day") makes for a highly charming lead and, as a whole, the John Hughes-penned script isn't as mean-spirited as the previous installment.
And, despite the relative sameness of it all, Hughes still manages to throw in a funny wrinkle here and there, keeping the high jinks humming.
But while the studio probably doesn't want to hear this, the secret of the franchise's success wasn't so much the endless pratfalls or good-vs.-evil through-line as it was the presence of Culkin, particularly the 8-year-old version, whose wide-eyed projection of innocence and mischief instantly made him America's favorite everykid.
Although the irresistible Linz certainly gets the job done (he's actually the better actor of the two), it just isn't "Home Alone" without Culkin's Kevin McCallister. As a result, while the Fox release should do solid holiday business, particularly with boys, it won't be reaching the lofty boxoffice heights of its predecessors.
The picture's rather drawn-out set up involves a group of black marketeers who pinch a top secret Defense Department computer chip and hide it in a toy car only to find out it has been misrouted to a sleepy Chicago suburb.
Of course, all audiences really are concerned about is how 8-year-old Alex Pruitt (Linz) will defend his home against the quartet of criminal masterminds (Olek Krupa
, Rya Kihlstedt
, David Thornton and Lenny Von Dohlen) who are determined to reclaim their booty by any means necessary.
Wisely, veteran editor and first-time director Raja Gosnell
(he cut the two previous "Home Alone" editions) wastes little extra time in getting to the good stuff as we watch little Alex, who's been sidelined by the measels, turn everyday household objects into state-of-the-art booby traps.
While Hughes can pretty well write this stuff in his sleep by now (even his treatments of "101 Dalmatians" and "Flubber" boasted "Home Alone"-style battles), there are still moments of inventiveness to be found, manifested by the helpful presence of a pet white rat and an Amazon parrot. Then there's an extended and admittedly clever sequence involving a camcorder taped to said Remote Control
toy car that will have thousands of kiddies hastily adding pricey Tyco Mutators to their Christmas lists.
In addition to Linz, the cast is fine, although it would have been nice if the quartet of interchangeable bad guys were given some individual traits. Catherine O'Hara lookalike Haviland Morris
is fine as Alex's distracted mom, while stage great Marian Seldes
as sour-faced neighbor Mrs. Hess has a firm grasp on that obligatory Hughes character -- the crotchety old person who ends up forming a special bond with the pint-sized protagonist.
HOME ALONE 3
20th Century Fox
A John Hughes production
Director: Raja Gosnell
Screenwriter: John Hughes
Producers: John Hughes, Hilton Green
Executive producer: Ricardo Mestres
Director of photographer: Julio Macat
Production designer: Henry Bumstead
Music: Nick Glennie-Smith
Costume designer: Jodie Tillen
Editors: Bruce Green, Malcolm Campbell, David Rennie
Casting: Billy Hopkins
, Suzanne Smith, Kerry Barden
, Jennifer McNamara
Alex: Alex D. Linz
Karen Pruitt: Haviland Morris
Beaupre: Olek Krupa
Alice: Rya Kihlstedt
Unger: David Thornton
Jernigan: Lenny Von Dohlen
Jack Pruitt: Kevin Kilner
Mrs. Hess: Marian Seldes
Running time --103 minutes
MPAA Rating: PG