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Monday, December 03, 2012

Home Alone 2 - Lost in New York

I hope you're all enjoying The Pop Culture Addict's Advent Calendar for this month! Coming up with topics for this month has been a lot of fun, and I still have twenty-two more days to go!

We're heading into Day 3 of the near month long event, and this is our first look at a Monday Matinee. So, why not feature a movie that brings us all into the Christmas spirit?

Before I get into today's blog entry, I thought that I would talk about a subject that many people seem to get annoyed at, but I think that in some instances, it's okay.

I'm talking about product placement.

Product placement in film and television has been a regular sight to be seen since the days of the 1950s when some sitcoms acted out built-in commercials for products right in the show. You see it all the time in movies, such as subtle references to company logos, people name-dropping various brand names within the dialogue, and setting key scenes inside of a well-known restaurant chain.

I imagine that a lot of people hate the idea of product placement in movies, and for the most part, I tend to agree. People go to the movies to watch a couple fall in love, or to watch someone save the world, or to see a group of people get turned into hors d'oeuvres by a group of hungry zombies. They don't like being bombarded by impromptu commercials for items that they have no interest in purchasing. I know I certainly don't like watching ads within movies, especially now that I am an adult.

When I was a child though, I admit that I did like seeing toys and games played in various movies and television shows. After all, I will readily admit that a lot of my early Christmas lists were inspired by things I had seen in movies and television shows. For example, the 1988 film “The Wizard” was largely forgettable, but it was also the film which showed exclusive previews of the Nintendo game “Super Mario Brothers 3”, which was a game I received one Christmas morning. I also remember watching the 1982 film “ET: The Extra Terrestrial” and suddenly getting a craving for Reese's Pieces. It's funny how product placement really worked on my young mind, looking back on it.

I have one more story to tell you about product placement, and it takes place almost 20 years ago to the day.

In 1992, I was eleven years old, and I remember that Christmas being a particularly memorable one. My big gift that year was my Super Nintendo, and I also remember it being the first year that my mom's extended family had a get together on Christmas Eve, where we exchanged gifts. Christmas '92 was the second Christmas without my grandmother and right around that time, family togetherness was very important and we wanted to make a tradition to spend more time together.

(Ironically enough, the tradition only lasted a few years, as some family members kind of got along the same way that water got along with a frayed electrical cord...but hey, at least it was nice for the remainder of the 1990s.)

In addition to my Super Nintendo that year, I had also gotten some cash that year, and I decided to spend it at the movie theater. Back then there was a movie that I had wanted to see since it was released a month earlier, but never had the money to afford it. I ended up seeing the movie on the last day of 1992, and I thought it was a great way to ring in 1993.

The movie was actually a sequel to a popular 1990 film, and I remember wanting to see it because I had loved the first film. And for what it was worth, although the second film was very similar to the first, I did like it a lot. It helped that almost the same cast returned to the sequel to reprise their roles...but there was also something in the film that was featured a lot.

Something in the film that I really wanted.

You see, the main character in the film used a particular device throughout the film that helped him out a lot. He used it to manipulate his voice, recorded movie scenes that he played at certain times to escape danger, and used it to cause mischief around the house.

It was a device known as the Talkboy tape recorder. And I wanted one so badly. The problem was that at the time the movie was released, the Talkboy was not available in stores. I come to find out that the Talkboy tape recorder was made especially for the film itself. But I still wanted one, and apparently so did millions of children all over the world. The demand from children got so high that in 1993, Tiger Electronics began manufacturing the Talkboy tape recorder for sale in retail outlets, and it soon became one of the best-selling toys of 1993. I ended up getting my own version of the Talkboy for Christmas 1994, I believe, and I admit that it was neat toy the amount of time I owned it...though the sound quality wasn't that great.

But that Talkboy tape recorder sure did help Kevin McCallister out in a bind. With it, he checked into a hotel and kept the bad guys at bay. Not bad, considering that at the age of ten, he ended up lost on the streets of New York City.

And that's the basic plot of the film “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York”, a film directed by Chris Columbus and which starred Macaulay Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern, Catherine O'Hara, John Heard, Brenda Fricker, Tim Curry, and Eddie Bracken.

The film was released on November 20, 1992 – a little over two years after the original “Home Alone” debuted, and the plot for the sequel was almost exactly the same as the first movie, only with a twist. Instead of Kevin McCallister (Culkin) being left home alone in his comfortable Oak Park, Illinois home, he somehow boards the wrong airplane and ends up in New York City while the rest of his family goes to Miami, Florida.

As if things aren't bad enough, Kevin is unaware of the fact that the Wet Bandits that he helped put away in the first movie have escaped police custody and are on the New York City.

The parallels between the original Home Alone and Home Alone 2 are eerily similar. Within the first half hour of the film, both movies begin almost exactly the same way.

(Home Alone) Kevin is forced to sleep in the attic after he pushes Buzz away and spills milk over the family's plane tickets to Paris.
(Home Alone 2) Kevin is forced to sleep in the attic after he pushes Buzz at a Christmas concert for making his ears glow during his big solo.

(Home Alone) Kevin wishes his family would just disappear.
(Home Alone 2) Kevin wishes he could go on his own vacation without his family.

(Home Alone) Kevin oversleeps and his family leaves without waking him up.
(Home Alone 2) Kevin ends up following another man wearing the same jacket as his father (Heard) and boards the wrong plane.

(Home Alone) Kate (O'Hara) realizes Kevin is missing on the airplane to Paris.
(Home Alone 2) Kate realizes that Kevin is missing at the Miami International Airport and faints.

(Home Alone) Kevin watches the movie “Angels With Filthy Souls” and gets scared.
(Home Alone 2) Kevin watches the movie “Angels With Filthier Souls” and gets scared.

(Home Alone) Harry (Pesci) and Marv (Stern) call themselves the Wet Bandits and they break into people's homes and steal things.
(Home Alone 2) Harry and Marv call themselves the Sticky Bandits, and they scheme to rob Duncan's Toy Chest.

(Home Alone) The McCallisters have a miserable time in Paris.
(Home Alone 2) The McCallisters have a miserable time in Miami.

(Home Alone) Kevin is initially afraid of Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom) but later becomes his friend.
(Home Alone 2) Kevin is initially afraid of the Central Park Pigeon Lady (Fricker), but later becomes her friend.

Okay, so I see what you're saying here. The films are more or less the same movie with a different setting. But one reason why I loved the sequel of Home Alone was for the storyline.

You see, Home Alone was a great film as far as having an eight year old boy crafting up a blueprint of schemes and booby traps to stop Harry and Marv in their tracks. We learned that ice on a staircase is dangerous, crazy glue and feathers make an interesting costume, and that a blowtorch can be used as a hair removing device. And yet, the whole idea of the film was kind of self-serving. When you stop and think about it, yes, Kevin did learn a lot about what it was like to fend for himself, but ultimately he was only preventing Harry and Marv from taking his family's stuff. Electronic devices, jewelry, expensive clothing, and antiques. Things that could have been replaced with decent insurance coverage.

Not so in the second version.

You see, one of the many things that Kevin does on his sudden vacation to New York City (after using his Talkboy and his father's Visa card to check into a luxury suite at the Plaza Hotel) is head down to Duncan's Toy Chest, a toy store that is supposed to be almost similar to FAO Schwarz. And aside from purchasing such objects as bubble bath that looked like green slime (which served to aid Kevin later on in the movie), his attention was drawn to a Christmas tree that was on display on the counter of the toy store where Kevin first meets Mr. Duncan (Bracken). Mr. Duncan explains to Kevin that the tree contains ornaments of things that were featured in the classic Christmas carol “The 12 Days of Christmas”. He even allows Kevin to take home the two turtle dove ornaments, telling him that the doves are a symbol of friendship between two people.

Mr. Duncan also shows Kevin a chest filled with money, which Mr. Duncan explains is for a nearby children's hospital. The money not only funds the expenses needed for the hospital to run, but the money also helps the staff purchase gifts for the patients who are unable to go home for Christmas.

Right around this time, Harry and Marv discover that Kevin is in New York City, and try on multiple occasions to catch him and get rid of him. 

Of course, taking on Kevin McCallister is no easy task...and when Kevin overhears Harry and Marv talking about robbing Duncan's Toy Chest, Kevin discovers that he can't let them take Christmas away from sick kids, and he decides to take revenge on them. Luckily for Kevin, his uncle's townhouse is undergoing renovations, and he ends up using it as a home base to cause all sorts of pain to Harry and Marv. Now with 25% more paint, pipes, fire, and heavy objects!

Meanwhile, the McCallisters are trying to find Kevin and when they discover that he used Peter's credit card at the Plaza Hotel, the entire family travel there to find him, which leads to a rather humourous confrontation between Kate and the concierge of the Plaza Hotel (Curry).

The climax of the film takes place in Central Park, and it appears as though Kevin's luck has run out. Or has it?

I won't reveal what happens...but at the very end of the movie, Kevin has an unexpected ally come to his aid, and the turtle doves that Mr. Duncan gave him feature prominently within the last five minutes of the film.

So there you have it...the sequel to Home Alone 2. Not quite as good as the original, but still a movie worth watching for the holidays.

It certainly beats the lame third attempt and the even lamer fourth attempt following Home Alone 2 anyway.

Coming up tomorrow is Day #4 of the PCA Advent Calendar, and it also happens to be a Tuesday Timeline entry. We're going back to the 1950s to examine a Christmas album by a popular artist that many radio stations refused to play...until one Canadian station decided to take a stand. 

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